Suzie Wokabi wears many hats. She is a mother and wife, a beautypreneur, a speaker, an author, a mentor, and a consultant. Her purpose is to be an instrumental contributor to the growth of the African beauty industry. She lives life like a dog with a bone, and is all about living in positivity always, and in all ways!
What were your initial years of growing up like? Tell us about your life before starting your corporate journey/venture/initiative.
I had a pretty nice childhood. I’m the last born of 4 so I was definitely quite overprotected. I was a good student too, and my first choice of career was to be a vet because my best friend Dinah was a cat! Well I further graduated with a degree in International Relations and built a career in the fashion and beauty industry! If that didn’t teach me that not everything works out as expected or planned, am I right? I found my passion in beauty, realized that it could be a career path, and ran with it! My main role model was and is Bobbi Brown and definitely inspired me to be where I am today, a beauty brand founder.
Was there any turning point in your life that changed your journey? If so, what was it? Please tell us the backstory behind it.
I became an entrepreneur out of frustration, not the plan. I was working as a professional make-up artist after 10 years away in the US. I came to find the state of the retail cosmetics space a mess – all products were imported, not even appropriate for our skin tones, and extremely overpriced. I then made a decision to create my own, for us. That is where SuzieBeauty, my brand, Kenya’s first make-up brand, was borne.
Tell us something about your initiative or current role. What is it about, and what impact are you trying to make?
I mentioned that my purpose is to be an instrumental contributor to the African beauty industry. My current role is to create and provide beauty products for the Kenyan and African beauty product consumer, which is appropriate, localized, exciting, and that can sit alongside global conglomerates. I am determined to continue to prove that we can create our own anything. That was a fictional notion before I started SuzieBeauty, and there are now a handful of local make-up brands that have cropped up. There is still so much space to fill in the local industry that I am now launching a second beauty brand.
Everyone has their own set of challenges when starting an entrepreneurial journey. Still, the most essential part for others to learn is how you deal with those. Would you like to share with us your challenges and your coping mechanisms?
The challenges are plenty, entrepreneurship is not for the fainthearted for sure. Myself as a creative, even just running a business outside of focusing on my creativity is a challenge. Having to deal with finance, legal, HR, logistics etc. issues, not easy! How I cope is that while I always find it necessary to know something about everything, I partner with others on the areas I am weaker in. I will never know how to do everything well, nor do I need or want to. Somebody else can do that part of it much better, so I let them!
While the global pandemic of COVID-19 is associated primarily with adversities, it has also brought about a true boom in startups, with successful entrepreneurship in many countries. The pandemic has impacted all of us in one way or another. Would you like to share your experience on a personal and professional level?
The pandemic caused loss of lives which is really shattering. Other than that, I actually have a lot of positive outcomes from the pandemic on all levels. I love my family and we were forced to spend more time with each other than ever before, haha. On a professional level, I appreciate it that people learned that as long as you get the job done, it doesn’t really matter where you physically are. I actually had in my job contract before the pandemic that I would not physically be in the office more than once a week, and then only when necessary. I know where and how I work best to produce results! That’s what it’s all about. Not physical bodies sitting in an office not producing anything but they are “present” so it’s good. Secondly, I have moved into the e-commerce space very swiftly because people have established the comfort and ease of online shopping to a level that would not have happened without the pandemic!
Your journey and your vision are very inspiring, but are there any achievements or accomplishments you would like to mention?
I am not one to brush under the carpet my accomplishments because I worked hard for them! I currently hold 36 award wins and/or nominations in various areas: entrepreneurship, leadership, product. I have rubbed shoulders with many I never thought I would have, I have travelled the world to speak and attend events because of my journey.
Would you like to share with our young budding women entrepreneurs the change you would like to see in the world if given an opportunity?
More brevity. Less fear of taking the leap and trying! And being willing to dive all the way in and do all you can to make it work, for as long as you believe in it and are very passionate about it.
What’s the most important thing you’ve learned in your personal life and professional journey? What is your personal motto in life?
Positivity is queen! That will take you through everything. It will enable you to handle the worst of the worst. It will enable you to continue to believe. It will avoid you wallowing in any area, personal or professional. It will open your mind to opportunities and possibilities.
Women are a growing force in the workplaces worldwide, standing shoulder to shoulder with their male counterparts. There are cracks in glass ceilings everywhere, with many women breaking through to carve out a space right at the top of the pyramid. What are your thoughts about women’s leadership today?
It is such an exciting time to be a woman! Especially a woman in business. We have so many leaders and role models to look up to and know that we can compete on any and all levels. It’s really beautiful.
With your grit and determination, you are making a considerable impact, breaking through, and serving as role models for many budding entrepreneurs. What would you want to say to our young women leaders/audience reading this?
Passion, patience, perseverance, positivity and prayer. These 5 P’s will take you through it all as we continue to conquer the unimaginable, together!