VISA SPOTLIGHT SERIES ON PLUS SIZE FASHIONPRENEUR: OUMA TEMA – FOUNDER, PLUS FAB

where you shop matters

Ouma Tema decided that finding beautiful clothes would stop being a cause of frustration for her simply because she was plus-size. This tenacious mindset inspired her to start making her clothes and posting them on social media. Soon enough, friends who admired her style began asking where her clothes were from so Ouma started Plus Fab – a South African fashion brand that caters specifically to plus size women. 

Although Ouma started her business from the boot of her car, today she produces her clothes in top-notch factories and they are distributed in the fastest growing retail chain in South Africa. This article is about Ouma Tema’s incredible journey and how she has been able to turn her frustration into a thriving business.


What was your life like before you started Plus Fab?

Before I started Plus Fab, I was working for the government. I had a good time there because I learnt a great deal of professionalism. That was the foundation that helped me grow as a professional. I loved my job when I was there but I got tired of it. Also, I knew that this was not where I was supposed to be so while I was there, I began working towards my exit.

Did you ever know you were ever going to start a brand like Plus Fab?

As I was struggling to get clothes for myself, I was like, I need to do something to solve the problem of there not being stylish clothes for plus size women. It wasn’t something like, “oh I really would like to have a fashion brand.” I was not inspired to start my business, I was propelled by the problem at hand. So Plus Fab is a product made out of frustration. 

What do you think makes Plus Fab stand out as a brand? 

I always say that anybody can make a dress, anybody can do a jumpsuit but not everyone can instil confidence in people. We want women to go out in the world and be badasses. No black queen should lose her energy because she has nothing nice to wear. We do not want people to miss their graduation ceremony. We do not want clothes to be a barrier to that amazing life that you want to have.

So we stay true to our promise. We do not sell something just because of the size. We also sell you the fashion, the fabulosity, the amazingness and the comfort. You can wear our dresses 10 years to come and you will still be popping.

where you shop matters

How were you able to keep Plus Fab running during the lockdown?

What was nice about this whole thing is that people could buy online. At Plus Fab, we are proud of the fact that we produce all our clothes so as soon as facial masks could be worn in public, we were ready and pumped to produce scarf masks. It was challenging but making those scarf masks helped us push through.

How did you communicate with your customers during the lockdown?

We kept on communicating with our customers on social media letting them know that the frustration was mutual. Some customers lost their jobs but still came to buy their last dresses from us. They were like, “I do not know when I will get my next job but this is the last item I am buying from you guys for now.”

How important do you think local communities are for small businesses? 

They are incredibly important. I always say buy local. It is the utmost act of patriotism because you are affirming that jobs must be created, sustained and there must be no poverty in your country and your community. In Africa, the biggest enemy is poverty so it is incredibly important for us to support our local communities. 

where you shop matters

You make prom dresses available for young plus-size girls. Can you speak about that?

I did not go to prom because I did not have a dress to wear. So I started this because I did not want young plus-sized girls to miss out to prom simply because they could not find the right dress to wear. I do not want dresses to be a haggle simply because of their size. 

What is your big vision for Plus Fab? 

Plus Fab is a fabulous movement. We cannot wait to start trading across Africa and then the world. I want Plus Fab to be a household name. I want it to be known from Cape Town to Cairo, Morocco to Madagascar, New York, Ghana, Nigeria, Lesotho and all around the world. So global domination is the idea.

What advice would you give to people who want to start sustainable businesses?

  • What problem are you solving and at what price are you solving it? I think the most important question you have to ask an entrepreneur is what problem are you solving? If you know, you will do the right business. Look at your community and see what they need and how you can provide value. Ultimately, entrepreneurs are problem solvers. If you are honest about that, the money will come.
  • Know your customers: Some of our customers who love and support us got salary cuts and as much as they would love to buy from us, we understood that we were not a priority at the moment. We kept communicating with them and that’s why I can sit here and tell you today that we know where our customers are at. Some say, “I want to buy a dress but we are on lockdown. We can’t be seen in public, we can’t go to parties, We can’t go to weddings, so where am I going?”

If you want to take your business to the next level and meet more customers online, Visa is your plug! Visit their Small Business Hub to get the support you need. First 100 businesses to sign up get $200 worth of online advertising, so hurry now!


 

where you shop matters

This spotlight feature on Ouma Tema is powered by Visa. Visa’s ‘Where you Shop Matters’ initiative aims to champion entrepreneurs across Africa while encouraging consumers to support small businesses by shopping local. Visa’s initiative is supporting small businesses through the Visa Small Business Hub, a merchant platform providing tools and information on how to start, run and grow small businesses.

