In 2011, Suzie Wokabi, founder of Kenyan cosmetics brand, Suzie Beauty, said the following about her vision for her brand: “My dream is to turn SuzieBeauty Limited into a household name for everything beauty on the continent, and internationally. I want to become the MAC of Africa!”.
Six years before that, she had returned to Kenya as a trained makeup artist looking to stock up on goods. She faced a number of challenges such as not being able to find the high quality brands she was used to. Where she was able to find them, they were often unavailable, overpriced, or counterfeit. So in 2009, Wokabi launched her own local brand.
Seven years later, she is in reach of the vision she set out for her company. On January 25th, 2016, SuzieBeauty announced that it has been acquired by regional manufacturing company, Flame Tree Group, pending approval of the competition authority. Suzie said the following about the sale of her company: “For me this is the biggest milestone so far.”
Wokabi explained, “with the resources at Flame Tree Group, SuzieBeauty will likely expand its range to include skincare products such as cleansers, moisturisers and eye creams. There will also be investments into better distribution and marketing. In the long-term, production could be moved from China to Kenya”.
This wife, mother, daughter, and entrepreneur is trailblazing the way for other Motherland Moguls. There is so much to learn from the successful sale of Wokabi’s company. We’ve narrowed it down to just 8.
1. Do your research
In choosing to start a beauty brand, Wokabi did extensive research on the Kenyan beauty market. In an interview with How We Made It In Africa, Wokabi said the following: “My research shows that the development of products to fill our specific market needs has the potential of becoming a big and profitable business.”
She also did extensive testing of her products in the market before launching her business. She developed her product line and spent a year of testing on the market before launching in 2011 and beginning retail operations in 2012.
2. Choose to work in your passion
Wokabi once said, “If I did not completely love everything about SB and the beauty industry, I would have given up a very long time ago. I now understand why most startups fail. When you don’t have the passion and everything is an uphill battle, it becomes so easy to quit.”
3. Dream BIG
From the start, it is clear that Wokabi had a strong vision for her company and brand. From her early interviews before the launch of her product line to more recent ones, the vision has always been, as she said, to “distribute Africa-wide. The sky is the limit”.
4. Know your magic
While strong on quality products, Wokabi has said time and time again that the affordability of her products is what makes her competitive in the local and international market.
When she was asked if SB stand out in the midst of international beauty brands that had recently entered the Kenyan market? She responded, “None of them will ever beat me in price. The whole point of SB is the affordability of quality beauty products.”
5. Get help in your weak areas
Wokabi says she knew nothing about business prior to her endeavor. She has especially struggled with financials, an area her husband has supportive in.
6. Learn from your mistakes
While successful, Wokabi has never shied away from the mistakes and mishaps in her journey. After some false starts with partners, Wokabi made sure to engage differently with future partners.
She explained: “We have had so many bad partnerships. We have had both equity partners and debt investors. There were just too many mistakes made. We were very particular about this one. This time we didn’t make any mistakes – and it feels right, completely.”
7. Engage with investors and finance partners who understand your company and your vision
While in talks with Flame Tree Group, Wokabi was in talks with other potential investors. She had this to say about Flame Tree Group: “The chemistry has always been right from the beginning. So any challenges we ever came across, we would fix together.”
Flame Tree Group CEO, Heril Bangera, also had this to say, “We want to increase the brand’s presence in the market. We have seen the brand is successful, so there is an opportunity now to use that as a base to grow it within Kenya and beyond.”
8. Knowing that someone did it helps
Wokabi often mentions her role models, Bobbi Brown, in interviews. Bobbi Brown was an American professional make-up artist who founded Bobbi Brown Cosmetics. Estée Lauder, the America beauty products giant, bought the brand in 1995, with Brown retaining creative control. Wokabi will similarly retain creative control of SuzieBeauty.
We wish Wokabi, SuzieBeauty, and Flame Tree Group much success in their new venture. What other insights have you learned from this acquisition? Share them below.