Journalism and media studies student Mmatlala Mabotja says she wants to focus on her budding cosmetics line when she completes her studies at the Damelin college in Pretoria later this year.
Mabotja, 22, a third and final year student, established her business Fancy Sapphire Cosmetics at her Pretoria North home in 2016. Growing up, Mabotja would never leave the house without make-up, particularly lipstick.
“The focus on my lips started in primary school, I was never a Vaseline girl,” she says. “When I got to tertiary I wore lipstick everyday of my life. I then started playing around with the different lipstick colours. That’s when I thought of having my own cosmetics line.”
Mabotja says the lipstick brands she loved wearing included Avon, Yardley and M.A.C. “I’ve always looked up to these international brands, M.A.C, Estée Lauder, Bobby Brown, Inglot, just to name a few. I read about their history, like where it all began and I knew that I could also do it,” she says.
“I did some research about the different types of lipsticks such as matte, solid and liquid lipsticks, and the different materials needed to get started,” she recalls. Mabotja says sourcing the materials in the country needed to get her company going proved futile.
“I couldn’t get anything in South Africa, I ended up sourcing the raw materials in Canada, Washington D.C. and Ohio. I ordered the lipstick containers in Hong Kong,” she says, adding that she spent about R4000 on the essentials.
“When I got everything I started producing the lipstick in my kitchen, mixing the bases, colours and flavours, and packaging them. I used social media, Facebook to be precise, to market my stuff. And the response was good,” says Mabotja.
However, due to the time it took to produce the lipstick – up to six hours – the young entrepreneur says she fished around for a local manufacturer but to no avail.
“Again, I went out of South Africa and found a company to handle lipstick production for me, according to my specifications, in Guangzhou in China.”
The first batch of premium lipstick was shipped in November 2017.
“I was very impressed with the lipstick and the response from my customers was amazing. I sold over 160 bottles of lipstick in three weeks, with the help of social media and direct selling in salons, workplaces and on the streets,” says Mabotja.
She has since hired four ladies as sales representatives for Pretoria and Polokwane, where her products are proving popular among her clients.
“We are now on 500 lipsticks per month because of the high demand especially in Polokwane,” says Mabotja, who hails from Seshego township in Polokwane.
Mabotja says she would like to become a radio journalist when she completes her studies.
“At the same time I’m thinking of focusing on the business after school and see where it takes me.” She says she is chuffed that she is now competing with global cosmetics brands, especially M.A.C.
“My biggest dream is to have my products manufactured here in South Africa. I’d love to have my own factory and create a lot of jobs here in South Africa,” she says. “I’d also love to have my own store, with branches across the country, and add more products to my range such as make-up products. Providing make-up services would be cool too.”
Mabotja says the journey has not been a bed of roses and that there were times she felt like throwing in the proverbial towel.
“But I was constantly reminded that I was doing a great thing. Words like ‘I am so proud of you’ gave me the strength and courage to carry on,” she says.