VISA SPOTLIGHT SERIES ON HEALTHY EATING GURU: CLAIRE DU PREEZ – FOUNDER HONEST FOOD

where you shop matters

In high school, Claire du Preez found her passion for food in a Home Economics class. Though she did not pursue it immediately, the longing to feed people in a healthy and honest way drew Claire from the corporate world and back to her passion. So Claire du Preez established Honest Food– a cosy restaurant in Johannesburg, South Africa that serves mouth-watering vegan and vegetarian dishes.

Claire is dedicated to building a genuine brand and ensuring that Honest Food is a welcoming and healthy environment for customers and employees alike. As she says, “I am incredibly passionate about food and the challenges that come with convincing people to lead a healthy lifestyle. So my goal is to make food affordable, attainable and delicious.”

This piece covers Claire’s refreshing business story and valuable lessons from her experience with Honest Food.


How did Honest Food begin?

I started a juice bar when I was about 24 years old and I would set up juice bars at farmers’ markets. On Saturdays and Sundays, I would make freshly squeezed juice for people. I started off selling 20 and soon enough, I sold 30, 40, 50… 

Eventually, I opened my first permanent store and then I realised that with a juice company comes the food aspect of it. So I thought, why not get involved in that as well? I slowly started adding food items to the menu and it just kind of grew organically. I never did crazy marketing or you know, any sort of print marketing. It has all been word of mouth. Everyone that has come heard about it from someone else. 

 

What do you think makes Honest Food stand out?

People come and they realise that they can eat vegetarian and vegan food that is delicious and they love that. Another thing that makes Honest Food stand out is the warmth of our space. The restaurant is set in a quiet and serene suburb. It is a great working space so it attracts a lot of people that do not work from offices. For them, Honest Food feels like a home away from home. Our staff are also incredibly welcoming, friendly and knowledgeable.

where you shop matters

Seeing as Honest Food is a second home for many, how did you maintain that feeling with your customers during the lockdown? 

We kept a really big presence on social media. Instead of letting our page go dead, we kept on interacting with our customers. We carried on with posting, shared recipes and tips. Even though we could not see them, we maintained the connection via our social media platforms.

We also set up an online store and we started selling some of our grocery items through our Instagram page. This pushed us out of our comfort zone and made us grow as a business.

Did you notice a change in the way your customers patronised and supported you during the lockdown?

I definitely did. Our customers knew the lockdown was going to happen so they increased their spend at our restaurants. During the lockdown, we received donations from our customers. I also sold pre-sale vouchers at discounted rates that you could use after lockdown and our patrons bought them.

Currently, people are coming to work from our restaurants. Our customers are dedicated to keeping our doors open and that is phenomenal. We see the same people coming back every day. We know they could go somewhere else but they are committed to us and it is a lovely feeling.

 

where you shop matters

 

What key lessons can you give to someone who wants to start and grow a successful business of their own?

  • Don’t do something because you think it is going to make you money. Do something that you enjoy because it will be a very long time before you start getting profit from your business. For a very long time, all the money you make will have to go back to your business and if you do not love what you do, you will resent the fact that you have to do this.
  • You need to have some kind of financial security. I know some people quit their jobs to start a business and they think they are going to be earning salaries from the beginning. It does not work like that. I actually had a 9-5 job for the first part of owning a business. I knew that I could always pay my bills and I was building my side hustle in the background.
  • You need to persevere. Success does not happen overnight. I have had a business for seven years and it is only in a couple of years that I have started to see fruition. At some point, I sacrificed my social life for my business but it paid off. So if you work and see no reward for a while, don’t give up.

 

 

If you want to take your business to the next level and meet more customers online, Visa is your plug! Visit their Small Business Hub to get the support you need. First 100 businesses to sign up get $200 worth of online advertising, so hurry now!


 

where you shop matters

This spotlight feature on Claire du Preez is powered by Visa. Visa’s ‘Where you Shop Matters’ initiative aims to champion entrepreneurs across Africa while encouraging consumers to support small businesses by shopping local. Visa’s initiative is supporting small businesses through the Visa Small Business Hub, a merchant platform providing tools and information on how to start, run and grow small businesses.

VISA SPOTLIGHT SERIES ON NATURAL WIGS QUEEN: REMI MARTINS – FOUNDER NATURAL GIRL WIGS

where you shop matters

When Remi first went natural, she struggled to find hair extensions that could blend effortlessly with her kinky natural hair. So she teamed up with her hairdresser to make her first Afro wig and pictures of her wearing it sparked a conversation about natural hair on her Instagram page. Remi realised that her desire to wear afro-textured extensions was a desire other black women shared. With this insight, she started Natural Girl Wigs– a game-changing African hair company.

This article is about Remi’s incredible journey and insightful lessons you can take away from her experience with Natural Girl Wigs.


