How do you feel about people who see your success, go into the same industry and become a competitor?
I love it, competition is good! I absolutely encourage it if you know what you’re doing and have a passion for it. If they don’t know what they’re doing then it’s better for me because they’re doing the labour for me. Then I can swoop in give people who have received the wrong information something accurate that they can work with.
What are your thoughts when it comes to “reinventing the wheel” when it comes to coming up with a product?
Branding is a really big thing in the cosmetic industry, it’s easy and cheap. You go to the factory, you put your name on it and you move on. I did this in the beginning, I didn’t have money.
I understood it because of the makeup companies that would come to us as professional makeup artists for advice on what products they should make. So I was able to pick and choose what I felt was good for my client, but within that I realised that these companies weren’t making what was good for my clients. I was lucky enough to find a chemist that made things for me according to my specifications. It cost me USD$10 000 per product to have the rights to actually make that, and my brand has more than 100 products.
What were the ups and downs involved with starting a makeup business in a widely agro-economic environment?
When I first arrived, I did a big launch at Borrowdale Brooke and went all out, loads of people came. Vault definitely attracts a crowd, whether it be the curious or loyal customer. On that day I made $10 and I had spent $60 000.
I felt like a complete failure, I gave up, called my husband and told him it had failed. Then I said, I just want to do one thing. I want to do a makeover in Mbare because those people would appreciate it more as makeup is not so obvious to them. When I did in the Brooke, those were the people who felt like they knew and understood makeup already. They are people that would go to South Africa and buy MAC products, so they were thinking, “who is this Zimbabwean that claims she knows how to do makeup?”
They didn’t trust me and I don’t blame them. When I went into Mbare and did makeup that’s when I realised the appreciation and the love for another Zimbabwean, which is pretty interesting. I realised what they wanted was in the bottle and not how it appeared. All I had learnt in America was that product packaging had to be amazing, because everything is about image.
I had to go back to the drawing board and make a product that any ordinary person can afford. I started from scratch without anything, one of our services is threading, threading was something just for Indian women. Vault introduced threading to black people, our Vault eyebrow is what resuscitated Vault. We went from the Vault brow, to a little eye-shadow, to powders and foundation, to the highlights.I started with a few people then got into wanting to help the whole world - Jackie Mgido Click To Tweet
How has the journey been with the people who make Vault?
I started off with a few people and then got into the mode of wanting to help the whole world, I want women that have never done this before or women that are going through lots of stuff, to come and work for me. I aim to empower them so they will have a vision of being with Vault and growing with.
Quickly, I learnt that’s not the case, the women I was getting at that time were more interested in using Vault for personal gain and never giving back. That was a hard one to swallow, but the lesson I learnt was that if that didn’t happen as a business, we wouldn’t know what to ask when interviewing potential staff.
The “I can start my own business in a weekend” attitude was the biggest problem. I realised that no one was thinking of what’s in the bank, the products that they’d need, the running costs, the dedication to marketing, people forget that it’s a service. Even if you learn how to do makeup in 6 months, there is still plenty more to learn. It’s all about how you sell yourself, it’s taken me years and I’m still in the infancy stages of my business.
How have you dealt with the highs and lows you’ve faced while growing your business?
There have been lots of times I have given up, there’s lots of “Buddhism”, Zen and soul searching, learning to be the master of your own inner being, and centering your chi. Nobody can teach you this journey.
I was invited to Wharton business school to talk about starting a business in Africa since I started one in Zimbabwe which is categorized as an economically hostile environment. They were curious about how I was doing it with Vault. I told them, even with your PhD’s no one can teach you this stuff, you have to do it as you go.
They asked me why I didn’t make things in China or Zimbabwe. They obviously hadn’t been to Zimbabwe, there are very few factories, there are power cuts, there’s no way I could afford that, I would be out of business in a heartbeat. Start with what you know then later on expand.Jackie Mgido - Even with your PhD’s, you have to learn as you go Click To Tweet
About starting with what you know, is that where you started?
Yes, when you start with what you know, you are able to defend what you know even when someone with more experience challenges you. I knew makeup, went to school for it, worked for a makeup company and a makeup store. So when I first started I could challenge anyone who wanted to tell me anything different.
When you don’t know and someone challenges you with something, your confidence levels go to an all low and this is when you start doubting yourself. You can’t “fake-know” you have to be honest with yourself.
Is there value in celebrating your successes?
Yes, there is such value in this because in life we celebrate too many lows. We come from a society where you’re told that if you celebrate your high, you’re more likely to get lows and people will laugh at you.
Any extra advice?
Intern, intern, intern, intern, I cannot say it enough, the value of learning under someone else’s money is priceless. You have absolutely nothing to lose but everything to gain. If my interns fail, the blame’s not put on them it’s put on Vault, so why on earth would you forfeit such opportunities no matter your industry?
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