NAIROBI, Kenya, Feb 8 – For most of the history of civilization, human beings have always made a big deal about the number 40. And Suzie Wokabi, the Founder of SuzieBeauty Cosmetics, is one of them.
She will be celebrating her 40th birthday in December this year and as she tells me during an interview, “everything seems to fall in place.”
I mean, the beauty guru is smiling all the way to the bank after selling her seven-year old SuzieBeauty Cosmetics company to listed firm, Flame Tree Group.
“When I was turning 30, I couldn’t wait because in my 20s I was such a hot mess. I my thirties, the same thing. But as I turn 40 I feel like I would be settled into everything. My brand is settled into a new face, my babies (two) are moving on; like no more sleepless nights. So being in my 40s is like getting everything into the next level,” she says in between laughs.
Her elegance, beauty and dashing style is no doubt that Wokabi is indeed a brand in the cosmetic industry.
It is my first time to interact with her at a personal level and I can say it was I was quite nervous at first but it ends up being interesting. At some point into the conversation, I feel like I am having one of my usual girl talks over a cup of coffee. From her warmth, smile, not forgetting her comical lines.
“My kids are growing and I got my friends telling me to get more. I am like, why would I do that to myself or anybody I know.”
So let’s get candid, how much money did you make from this deal? I ask her.
“I will give you only one answer. Yes, I made some good money, but can’t talk figures. I mean I did not make ‘nothing,” she remains adamant against disclosure on the basis that the process is still under regulatory process.
Wokabi made her name in the industry after she became the first Kenyan and makeup artist to start and own a local cosmetic line.
But why sell the company and the only brand she is associated with?
“SuzieBeauty the brand is now acquired by the Flame Tree Group and SuzieBeauty is one of their portfolios now. And as I said, we have had equity partners before, we have had debt partners before, banks with us and so I have been open to whatever. I met Flame Tree; I know it was the right choice. This is the first time they have taken the founder of the brand and the brand. And since I registered this company seven years ago, I have my dream job. I have been the CEO all through and it’s never been a comfortable place. I am best in PR, marketing, creative etc. Now, Suzy Wokabi is now under Flame Tree as the Chief Creative Officer and Brand Ambassador of SuzyBeauty,” she says.
Wokabi’s journey, just like many entrepreneurs, has not been easy. Fundraising especially to get capital for manufacturing her products she says, was one of the most difficult thing that she would not even wish on her worst enemy.
A lot of the investors she approached wanted to give an offer, the ‘Shark Tank’ style while others would turn her away because she did have any sales numbers. No one was ready to risk put in their money to a non-tangible idea.
However after a long hustle, in 2012, there was light at the end of the tunnel. Wokabi found two investment groups willing to help her and provide the funding she needed to place the mass order for the products from her manufacturer in Asia. She received Sh7.2 million ($71,000) from the two investment groups and Sh12 million ($118,000) from Chase Bank.
At this time, Wokabi had already developed her 32 different products which now needed mass manufacturing. Since she could not afford to set up a factory, her manufacturer would produce the products according to her own specs, her ingredients and values and put her brand name – SuzieBeauty.
“At my initial stage of developing the products myself, my house was full of test tubes,” she recalls.
But at the time of the sale of the business last month, Wokabi had only managed to develop 12 products. These include lipsticks, face foundations, powders, brushes, eye shadows etc.
She says now being the ambassador behind the brand, she personally started; her wish is to only see her start-up move across Africa and the world.