What was your life like before you started Natural Girl Wigs?

Before Natural Girl Wigs, I worked in digital marketing and communications. When I started my business, I was recently promoted to Head of Digital Marketing for the agency I was working for. So on weekdays, I worked 9-5 and when I got home, I would sort orders. It was tough but I  knew I wanted to do this. 

 

How did you know it was time to go into business full time?

I was waiting for a green light that would signify that it was time to leave my job. That green light was the number of orders I was getting daily. Once my orders started getting to a number that could sustain me financially, I had an honest conversation with my boss, who is also my friend and I told her that in three months, I was going to leave.

 

where you shop matters

What is one misconception you think people have about starting a business?

One thing I find that people think is a major challenge is money. I always tell people that money is not a challenge. With the way e-commerce is right now, what you actually need is community. If you have a community, then you have a business. Your community can even fund you to get the products. Let me use myself as an example. When I first thought of starting a hair company, the first thing I was thinking was that I needed to get all the money I could find. That approach failed woefully but when I took on a community-building approach, I saw the impact I was expecting money to bring.

 

With how crucial community is to your brand, how did you maintain the interaction with your community during the lockdown?

We collect our customer’s emails when they buy from us so when the lockdown started, we sent them updates. We wrote to them to see how they were doing beyond trying to get them to buy from us. I think that exposed us to the human aspect of business and our customers connected with us. 

where you shop matters

Did the lockdown affect your business?

Not really. During the lockdown, our customers were still buying. One thing about beauty, especially when you are a brand that uplifts others is that people want to be part of a good thing. There is a lot of sad news around the world so people want to be part of something that makes them happy, something that makes them feel beautiful. Even if it is just to go on a Zoom call or TikTok people still want to look beautiful.

 

What advice do you have for someone that wants to start a business?

  • Try to find your potential customer first. Start a page on Instagram and get a feel for the kind of things your followers are interested in. Share your personal story with your community so that they can connect with you. If you build a great community, everything else will flow. 
  • You need to learn to put yourself in your customer’s shoes. A lot of businesses have potential but people dislike the experience that they have with those businesses. Customer support can make or destroy your business potential.
  • Build trust within your community. No matter who you are and what you do, you will surely find your tribe. You don’t have to post things that are not authentic to you because you think it will get you far. Try and present your products well, of course, but at the end of the day, try to build that trust with people. Once people trust your brand, nothing would hold them back from recommending your products, supporting you and coming back again. You want a business where your customers are your marketers.

 

If you want to take your business to the next level and meet more customers online, Visa is your plug! Visit their Small Business Hub to get the support you need. First 100 businesses to sign up get $200 worth of online advertising, so hurry now!


 

where you shop matters

This spotlight feature on Oluremi Martins is powered by Visa. Visa’s ‘Where you Shop Matters’ initiative aims to champion entrepreneurs across Africa while encouraging consumers to support small businesses by shopping local. Visa’s initiative is supporting small businesses through the Visa Small Business Hub, a merchant platform providing tools and information on how to start, run and grow small businesses.

We’re teaming up with Visa to hook you up!

We all have that friend whose business is amazing, customer service is on a 100 and product packaging is breathtaking. Your good sis is putting in the work, day in day out but her business isn’t blowing up online. In fact, YOU may be THAT FRIEND.

If there is anything this period has taught small business owners, it’s that online is the way to go. For local businesses that didn’t have a strong online presence, they’ve missed out on critical sales, visibility and customer retention during this time.

If this has been your story, we come bearing good news.

 

We’re collaborating with Visa to provide businesses like yours with the information and tools you need to create a thriving business in your community. This partnership is part of Visa’s ‘Where You Shop Matters’ initiative that aims to champion entrepreneurs across Africa and encourage consumers to support small businesses by shopping local.

Visa’s initiative is supporting small businesses through the Visa Small Business Hub, a merchant platform providing tools and information on how to start, run and grow small businesses.

When you join the Small Business Hub, you can:

  • Set up your own online store for FREE!
  • Learn how to effectively promote your business and accept payments online.
  • Stand a chance to win $200 worth of online advertising on the She Leads Africa platform. (Hurry girl, this offer is limited to the  first 100 SMEs to sign up!!!)

The fun does NOT end there!

As part of this collaboration, we’re sharing the secrets and growth strategies from incredible entrepreneurs from across Africa who have taken their challenges and turned them into opportunities. You do not want to miss out on all of the keys, gems and nuggets that you will gain from this series.

On our website, stay tuned for our #VisaSpotlightSeries feature successful entrepreneurs sharing how they went from brand new idea to solid business in diverse industries such as food, fashion, beauty and more.

