Cosmetics firm bets big on the African woman


Ms Nelly Tuikong, founder of Pauline Cosmetics, during the interview in Nairobi last month. PHOTO | SALATON NJAU


  • Nelly Tuikong’s Pauline Cosmetics makes lipstick, lip gloss, mascara and makeup brushes.

Pauline Cosmetics, a brand which proudly identifies itself as Kenyan, is fast gaining popularity.

The brand is the product of Nelly Tuikong, 29, whose interest in cosmetics saw her experiment with making lip-gloss in her kitchen using information she found on the Internet. At the time, Ms Tuikong was a nurse in the United States.

She discovered that Kenyan women had difficulty finding cosmetics which meet their specific needs.

“I would go to malls in search of a brand that would suit my skin tone but I would be disappointed with available products since most did not cater for dark-skinned African women,” said Ms Tuikong.

In 2010 she decided to develop a brand of cosmetics that would solve this problem for her and other women.

Armed with just $400 (Sh40,800) and little knowledge of how to successfully run a company, Ms Tuikong started Pauline Cosmetics — named after her mother.

She researched online on the cosmetics industry and also sought skills from Kiralee Hubbard, an American celebrity makeup artiste who owns Eye Max Cosmetics, hoping that her skills would rub off on her. Ms Tuikong later enlisted a manufacturer in Asia who would make her products and also sought guidance from chemical engineers on the process and best ingredients to use.

“Most manufacturers required me to produce more than 10,000 pieces of each product but that was more than I could deal with since I was starting up,” she said.

The manufacturer developed several test products and Pauline Cosmetics was ready for mass production. The young entrepreneur opted for lip stick, lip gloss, mascara and eye shadow.

After returning to Kenya in 2011, Ms Tuikong did more market research on fast-selling products and gave out samples of her new product.

“It was not easy to come and get the brand up, not knowing how it will be taken up, however I was more than determined to push it to the market,” she said.

Today the company has a range of cosmetic products with 12 shades of lipstick each retailing at Sh800, mascara at Sh650, and lip gloss at Sh900.

Ms Tuikong also sells makeup brushes at Sh1,900 each and eye shadow at Sh500. She received the first consignment of 50,000 pieces of the products in 2013 and 20,000 pieces a year later. Last year she received another consignment of 35,000 pieces.

The magazine listed her as one of the “women entrepreneurs blazing the trail of business in Africa.” Pauline Cosmetics is now available in key Kenyan towns including Nairobi, Mombasa, Thika, Naivasha, Nakuru, Eldoret and Kisumu where it is sold in over 25 stores.

The company also has a distributor in Kampala and is currently negotiating with a Rwandn marketer.

“Lipstick is our number one seller, we are happy to cater to the African woman who wants different shades on her lips,” she told Enterprise.

This year, Ms Tuikong plans to venture into skincare products such as powder mascara add six more shades of lipstick. She also plans to enter supply contracts with supermarkets.

KPMG estimates the Kenyan beauty and personal care products market to have been worth $260 million (Sh26 billion) in 2011, meaning it grew by double digits in five years to hit Sh100 billion in 2015.

This promising industry has seen several local mergers and acquisitions.

Set up shop in Kenya

Several high-end international brands have also set up shop in Kenyan malls including MAC, Yves Saint Laurent, Clarin and Estée Lauder.

Flame Tree Group recently acquired local start-up Suzie Beauty in a deal estimated to be worth millions of shillings, its fourth acquisition since listing at the NSE.

L’Oreal, one of the largest cosmetic groups in the world, bought InterConsumer Products, targeting Kenya’s fast-growing lower end of the market, where it had no presence.

When asked whether she would be willing to be bought out like Suzie Beauty, Ms Tuikong said, "I still have so much that I want to do since I want to continue growing the brand and merging with a local or international brand will dilute my ambition."

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