As one of the most successful make-up artists in Kenya, Suzie’s success did not come on a silver platter. To attain status and authority both as a make-up artist and a businesswoman, [bctt tweet=”Suzie had to tackle Kenya’s make-up industry head on”]. From New York to Nairobi, there was a stark difference in the fashion and make-up environment. In fact when she came back to Kenya in 2007, she found that the make-up industry was very small and for most jobs she found herself working with just four make-up artists.
However, rather than being daunted, Suzie saw an opportunity for change and growth. “[The four of us] ended up working together a lot and building the industry together, it was an awesome time. It is very different now,” Wokabi recalls. To make things easier, most of the artists she worked with were supportive, and most of them still support her and her Suzie Beauty brand.
One of her first jobs in Kenya was with East African Magazines, including, True Love, Drum, Adam and incidentally these jobs also greatly helped her in building a name for herself in the industry. “It was a great experience. We now work with the magazines sometimes, most of all Couture Africa, where the make-up artists I have trained get to have their worked published,” she admits.
Now eight years later, Suzie Wokabi with her company, has become a leading figure in the steadily booming local make-up industry. Moreover, her company deals with not just make-up but is interconnected with the fashion industry. “My company sponsors a lot of the major fashion shows and events, we also do a lot of photo shoots,” she informs us.
There are many issues that go with creating a business in an industry that is still small and unrecognized, but for Suzie the biggest challenge as she was building her business was money. It is hard to make money in fashion and being a make-up artist especially as you are starting out, which leads a lot of talented individuals to give up. As a result, Suzie has deep respect for those who are working to change this like her dear friend, Ann McCrReath.
Despite this initial hardship, Suzie eventually triumphed and she credits that success to a variety of factors. “Being a good worker, respecting people, understanding that I needed to pay my dues to make it to the next step, having myself being someone people wanted to call on for the job,” she recounts.
Although the Kenyan make-up industry is still not big, it has potential to strive and become a benchmark for other African nations. However, for Suzie, it’s not all about competition, “it will take a while to get [the make-up industry] to international levels. Or maybe we just need to invent our own levels and not worry about being the same as others,” she advises.
Suzie’s advice is simple for those dreaming of pursuing a life as a make-up artist:
“Get your qualifications right (either do a course, apprentice under a respected professional, etc.), invest in a great kit, and knock on as many doors as possible without giving up when you get the “no”s. Nothing great comes easy, keep that in mind,” she adds.
Moreover, this generation has access to so much material to learn and practice from, YouTube being one of them. As Wokabi says, “the only way is up!”
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