On Instagram, we have four digital entrepreneurs coming through to talk about the nitty-gritty behind building an online business. We’re talking data, branding, customer service and growth strategies and the discussions will be FIRE!

Girl, you DO NOT want to miss out on any of this! Sign up now to get updates about these events in your inbox.



Meet Sonwabise Sebata: The woman fighting to make sure that Africans get equitable access to future COVID-19 vaccines

Sonwabise Sebata

This is the second part of “Inside Global Citizen”, a limited series this August. We pull back the curtain and highlight members of Global Citizen staff who are key parts of the organization’s advocacy, impact, and more. Be part of our community of outstanding women by joining today. 

 

“I went into public relations to help women realize their greatness. I saw PR as a way to drive women’s potential and to show the world that women aren’t fickle nor do they speak based on emotion. Women are intelligent, ambitious and their voices count.” – Sonwabise Sebata

 

Sonwabise is not your average PR girl. She is the Senior Manager, Global Policy and Government Affairs at Global Citizen and the (Acting) Chair of the Board of Directors for the South African Women in ICT Forum

Sonwabise is passionate about helping governments and companies bridge the global inequality gap through the use of technology. She attributes this drive and penchant for leadership to her background and how she was raised. 

 

“Being a firstborn Xhosa daughter, I [was] part of the elders in the family and got consulted on things that matter – big decisions within a family. And from a young age, I’ve had to make big decisions. I’ve had the opportunity for my voice to be heard,”  Sonwabise says.

The drive behind her quest on economic inclusion

“My life’s work is improving the ability, opportunity, and dignity of those disadvantaged based on their identity to take part in society. We cannot afford to leave anyone behind.”

-Sonwabise Sebata

 

Years after entering the workforce, Sonwabise was surprised to learn that a lot of women felt the need to have men validate their ideas and opinions. This realization sparked her commitment to fighting for equality and inclusion in all areas. 

She finds the exclusion of women in the workforce revolting and wasteful. A 2018 World Bank paper estimates that Africa alone lost $2.5 trillion in human capital due to gender inequality, and 11.4% of total wealth in 2014. 


Sonwabise says, “At the individual level, imagine the cost of exclusion – the loss of wages, lifetime earnings, and poor education. At the national level, the economic cost of social exclusion can be captured by lost gross domestic product (GDP) and human capital wealth, imagine that!” 

Exclusion robs individuals of dignity, security, and the opportunity to lead a better life.

As a continent, governments, organizations, and individuals must work towards “leaving no one behind” to help countries promote inclusive growth and achieve the Sustainable Development Goals.

Sebata takes on COVID-19 issues in Africa

 

Thrust into the complexities of the COVID-19 pandemic, Sebata explains that she finds that her work is even more important than ever. The pandemic has amplified existing systemic inequalities from gender-based violence to unemployment and systematic racism.

Focusing on access to good health care, Sebata and her team have been working to support the World Health Organisation’s efforts to make sure everyone has equal access to future vaccines.

 

“We ran the Global Goal: Unite for our Future summit. We were calling on world leaders to commit to equal access to treatments, tests, and vaccines for all. This was part of supporting the accelerator which was formed by the World Health Organisation, to ensure that all the global resources and finances are pooled into one fund so that there’s equal access and equal distribution when we finally do find a vaccine.” – Sonwabise Sebata

 

With kids out of school, families struggling to put food on the table, and some communities disproportionately dying, the most vulnerable people are losing the most in this pandemic. Sebata is hopeful that her work will help reduce the suffering of the most vulnerable.

 

“Ultimately, the campaign raised $25 million and the commitment by ECOWAS which will be used to develop resources and ensure all people in West Africa have the opportunity to reach their full potential,” Sonwabise states.

Sonwabise Takes the Fight to South Africa’s ‘Second Pandemic’

 

Globally, lockdowns have succeeded in “flattening the curve”. However, in South Africa, a frightening number of women have become victims of gender-based violence while locked in their homes. Not one to tolerate inequality and injustice,  Sonwabise rallied her team to create another campaign.



“We started another campaign where we got a lot of male influencers, male allies that support the fight against Gender-Based Violence (GBV) to take up pledges to say they will not keep quiet. That they will stand up to any sort of GBV and GBV activities that they see amongst themselves and amongst their friends, whether overt or covert.”

As a result of the campaign, the National Strategic Plan on Gender-based Violence and Femicide was completed and delivered to the President of South Africa. Sonwabise believes this milestone is a step in the right direction and hopes to see ground policing improve.

Advice on how women can fight daily systematic inequalities at work

 

As economies continue to try to wade through the effects of the global pandemic, Sebata warns that women should be prepared to deal with systematic inequalities at work more than ever. She advises that women collaborate and form mentor-mentee relationships to share intergenerational insights. 

