VISA SPOTLIGHT SERIES ON WELLNESS EXPERT: LINDA GIESKES MWAMBA – FOUNDER, SUKI SUKI NATURALS

LINDA GIESKES MWAMBA

When Linda was newly natural, she could hardly find hair products that her hair liked and responded well to. This discontent led her to start making her natural hair products and soon enough, her friends and family encouraged her to turn it into a business. At the time, Linda was a practising lawyer in New York but her passion for beauty and wellness led her to leave Law and establish Suki Suki Naturals– a premium beauty company that sells organic hair and skin care products.

This article is about Linda’s fascinating journey and how she turned her discontent into a sustainable business.


How did Suki Suki Naturals begin?

Suki Suki Naturals started as a haircare brand. Suki means hair in Lingala. I am actually from the Congo. So my passion started with haircare and then three years after I launched, I decided to go into skincare. So the haircare was because I went natural back in 2010 and I was struggling with my hair. At the time there was hardly anything on the market and the products you could find were mostly available in Canada and the US. Bringing products into the country was too expensive.

I was like “I have to find a way to make this work for myself here in South Africa.” So I started mixing things and using herbs, clays, oils and powders. I eventually started sharing them with my family and friends because they were seeing that my hair was growing well and they wanted to know what I was doing.

Did you ever see yourself starting a brand like Suki Suki Naturals?

From the age of four, I was already playing with beauty products and as I grew up it just got worse and worse and worse and I had to be banned from my mom’s bathroom. Today when my aunties look at me and they see that I have a beauty brand, they are not at all surprised despite my being a lawyer.

They are like, “we could see that happening.” Sometimes you have to think back on your childhood and ask, “what was that thing that made me so excited?”

Linda Gieskes Mwamba

How do you keep Suki Suki Naturals authentic?

I have had my moments of, “let me take on this partnership even if they do not align with my brand. Let me check if it is going to work out” and that is where lack of authenticity can start to creep in because you think you have to make certain sacrifices to see success. The problem with going with things that are not authentic to you is that you may end up doing business with people that don’t reflect your brand image.

They are not the right custodian of your brand not because they are actively trying to bring down your image but just because you are not aligned. It is important to work with people that are aligned with you. I have had to learn to say no to opportunities that are not right for me. After all, Suki Suki Naturals is here for the long run, we are not here for just short wins. 

Did you face any major challenges as a result of the lockdown?

I have been blessed during this time because my area of expertise is one where people were willing to spend simply because you are spending more time at home. Wellness and beauty are very important to people and most of them are like, “ah, I can’t go to the beauty salon, let me take care of my skin, let me take care of my hair.” I have seen a lot of amazing stories of women who have invested in their wellness.

You know when you are constantly out, you have to go put your best look forward and sometimes, that comes at the expense of actually taking care of yourself- the makeup, the weave, straightening your hair all the time- but when you are at home, you can be yourself and that forces you to cultivate what you have. So skincare has boomed and I am super lucky that skincare and wellness have boomed because that is my sector and I have been blessed with the fact that my business has been good during this time. 

How did you keep the communication going with your customers during the lockdown?

Social media has always been instrumental to my brand. It has always been great at aiding communication but it has shown its power this time. What I love about social media from a business point of view is that it gives you the power to define what your voice is.

You can define what your business is about, to speak to your customer directly and that simplifies the marketing process. It helps to facilitate clear communication between you and your customers. 

LINDA GIESKES MWAMBA

You run a brand that is committed to helping people take care of themselves, How do you make sure you prioritise self-care in your own life?

I try to disconnect on the weekends because my weekends are mine alone. As much as I don’t have a lot of family with me here in South Africa, I try to keep in touch with them.  I disconnect by literally keeping my laptop in the office. On the weekends I don’t even want to open my laptop and my laptop hardly ever sees my bedroom.

Also, I am not a fan of answering emails on my phone, for some reason, I just don’t like it. I try to keep that balance by maintaining opening and closing times and the people and companies I work with respect that.

What advice would you give to someone who wants to start a business?

Start today. Don’t worry about starting small. I started small. You don’t have to have it all figured out but get started. 

Operate from a place of authenticity and know your “why.” Why are you doing what you are doing? Don’t follow trends, don’t follow what others are doing. Don’t enter an industry simply because you think it is profitable.

If it is not the industry you ought to be operating in, don’t bother because you are going to constantly be swimming against the tide. A strong “why” will keep you in business even if it means sleeping late, working nights, working two jobs.

There is power in the gift you have. Your gifts are what allows you to forge a career and earn a living. If you know how to sing and people are willing to pay to hear you sing, then you have a career there. Many of us are good with different things and that is not a coincidence. If you are good at something and you have a passion for it, think about what you can do with that gift to give yourself a worthwhile life. 

 

 

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 Linda Gieskes Mwamba 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.

Meet Didi Morake: How her passion and creativity is decreasing youth unemployment in South Africa

didi morake

This is the last part of “Inside Global Citizen”, a limited series. 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.

