Suzie Wokabi is the Founder of SuzieBeauty, Kenya’s first beauty brand and a global trailblazer in creating bespoke products for African women.
She says the beauty industry, which is currently worth Ksh 7.7 billion, has the potential and space for new brands as long as they can deal with the retail business environment, which is not easy.
Suzie started her career in 2001 in New York within the fashion and beauty industries before returning to Kenya in 2007.
With her business acumen and unparalleled ability, she pursued her passion, created an authentic, affordable, high-quality African beauty brand in early 2009 and officially launched it in December 2011.
In 2018, she celebrated 10 years of creating the SuzieBeauty brand.
“10 years of believing in myself. 10 years of taking different leaps of faith. 10 years of tears, happiness, up and downs and breakthroughs. 10 years of working and meeting people have been a blessing to me during this journey. 10 years of defeating the status quo (cheers to girl power..??). 10 years of being me. 10 years of making crucial decisions,” she sums up her 1010-year entrepreneurial journey.
We spoke to Suzie to learn more about the SuzieBeauty journey and how she built it into an authentic, affordable, high-quality African make-up brand.
Who is Suzie Wokabi?
I am a BeautyPreneur! Also, a mother of 2 boys, a wife, and a person who is very passionate about beauty and Africa.
Tell us how SuzieBeauty began.
SuzieBeauty started from a place of frustration. Having lived in the US for 10 years, I arrived back home in 2007 and worked in the media make-up industry.
I found a gap in the retail cosmetics market, whereby all products were imported and way overpriced.
I decided to create my own product for us, the African woman.
SuzieBeauty is Kenya’s first beauty brand, and we promise great quality product with affordability that actually works for us.
What are the most interesting changes you have seen in the cosmetics industry, both nationally and globally?
Locally there has been an influx of international brands in the past few years, some of which have come and left while others have held on. The reason is that the industry is huge (7.7 billion shillings worth this year).
There is potential and space for many brands as long as they can deal with the retail business environment, which is not easy. But the industry is growing by leaps and bounds.
Globally, the industry continues to grow. Many small emerging brands have come into the market because the customer’s needs are constantly changing. Sephora does immensely well because they focus on smaller, founder brands. Everyone has access to the other big brands, so I think this is a brilliant way to go.
How did you establish your signature style and the direction you resolved to choose?
Having a make-up artistry background and an established reputation in the beauty industry, I was very particular about brand building and product perfection. I have tried to stick to this as much as possible.
Who were some of your inspirations when you were starting out?
My inspiration is and always has been Africa, the continent. Growing it in the beauty space as much as possible because we CAN compete globally if we are all focused on our respective industries.
My family inspires me, too, I have 2 boys who I want to teach that they can do anything they want to in life, as different as it may seem. And Bobbi Brown has always been a huge inspiration and likely what planted the seed of me creating my own products as a makeup artist, as that is what she did many years before me.
Is entrepreneurship as glamorous as it sounds?
Glamorous? Who made it sound glamorous??? I’m actually laughing aloud. I never even expected glamour. I always knew it would be hard, hard work. But what makes it great is that you’re doing your own thing, hopefully succeed and build a legacy of sorts as opposed to slaving for someone else to make money for them ☺ It is fulfilling, I love being a BeautyPreneur even in the toughest times, and there are lots of those.
Ten years in the industry, what is the important piece of advice you can give to anyone starting out?
Whatever you choose to start a business, make sure that you are extremely passionate about it. That keeps you going when the downs come in; get you out of bed and fight the good fight for the greater good of your business.
You posted on your feed, are you able to share with us some of the incredible things, and solo projects you coming up with?
I have some amazing projects lined up for 2019 that everyone will have to be patient and look out for; unfortunately, for now… ☺ So much amazing stuff in the works, and it will be fantastic!