 For women who are not yet in the workforce, she advises that “It is very important to go through some kind of either gap filler or internship between your graduation and the beginning of your career. Going through an internship program will take you through a real induction [so you can see] what the job is like, the corporate culture, communication, and the ways of working within corporate. An internship will help in educating yourself on laws and salary information.”


Sonwabise encourages young women to seek out mentors.  A mentor would be someone who helps put your career path into perspective and to see what milestones you hope to achieve.”Mentors are great! They guide you in terms of what to read, who to talk to and how to navigate certain challenges; as well as things not often spoken about like, ‘what do you do when you’re in a meeting and you feel awkward because your male counterpart is making you feel inferior?’ ”


Interested in making an impact in your community like Sonwabise? Learn more about how you can take action at globalcitizen.org or Global Citizen Twitter page.

“You Don’t Have All The Answers!” Meet Catyna Designs Founder, Celestina Utoro,

What do you do after losing everything in a fire? How do you start to put your life together again? Celestina Utoro had to think about this after she experienced a fire outbreak in March 2019. “I was watching all my property burn and I could not do a thing about it. Everything we had got lost in that fire,” Celestina says. Still, perseverance and gratitude are rich in her voice, “I am grateful I am alive today. If I hadn’t woken up when I did, the story may have been different.”

At this point in Celestina’s life, her major concern is rebuilding and putting necessary structures in place so that her business can blossom, “There are so many things to be done, but first I have to create structure. I have to set a steady foundation. I can’t just sit down and fold my arms. I have to get up and try again.”

Catyna Designs is committed to bringing life into a space with Afrocentric decor items. They are major retailers of original adire window blinds and throw pillows. This article covers Celestina’s business story and valuable lessons from her experience with Catyna Designs.

What is at the heart of Catyna Designs?

I love African culture and heritage, and I feel like it is a signature that we should not let die. A lot goes into local art-making from the grassroots in terms of how they are made, the creativity and the time that is dedicated to it. I noticed that even though their productions are of world-class value, most of the creatives in that line are not equipped with what it takes to promote their work on a global scale. So because of my love for these forms of art, I decided to become an instrument- a vehicle for these artworks. The whole concept of Catyna really is to be a vehicle for these artistic innovations.

Being structured also helps you to identify the weak points in your business. If you do not have a structure in place, you will not really be able to track your progress as you go. Click To Tweet

“I find joy when I am working with a community to produce the adire window blinds. I also see the joy of creation on the faces of the workers. Their joy and hard work motivate me to push for our items to be globally accessible. African cultural pieces deserve that kind of exposure.”

Collaboration is key! Click To Tweet

What you can learn from Celestina’s experience

Collaboration is key! I work a lot with people at the grassroots. Most of them just want to create, they really don’t want to be out there promoting their work. As a result, they are not generating the kind of funds that they need to take care of themselves and their families. So I said to myself, “Why don’t I add value by collaborating with them? Why don’t I create a space where they bring their skill and I bring my expertise?” That way, we can join our gifted hands together to create wealth and success.

Do not underestimate structure: You have to be structured. You can’t do everything at the same time. You can’t be everywhere at once. Being structured also helps you to identify the weak points in your business. If you do not have a structure in place, you will not really be able to track your progress as you go.

You don’t have all the answers: At some point, you have to come to terms with this. You have to accept that you do not have all the answers. When I got to this revelation, it led me to find spaces that can help me grow. You need that support. You need a community that is interested in your growth. 

Continue reading ““You Don’t Have All The Answers!” Meet Catyna Designs Founder, Celestina Utoro,”

“I Learnt Perseverance After My Fire Accident” Meet Eco-friendly Entrepreneur, Chidiebere Nnorom

If there’s one thing Chidiebere Nnorom wants us to know, it is that she’s a typical Igbo girl with a never die attitude, never ever wanting to give up! Even after going through a rough patch, she refused to succumb and found her way back up.

Chidiebere Nnorom is the Co-founder of Paperbag by Ebees. She has a strong passion for the environment, social impact and business.  

Watch this space as Chidiebere is determined to change norms and make waves as an entrepreneur, environmentalist and a young global leader. Scroll down to read more of her story.


What’s your background story?

Before my business grew to the stage it is at now, I went through a lot! I was involved in a fire accident which kept me indoors for a while. I had to stop business operations and lay off staff. It was unbelievable. Imagine being at a point in life where you are clueless about what to do next. Well, that was me then.

It took me almost a year to heal. I couldn’t work or do anything. My savings had been zapped and I kept wondering how I’d scale through. There was a personal instinct to do something, I knew it wasn’t the time to give up but to breakthrough! I needed to turn the light on in my heart and that I did. 