Didi Morake had a lucrative career in the corporate banking industry. After completing her Masters in Strategic Marketing from the Wits Business School, Didi landed a position working as the Customer Value Proposition Designer for Youth at ABSA Bank.

 

Didi’s position at ABSA allowed her to pursue her passion for helping the youth. However, when she heard about Global Citizen, she saw a whole new world of possibilities for making a difference.

 

Resonating deeply with the organization’s goal of ending extreme poverty by 2030, Didi took the leap and left the corporate world. Didi Morake now works as the Senior Manager for Strategic Partnerships where she spearheads the Global Citizen Fellowship Program powered by BeyGOOD.

 

Morake believes that she is now doing the work she was always meant to do.

 

“Growing up, I always thought I was going to be a doctor. I was always that one friend that was there for others – to pick them up when they fell. I thought being a pediatrician was befitting to me and my personality. It wasn’t until years later that I realized that it wasn’t about the title, it was about the purpose – which I had at heart – helping young people.”
Didi Morake

On Creating Sustainable Programs to Tackle Unemployment

 

Unemployment in South Africa is staggeringly high, especially among young people. According to Trading Economics, South Africa’s unemployment rate rose to 30.1% in the first quarter of 2020 from 29.1% in the previous period. It was the highest jobless rate on record since quarterly data became available in 2008.

 

Whilst this might seem like a crippling challenge to some, Didi and her team are doing something about it. “Young people are the future, and with the right access to skills and training opportunities, everyone can achieve their full potential. This is exactly why the Global Citizen Fellowship powered by BeyGOOD exists,” says Morake. 

By working together through the fellowship program, the partnership offers young people an opportunity of a lifetime. Designed to empower young people with work experience, the program is not only supporting the vision of a South Africa that nurtures its youth.

 

The Global Citizen Fellowship is also equipping young people with the skills they need to play a role in social justice, helping their communities achieve the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), and amplifying causes that they believe in.

 

Take how the program is structured for example. It has multiple phases designed to offer each of the 10 fellows a fully immersive experience. The program covers subjects such as leadership, advocacy, international development, and global citizenship.

 

“Fellows will also have the opportunity to take part in a series of masterclasses given by industry leaders. The program also features educational field trips designed to help fellows develop into value-centred, community-driven leaders,” Didi added.

 

Didi added,“The past cohort were learning about using digital technology to drive social change; how storytelling can help spark cultural shifts; and the role of innovation in an ever-changing world.”

 

“ I think our youth are really passionate, and they’re very hungry to be heard, especially the females. What I pray for is that they keep that consistency to ensure that when they get to the top, they are bringing in other sisters into the workforce.” — Didi Morake

Cathy From Limpopo: A Rewarding Success Story

“I remember Cathy from Limpopo, who has her blog called Millennial Mirror, a platform born out of the need to create a space for young people to share their experiences. She came in with a very analytical brain since she had a background in Mathematics and Information Systems. It was so beautiful to see her discover her creative side by the end of the fellowship and become more in touch with it.” 

“Now Cathy hopes to one day be able to use technology to find solutions for society’s pressing issues and tackle injustices,” Morake added. This is Didi’s why — helping young people reach their full potential. This success story is one example in which Didi finds her work rewarding and helping her fulfil her purpose. 

Thrive: Didi’s Call to Women in 2020

2020 has been an especially tough year in youth development and employment for women. While the situation is not all grim, Didi comments that in her work, she continues to find herself asking one major question — ‘where are the women?’

According to Didi, there are a lot of spaces women still need to occupy. This is why Didi’s mandate to all women this year is — thrive.

“Thrive in what it is that keeps you up at night. Thrive in your personal and spiritual relationships. Awaken to who you are and unleash your potential.” — Didi Morake

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

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.

“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.

The free labour trap: Stop being a “yasss queen”

Practising social distancing and working from home as a mother of a one-year old has meant I have to be intentional with taking the time to rest and making time to be present with my family.

It has also allowed me to revisit some of the things which I’ve been meaning to do. You know, those things we hang on the ‘I will get to you when I have time’ shelf? Yup, things which we have been putting off for months now.

With the increase in online activity filled with Microsoft Teams or Zoom meetings, it came as no surprise when every other day I would have a friend or an acquaintance texting me for feedback on their website or requesting tips for self-care regimens. It was always this or the other odd thing, which they have started taking on with all the free time we seem to have at our disposal.

There is a super thin line between helping someone out because you’re homies and selling yourself short- Zimkhitha Mathunjwa Click To Tweet

I don’t mind getting on a call so that you can pick my mind on an idea you would like to try out or give input on a concept you’re testing. I equally have no qualms about connecting or plugging you to a great resource base to make things happen for you.

Where it gets a tad tricky is when I am asked to work on something and use my resources and expertise, without compensation. There is a super thin line between helping someone out because you’re homies and selling yourself short because of your ride or die ties.

