What inspired you to start ZANZI?
I was working in another cosmetics business and had lots of ideas that I wasn’t able to implement. Setting up my own business allowed me to bring those ideas into fruition. I wanted to create something for my daughters.
Tell us a bit about the values and thinking behind the brand.
I have a strong affinity towards East Africa, I love the vibrancy and exuberance, particularly the brightly colored clothing worn throughout the region, which is in stark contrast to many drab clothes in the West. I wanted to capture some of this essence in the product designs, with richly pigmented color cosmetics such as the eyeshadows and lip creams. I was travelling through a remote region of Uganda, in East Africa, when I saw someone wearing a beautifully patterned full-length dress, known locally as a gomesi, and with an intensely blue lip stick. She looked stunning. I used this as the inspiration for my Elektra metallic blue lip cream, in homage to her.
I wanted the brand to capture the color and vibrancy that so inspired me, and I chose the name to evoke the region too.
Where did Celebrate Yourself come from?
This comes back to my travels again. I saw how bright clothing and make up can lift the mood, no matter what is going on in your life. Make up is there to enhance your natural beauty. Everyone is born beautiful, you only have to ask your mom to know that haha! So why not celebrate this every day? I want people to celebrate themselves and if that includes putting on some lovely bright make up, that’s great!
What were the issues in the marketplace that you were fulfilling? How did you go about researching the brand?
One of the things I’ve noticed is the really poor choice of foundations products for women of color. A lot of big companies stock a wide range of foundations, but it’s almost as though they’re just paying lip service when it comes to the needs of women of color. There’s no appreciation of undertones and the sheer diversity of shades, which means many women have to opt for second best.
I started from scratch and looked at skin tones for women of color first, then developed a brand-new range of foundations just for those tones, which addressed all the undertones. I wanted to create an affordable but premium quality product, that was lightweight and had great coverage and longevity. It’s always a fine line to balance all these things, but our initial customers who helped test the products were really pleased with the results. To make it even easier for our customers, we also developed a new app to help customers find their perfect shade, by analysing their skin tone using their phone selfie camera.
I also developed the color cosmetics by starting off with how the pigments would look on darker skin tones first. As a result, we have some intensely pigmented eyeshadows and lip creams, that will look amazing on any skin, whether it’s light or dark.
I was also fed up with the bland uniformity of the packaging – the soul of my business is celebration, and the packaging had to reflect that as much as the contents.
Another issue is one of trust. There are a lot of online businesses selling cosmetics, it is easy for them to avoid regulations. The customer needs to be protected from this, so from the start I was determined to make sure my business met the highest standards for animal welfare and product safety. I am accredited cruelty-free by PETA and my products comply with EU cosmetic safety standards, which are the toughest in the world.
What has been the biggest learning since launching ZANZI?
Nothing happens fast enough! I am so impatient to get everything launched as fast as possible, but it took twice as long as I hoped. I also discovered that it is very difficult to develop a new range of foundations from scratch, it took a lot of hard work, testing and perseverance, but we got there in the end.
Tell us about the product mix.
The core product is the liquid cream foundation range. It is essential that our customers get the right color for them. However, I really wanted to create a party with our color cosmetics – we have created some richly pigmented lip creams and a gorgeous eyeshadow palette, named “Zuri” from the Swahili for “Beautiful”. I have already designed more eyeshadow palettes and a highlighter palette, which will be launched soon, along with glitters, eyeliners and a range of accessories.
Who is your ideal customer?
My ideal customer is someone who wants to feel good about themselves, as simple as that.
What are the plans for ZANZI?
We will keep bringing out more and more products, listening to our customers to give them what they want.