To cut the long story short, the accident was a validation to move on. Months later, I picked up my business and started building up gradually. Next thing I knew, business calls were coming in! People said they saw the paper bag and wanted to order. Some of the paper bags they saw were made way before the accident. The referral rate was massive! I was so elated and grateful I didn’t give up back then.

What ignited the spark to start Paperbag by Ebees?

In 2016, we started off as a food delivery business but one of the problems we faced was the packaging, we just couldn’t find the right packaging. With a background in geography and my love for the environment, we decided to start creating eco-friendly packages.

There were a lot of “buts!” That was the year the foreign exchange was high, fuel scarcity and other things kept creeping in. We had to take a step back to think of how we could make it. My team and I carried out some research, tried out different products, monitored what was moving and what wasn’t. Everything was coming up gradually.

Before I knew it, we made it official!

 

What business challenges have you faced and how have those challenges shaped your mindset?

At the early stages, our major challenge was accessing raw materials in Nigeria. It meant having to buy in large quantities and also importing from China. We had other expenses to run the business and couldn’t afford it.

This caused a setback. We had to think of how to make it ourselves. We carried out some research and found alternative ways to come up with the resources. That was when we started the business for real!

Business development was our second challenge, it took us a while to see that the market was ready. We had to try out different products to see if the market will accept us. It was quite hard, to be honest. After a series of experiments and market research, we were able to count a milestone. Finally! We achieved growth.

These experiences really shaped our mindset as a company. To every business owner out there, celebrate your little wins! We count every little effort we make as a win and an opportunity to do better. I’m learning to take joy in the little things, every small success is a validation. I say to myself, “Chidiebere well done!” It tells me that every step I took at the time was worth it.

 

How do you come up with the designs on your paper bags?

I won’t take all the credit, I have a really good team. My own inspiration came from purpose. The point is, if we chase our real purpose there are things we won’t struggle to do. I found my passion, and everything fell into place.

Finding the right people who know what they are doing is key. I also took some time to learn product design. It’s a combination of all these things.

 

What have you learned so far from running this business?

I was in paid employment and transitioning was quite drastic.

Take your time and plan! If you’re transitioning from paid employment to business, have enough money to cover up for your expenses. Make sure that the business can take care of your bills. There is no need to go through stress because you’re an entrepreneur, life can be easy!

Nallah B. Sangaré: Becoming a global makeup artist and beauty brand

Nallah B. Sangaré is a self-taught makeup artist and beauty expert who doesn’t shy away from any bold coloured or textured fabric, accessory or makeup look. Though born and raised in France, she is a deeply rooted Motherland Mogul with her father originally from Ivory Coast and her mother from Mali.

For six years, she was the International Trainer for MAC Cosmetics sub-Saharan Africa initially based in Lagos, Nigeria and then Nairobi, Kenya travelling across the region from Ghana, Ivory Coast, Zambia, Zimbabwe and South Africa recruiting and training African makeup artists.

Nallah has also become a stylist, a creative director and has also evolved into an entrepreneur. She explores other industry segments including managing African models through her pan-African company Papillon.

What motivated you to join the beauty industry and how did you get started?

I have had an unusual journey. My background is in science and international business. After my bachelor’s in Business in the UK, I didn’t know what I wanted so I decided to shift to the business of Beauty and Luxury. My goal was to explore the beauty field in its entirety while maintaining my background.

I started in department stores for Givenchy so I could learn about skin fragrances and that experience revealed my makeup skills. Then I worked for several skincare brands, in wellness and trained in hairstyling. I learnt mostly on the job.

Afterwards, I was recruited by MAC cosmetics and went from a makeup artist at the counter to one of the very few black managers at their biggest store in the world on the Champs Elysées. When MAC launched in the African market, I applied to be the International Trainer for the sub-Saharan region.

I always had a love for beauty but never knew I could have a career in it as I wasn’t girly despite my sense of style.

The magical part is that with your hands and your kit this job has no boundaries – Nallah B. Sangare Click To Tweet

You started off as a makeup artist but have grown into a fully-fledged creative in the beauty industry. What motivated you to diversify and why would you say the growth was vital?

I wanted a full understanding of the field. I also realized that I wasn’t limited to one aspect and I could express my full vision in a project which has been important in bringing out exactly what I have in mind.

What is the highlight of your career so far?

As self-taught, it would be my role as International Trainer where I shared my knowledge and inspired African talents and worked on Mercedes Benz Fashion weeks. I also took part in projects to extend foundation and skincare lines for darker skin.

Look by Nallah B. Sangare. Source: Instagram


What has been your most challenging professional experience?

I would say working with Givenchy. I struggled with their idea of oppressing my sense of style and their idea of polishing me to their western standards of slick and straight hair & no accessories.

