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December 1, 2014

ODESHI 015 - Building East Africa’s First and Fastest Growing Cosmetics Company with Suzie Wokabi

In today’s episode we learn how Suzie Wokabi, the founder of SuzieBeauty, Kenya’s first cosmetic line goes from a humble make-up artist to Africa’s budding beauty titan. Before venturing into the fashion and beauty industry, Suzie received her degree in International Relations in the United States. Upon graduating, she decided to pursue her love for make-up artistry by training at MAC Cosmetics and the Award Studio Make-up School in Los Angeles. After working in the fashion and beauty industry in the United States, she decided to return to her hometown of Nairobi, Kenya in 2007, where she became a highly sought after make-up artist with extensive industry experience ranging from Print Media, Television, Film, Videos, Commercials, Runway, and Bridal. 

While working with her numerous clients, she realized that many dark-skinned women developed unsightly skin reactions, as a result of a combination of the use of counterfeit make-up brands and extended exposure to the unrelenting African sun. Filing the idea to start her own unique make-up line that would alleviate the problems these women faced at the back of her mind. She was inspired to start SuzieBeauty in 2009, when the time came for her to replenish the stock in her make-up kit. She realized that she would need to pay more than three times the retail price of the products in United States. It was at that moment, she decided to launch her own distinctly African beauty products line. It wasn’t until December 2011, that her dream of offering high quality, affordable and bespoke beauty products would be actualized.

Today, SuzieBeauty products can be found online and in retail outlets in Nairobi, Mombasa, Kisumu and even in Kampala, Uganda, Addis Ababa, and Cote D’Ivoire, and soon in Nigeria. Oscar Award winning actress Lupita Nyong’o when she wore SuzieBeauty’s Zamba lipstick to her appearance on the Queen Latifah Show and posted it on her social media paid a great compliment to the brand. Suzie has also been featured in various international publications like Italian Vogue L’Uomo magazine, the New York Times and several others. In addition, she has received several accolades and awards from many organizations home and abroad. She is without a doubt one of Africa’s brightest stars.

What you will learn

·       The Big Idea

·      Her inspiration to start the SuzieBeauty cosmetics line

·      How she developed the product

·      Her valuable partnership with her husband

·      How she merged the creative aspects with the business side

·      Where she got the funding to start the company

·      How she manages to keep her products affordable

·      The challenges she faced marketing her brand

·      The competition with foreign brands in Kenya

·      Her current product distributorship and plans for growth

o   Lessons she has learned along the way

·      The company’s performance since inception

·      Thoughts on the growing youth unemployment problem in Africa

·      A significant personal failure she faced, and how she overcame it

·      How she balances work and family life

·      The person she admires the most: Bobbi Brown


 Key Advice

·      Advice to recent grads thinking of launching a venture in Africa:

    • You need a certain level of bravery. Whatever it is that you think you want to do, the number one thing that you must have is pure passion for that thing. There is no way that you can survive without that. 
    • The 3 P’s - Passion, Patience, and Perseverance.


·      One piece of advice she would give herself if she could go back in the past:

    •  Be careful about the partnerships that you take on. Be sure about the alignment that you have with whomever you are getting together with in business.

Don’t jump into things.

    • Make yourself a priority, not them.


Words of Wisdom

·      Everything always works out in the end. So, if it hasn’t worked out, then it’s not the end.

·      Don’t Give up

Inspirational Makeup Artists:

·      Bobbi Brown

·       Kevyn Aucoin

·      Sam Fine

·       Frank Toskan, Frank Angelo ( the founders of MAC Cosmetics)

Contact me:



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