The issue with being a free labour ‘YAAAAAAS’ queen

I am sure you’ve had acquaintances and colleagues asking you to proof-read their work and offer feedback on proposals or creative projects. Or friends who have asked you to work on their business plans or hustled you into a last-minute brainstorm sesh on their projects and because this is the sisterhood of the ‘each one help one’ mantra, we show up and shake it up.

At what cost though, do we continue to tap dance to this thankless tune of free labour? If you’ve been here, you know that once you’re done, some don’t even have the inclination to acknowledge the time, expertise and resources that went into helping them. That is a post for another day entirely.

This, however, is about how I have decided that my free labour has reached its quota. I am not available to perform these ad-hoc tasks unless I am getting paid for it. Sis, fatigue ain’t cute and I am not open to overextending myself any longer.

Make ‘No’ your ultimate BFF

We need to normalise handing out our rate card when asked to offer our expert advice or do work for friends and family. There is nothing wrong with this, we’re all trying to get our coins, Queens. Let’s not abuse each other’s generosity for self-gain, plus, it’s disrespectful.

Not only will taking a stand on how you spend your time and allocate your resources ensure that you do not overextend yourself, but it will bring you peace of mind.

A big part of self-care that we often overlook is knowing how to say no. No, is extremely liberating and it also makes sure that people do not take advantage of you.

.

I am not saying be selfish and not leverage off of each other’s knowledge and skills. These are the tenets on which sisterhood and community are built. We look out for each other and put one another on. What I am advocating for, is being self-FULL. Stop treating yourself like an afterthought, be intentional about prioritising yourself. Give yourself the respect which is due to you.

Stop treating yourself like an afterthought, be intentional about prioritising yourself – Zimkhitha Mathunjwa Click To Tweet

3 things to avoid going forward:

  1. Saying yes to a strategy and brainstorming session which will require research from you and will be resource-intense without compensation.
  2. Do not consult on a project or provide feedback for work that will be remunerated but you receive nothing.
  3. Say no to friends and family requests to do free work that you ordinarily get paid to do.

Many won’t be happy with the decision I have taken to cut free labour. The beauty of this is that it isn’t about what people say, it is 100% about me. I will be happier for it; my relationships will be healthier as a result and my coins will stay popping. Surely, this is a good look! Remember that the work you do is important, and you are equally important.


Want access to more resources and articles to get you ahead in your career? Visit SheLeadsAfrica.org!

5 Ways to Improve your Reproductive Health

As women, we take our reproductive health seriously. With our periods coming in every month, a lot of us are faced with a lot of discomfort and irritation. In the long run, this paves the way for disruptions to our daily lives.

While taking a painkiller and/or using a hot water bottle may work for many women, it is not as simple for some of us because we may suffer from the following disorders:

  • Endometriosis
  • Ovarian cysts
  • Gynecologic cancer
  • Uterine fibroids
  • Polycystic Ovary Syndrome (PCOS)

Depending on the severity of the disorder, we can experience symptoms before, during and after our monthly menstrual cycles. This makes it hard for us to function optimally in our daily lives and careers.


If you suffer from a reproductive health disorder, here are some tips to help improve your reproductive health so it doesn’t affect the world:

Consult a doctor

According to the World Health Organization (WHO), sexual and reproductive health problems are responsible for one-third of health issues for women between the ages of 15 and 44 years.

The first step in taking charge of your sexual and reproductive health is to consult a medical doctor and get professional help. This will help you diagnose and find a solution for your disorder.

Learn as much as you can

The best way to achieve better reproductive health is to learn as much as you can about your disorder. Click To Tweet


A healthy you can only make you more productive and successful. The best way to achieve better reproductive health is to learn as much as you can about your disorder. This includes knowing all the do’s and don’ts and what short term and long-term treatments are most advisable.

Consult your doctor and also do some in-depth research on the best diets, treatment, herbal remedies and exercise regiments. The more you know, the better.

Use an ovulation calendar app


An ovulation calendar helps you track your period. Knowing when your period starts, helps you plan your work in time and meet deadlines.

With an ovulation calendar, you are able to take note of inconsistencies with your monthly period, note your symptoms, the heaviness of your menstruation flow, mood and the kind of vaginal discharge at different times.

Ovulation calendar apps are available on the Android and IOS App stores.

Talk about your disorder with your manager or co-workers


This may seem rather daunting and uncomfortable, but disclosing your disorder to your manager or co-worker(s) benefits you. Through discussion with your team and disclosing your symptoms, you can discuss available options such as working from home on certain days, negotiating your hours for certain days of the month or moving your deadlines to earlier days so that your work does not suffer.

This may seem daunting, but disclosing your disorder to your manager or co-worker(s) benefits you. Click To Tweet

Talking about menstruation and reproductive health should not be a taboo. The more women talk about reproductive health, the more people get to know about the different issues they face.

Don’t be hard on yourself

A healthy you is a productive and successful you. It’s okay to rest when you need to. It’s also okay to ask for help from your co-workers and/or business partners when your health impacts your work.


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

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