Do you have mentors in the industry?

Many people, cultures and landscapes inspire me. But if I have to pick one I would say makeup artist and beauty entrepreneur Danessa Myricks.

You can be a makeup artist at the counter of a department store or like I have been, an artist at a photoshoot in the middle of the Serengeti- Nallah B. Sangare Click To Tweet


Tell us about the available work opportunities for makeup artists.

From cinema to entertainment, they are so vast. You can be a makeup artist at the counter of a department store or like I have been, an artist at a photoshoot in the middle of the Serengeti with a Kenyan Victoria’s Secret model or designing the look for a Kenyan musical play that played on Broadway.

The magical part is that with your hands and your kit this job has no boundaries.

Do you have a signature look?

Yes, because I’ve gathered knowledge on skin and styling, I can say my craft has a 360-degree vision. I love beautiful glowy skin with freckles which brings out more realness. I also have a special love for colour and boldness.

Look by Nallah B. Sengare. Source: Instagram

Working on the African continent, I have developed the use of Afropointilism and Afrobohemian concepts. Afropointilism points to the use of tribal makeup from sub-Saharan tribes. The name is coined from pointillism, due to its similarity with the painting technique using dots discovered through Vincent Van Gogh. It is a great mark of our heritage in different African cultures.

In Afrobohemian, I fuse different traditional beauty ornaments from scarifications to body painting to show the paradox of similarity while expressing singularity. I also paint the African map on the eye to express my vision of the Motherland.

As a Beauty Educator, what influence does your work have on today’s African woman?

The makeup classes I give include knowledge about skin, hair and styling that enable professional makeup-artists and women to work on their image individually or in a group.

I incorporate self-love and self-confidence coaching as well as modules for African women to understand the history of our beauty and the specifics of our cultures.

What are your top 3 tips for young African women aspiring to be makeup artists?

  1. Be passionate and dedicated to your craft by practising. Maximise the opportunity to learn from mentors.
  2. Be patient when it comes to developing your personal artistic style.
  3. Love what you do.

What it takes to run a bridal wear brand – Ogake Mosomi

Ogake Mosomi is a bridal and accessories designer extraordinaire. With the Ogake Mosomi brand, she ensures the African bride is classy, distinct and authentic to herself.  She lectures at the University of Nairobi guaranteeing the future generation of designers doesn’t get left behind.

Was fashion always the plan?


I remember I wanted to join the police force! I also thought I’d be a lawyer. When the time came I was torn between law and fashion. A desire to be ‘different’ by choosing something a bit unexpected prevailed and I ended up studying fashion.

Growing up as a Kenyan child, what was your perception of ‘local’ luxury brands and now finding yourself running one, how do you feel Kenyans are embracing the Ogake Mosomi brand?

Elsa Klensch coloured my entire perception of luxury fashion. The only local designers I really knew about were Ann McCreath, Rialto, Carol Kinoti and later Patricia Mbela. I thought their work was inspirational but under-appreciated.

Now, I think the number of local luxury designers has really grown. Our individual interpretations of Kenyan luxury fashion are wildly different and I think that is a sign of progress. For Ogake Mosomi, we started out trying to convince people that they can get a high quality locally made gown and I am so grateful that the Kenyan bride has embraced us.

You studied in England, which is a fashion epicentre in its own right. Why did you feel like moving back home was the best plan and what specific things did you do to ensure a successful transition?

To be honest, it wasn’t entirely my decision. Work visas had become really difficult to get, I also felt that I could make more impact at home as our industry was still growing. Fortunately, I already had two job offers in fashion, I took that as a sign!

Right before I returned, I went back to a master tailor in London with whom I had interned while at university. I explained I needed to learn how to make made-to-measure clothes. The standard patterns which we learned in school were not going to be very useful because our bodies were very different. I will forever be grateful to Antonia Pugh-Thomas!

Next, I came back to Kenya for about three weeks just to reacquaint myself with home. I travelled around the country with my friend, and on that trip I saw Kenya in a different light, and I wasn’t scared anymore.

Lastly, my wonderful parents had given me a loan, and together with some money I had saved up from working odd jobs, I had managed to buy all the basic equipment I needed to set up shop in Nairobi.

What advice would you give to a new fashion business owner about investment particularly concerning who to approach and who to turn down?

Firstly, ensure that your investor has similar values to your own. Besides investing money, your investor will be involved to a fair extent, in your business so it’s important that you are aligned.  Choose wisely, and don’t be in a rush.

The more favourable the terms of the investment are for you, the better. Weigh options carefully- whether you want to get debt or equity financing and how it affects your business in those early stages. It’s different for every business though.

How do you go about learning new skills?

