By Charndré Emma Kippie
Mbali Sebapu, a vibrant woman entrepreneur making waves across Africa, hails from Soshanguve, a small town north of Pretoria, Gauteng, South Africa. And today she’s making a positive impact on women from all walks of life, as the Founder and CEO of Hermosa Flor Cosmetics. Running an authentically African beauty brand is something Mbali is extremely proud of, as her products uplift women across the continent, and enriches the South African economy.
Beginning her career at the South African National Defense Force (SA Navy), Mbali Sebapu decided she needed to pursue a field that she was more passionate about. Hence, her venture into the beauty industry, and becoming one of South Africa’s most-followed beauty content creators and influencers. To date, she has a digital audience of more than 388k followers. Mbali was also named one of The Plug’s 100 most influential people in urban culture, and is a valued mentor and facilitator for Africa’s Young Entrepreneurs – one of the largest entrepreneurship networks in the World.
You made R100 000 in sales within the first hour of launching your Lily Collection. This is amazing! How did you achieve this?
To be honest, it’s preparation meeting a moment of opportunity infused with a lot of hard work. We had to be precise from the product development to the marketing and advertising. When the products went online our HERMOSA Flor Family was ready and they knew what they were buying and the product value.
The beauty industry in South Africa, like many other sectors, must have experienced a knock this past year. How have you adjusted your business strategy to make it through hard times?
Numerous businesses took a knock. With us, our biggest challenge was to receive products on time and many other challenges like shipping out products to our customers, due to the regulations from the first hard lockdown. We had to put contingency procedures in place to conquer this. We are better than just ‘ready’ now.
What are your main career objectives going forward? How do you hope to make a difference?
I would like to transfer my skills to another young person. To be a teacher and to impart skills that I continue to learn to help other people who aim to walk into an entrepreneurial journey.
Please could you tell us a bit about your background – how did you get to this point?
I worked in the military for 10 years but my passion led me to starting my business which has been running for the past two years. After leaving the military I launched HERMOSA Flor Cosmetics and later Mariana Agency and recently Angela Jewellery South Africa, when I knew that Entrepreneurship was my calling , I did part time short courses while still in the Military to ensure I get the necessary knowledge I needed to start a successful brand.
What excites you the most about the work that you do?
Everything. From product development right to receiving customer experience of the products.
What 3 tips do you have when it comes to building a successful Beauty Brand, in Africa, from the ground up?
- Be truly passionate and in love with it – It has to be truly what you love because even in tough times, you won’t discard something dear to you.
- Persevere and be consistent – Running a beauty brand is being an entrepreneur before the niceties of the final product which people see. There’s a lot of background work that goes into this before what people see at the end.
- Never give up – Some days are better than others but it helps to do what you love because giving up would never be an option.
When it comes to reaching a target audience, what advice do you have for maintaining positive relationships with your customers?
Be one with them. Get to know what they love and enjoy. Be open and thoroughly honest with them. They become a family member to your brand. Brands don’t have customers, they build families.
What is your ‘why’ i.e. Bottom line? And how do you stay motivated?
To prove to the young girl from Soshanguve that the fact that you have to fight being a black woman and further fight being a black woman in business must never stop you from doing what you love and chasing your dreams. Essentially, my why is- to teach that it’s possible and your dreams are attainable when you believe and put work towards them! I always take a second look at every challenge. If it grows me, I welcome it. If it’s destructive, I don’t give it my attention.
Outside of work, are you involved in any extracurricular activities and/or community outreach projects? Please elaborate.
I have been part of numerous outreach projects/programmes, including helping a woman who lives in Alexandra with Food vouchers to help feed her community. I have however been taught that when giving help to those in need, leave your camera at home. I’m involved in outreaches to give young people hope and to also help them with their futures and dreams.
As a young entrepreneur and local influencer, what advice do you have for future generations of women looking to start their own businesses?
If it’s something you would like to do, start. Start where you are with what you have and all you have. Sometimes it works out and sometimes it doesn’t and when it doesn’t, you have gained a plethora of lessons for the next endeavour.