Learning never ends. I recently went back to school to learn how to balance being an owner/manager and that has been a breath of fresh air for me. My background is in design, and the other functions that go with running a business are not as straightforward. It has really enriched my process.

On the design side, we also try to do a lot of research, to learn new design processes that can make us more efficient and help us differentiate our brand. It’s an every day, ongoing process for the entire team. We also put a lot of emphasis on teamwork, so that we are all learning from each other.

What is the hardest thing about being your own boss that isn’t obvious?

You never ever switch off. Even when you’re not at work, or on holiday; it can be exhausting. Also making big decisions on your own can be very scary- if they go south, you’re more or less on your own. And many times, there’s no one to give you answers!

What is the most rewarding part of being a wedding dress designer at Ogake Mosomi?

The finished gown, the happy bride, being part of her journey and helping her bring her dream to life!

Name a woman past or present that you look up to.

My mother and her unwavering faith.

What is your no-fail inspiration or creative rut hack?

I am yet to find a sure-fire one! But traveling helps….. Seeing different places, ideas, and cultures is always inspiring, calming, rejuvenating.

The Ogake Mosomi brand also produces accessories, you also have dresses with intricate designs that involve materials like beads and feathers. How difficult is it to source these materials?

When it comes to the more unusual materials, we import what we need from different suppliers mainly in Europe and Asia. Every time I travel, I’m on the lookout for interesting materials. Sometimes they’re expensive so we just get small quantities for sampling and keep contact with the suppliers in case a client is interested, then we can order specifically for them.

Locally the suppliers are becoming more creative, and stocking a wider range of materials too. It costs significantly more to buy in Kenya, but it really helps when we do not have the luxury of travelling to the source. The disadvantage with uncommon materials is that they mainly stock one-offs so it’s not easy to get the same product twice. But thank God for globalisation and technology! Europe and Asia feel like they’re just around the corner now.

What does success look like at the end of everything? How would you know you have achieved your dreams?

The day when the business gets to the point where it can run profitably without me being actively involved in the day to day running, when I know it can outlive me but still maintain integrity and authenticity, I will know I have made it!


For more articles to help you get ahead in your personal life, business and career, visit SheLeadsAfrica.org

Be Consistent About Your Growth- Kutama Peanut Founder, Mary Asanga

Mary Asanga juggles being a full-time student of biochemistry at the University of Uyo and running a business with grace and grit. “I started my business to make ends meet but along the line, I wanted to make my business distinct. I wanted to serve a purpose,” she says.

Once Mary was set on what she wanted to do, she decided to be intentional- “When I started, I wasn’t business savvy. I didn’t know the basics but I wanted to learn. There was this drive to be better and that drive gave me the desire to apply for many opportunities.”

In this piece, Mary shares her business story and valuable insights from her experience as a business owner and full-time student. 

Why did you choose to sell peanuts?

I got a Nature Valley snack bar as a gift from a friend and it was really nice. So I went to the supermarket to find something similar that is locally produced and there was hardly any. It was just imported peanut snacks or regular peanuts.

That inspired me to do something. So, I began researching peanut snacks and how they can be used to support the diet plans of diabetic people. I noticed that this particular group of consumers are often ignored by the food and beverage industry.

What does Kutama mean?

Kutama means, “when you see, you will love.

How do you juggle being a full-time student and a business owner?

When I started, I ensured to move productions to weekends, I would source for raw materials during the weekdays after lectures. This way production was less tedious.

On weekends, my team and I would block off a time to produce and then on Mondays, we distribute to schools, staff quarters, student hostels, stalls and some locations in Lagos. We managed this model up until 2019. Once my course load reduced and I had more time, we increased production by 50% and our customer base also grew.

What are some lessons you have learned from running a business?

  1. Fight your fear- One of the problems I had when I started my business was fear. There was this fear that, “Oh, it is just peanut snacks. What is so special about peanuts that other people cannot do?”  At some point though, I realised that I had to fight the fear. There are still times when I doubt myself and when I fall into that trap, I look at where I am compared to when I started and it gives me hope.

  2. Be consistent about your growth- Never stop looking for opportunities that will further your growth. Regardless of what your business is, so far, if you are providing a solution that people need, you should not hold back from seeking avenues to be better. There are so many lessons to learn from experienced business owners who have gone before you. They can give you insights so that you don’t step on the same land mines that they did. It also gives you an opportunity to network. When you are hungry for personal growth, you get to learn more, broaden your horizon and realise that your business has the ability to create more impact than you ever imagined.

  3. Do your research- Study your customer. It is very important to research your potential customer. Don’t assume that you know what they want. Research on how you can serve them better with your product and your business practices.

Follow Mary Asanga to keep up with her journey and you can buy delicious peanut snacks from the unstoppable Kutama brand via Instagram or Twitter.