1. Who is Charlene Makuni?
I am a simple woman, down to earth. I love to look good and presentable. I think your image creates the perception that people have of you. If you want to look like a lady, people will treat you like a lady; if you want to look trashy that’s what you will get. Perception becomes reality, I believe. So I try as much as possible to have a presentable face, hair and nails but I do not break the bank trying to do this. I believe a lady doesn’t have to break the bank in order to buy a lipstick or get their hair and nails done. I do my own hair (most of the times), my own nails (all the time, I am a nail biter so I am very afraid for others to see my nails lol) and I do my own makeup (the basics). I have a passion for beauty; it all started in university as a broke student lol.
I am also passionate development and equality because it pains me to see people suffer whilst others live the high life. I was born in Mbare and I am thankful for the opportunities that my father’s hard work has afforded me. One day I would like to be involved in an initiative to help other girls from Mbare to realize that were they come from is not what defines who they are. I want to create opportunities for them too.
2. What really inspired you to take on this as a career?
I am an economist by profession but I am super super into beauty although I am not professionally qualified for that which is something I am working towards. But I was already doing my own nails in high school (during the holidays that is) and by the time I went to university I had a little extra cash to start experimenting with acrylic and I must say I have improved my craft. Then came the hair, I remember this time during a semester in my second year, I was so broke and I needed to do my hair, so I told my friend Fadzi that I was going to attempt to do my own hair. She encouraged me to do so and I began to watch a lot of Youtube videos. I decided to experiment with a Brazilian my mother had bought for me oops. It turned out well but not as great hahaha but I wore my hair with pride. As time passed, I improved. Then another class mate of mine noticed my hair and she offered me her head to practice on; I did her hair and it came out perfect, she loved it and people complimented her and she told them she paid R200 to get it done lol.
Then I thought ok, my hair looks okish lol, my nails are done but what about makeup. Fadzi was the first person to introduce me to makeup and so my love for it grew from that point because I loved what she did with her makeup. So for a long time, I would experiment with makeup but just for fun. I did not spend too much on makeup seeing that I was on a student budget and I was battling serious acne and acne scars so much of my beauty budget was committed to good skin care. But towards the end of my final year, I had gotten into the swing of things, I had found a little shop that sold very affordable makeup (it wasn’t the usual brands that we know about like MAC, Revlon etc) although I continued to buy my branded foundation and powder because of my acne. This is when I realized that most women think that beauty and makeup is about buying the expensive brands (if you have the money why not but if you were a student like me that was not an option).
I made a choice to come back to Zimbabwe and look for a job and by the grace of God I was hired as an intern a local NGO where I was earning US$100/month or whenever they could afford to pay me lol. I became so frustrated because here I am, I am into all this beauty and hair stuff and I can’t even afford to buy myself a decent weave or a lipstick. Even if I did at some point, it would have been very expensive for me to buy. I was so frustrated that the little shop with affordable makeup wasn’t accessible to me anymore or at least I didn’t find an alternative here in Zim. And lo and behold the idea to distribute cosmetics came to me. I spoke to fiancé (then my boyfriend) about it, and he approved.
So I started to save as much as I could from the little that I was earning. My parents, bless their hearts, helped me cover some of my expenses where they could help. Eventually I got employed elsewhere where I was earning a better salary and even though I can afford the expensive brands, somehow I have stuck onto my affordable makeup and in an economy like we have in Zimbabwe it is very crucial to make savings as much as possible where you can.
Make up by Charlene..
3. When did you open Smudge?
So having saved and saved and saved my savings were just not going to be enough. It seemed every time I looked at my business proposal; the goal seemed more unattainable and unreachable every time. Then I learned about Vault and I will not lie my heart was broken that someone had beaten me to it. I got discouraged and forgot about Smudge for a while. But I learned over time, Vault is not my competitor, they are my partner (if they choose to see the situation the way I do) because our business models and core businesses are different. At the turn of the New Year, 2015 that is, I made a promise to myself that no matter what I will start my business in 2015. It just so happened that at my church, Pastor Tom, was preaching a word that God had given him for the new year. It was about new beginnings and entering into a new dispensation where God would bring to fulfillment his promises to us; it was a year of grace he said. The premise of his word was based on Psalm 23. I took that word and I ran with it for my business. “The Lord is shepherd I shall not want. Though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death I will fear no evil”. Although many time I have been afraid I will fail or people will not believe in my idea the Lord has truly been a shepherd to me guiding me.
My fiancé helped me to register the company and I began to look for suppliers. I researched about products, bought some to test for myself. I even did an event at Longcheng Plaza and Joina City and we were offered free makeovers. It was more an event to put the name out there and to test the products I had bought. I wasn’t really satisfied with the outcome of some of the makeup so where the makeup artists lol so I had to continue searching. Then I bought NYX cosmetics and kept the makeup for a month because I was so scared of failure and that people wouldn’t accept it. I had asked around a few people if they had ever heard of the name before and people seemed not to know it. But my fiancé reprimanded me for sitting and wasting the money we had spent and so I pushed myself to advertise it and it sold like hot cakes.
4. Smudge, what must we expect?
You can look forward to a better Smudge starting 2016. I am working on a few things to improve supply of makeup, improve our retail platform, improve our services to the customer by adding other activities to our core business and improve our reach of customer base. It is going to be one of a kind experience in Zimbabwe.
5. People often shun make up, what are your thoughts towards this?
I think this is a thing of the past. Makeup is slowly becoming a need (not trying to push the envelope) in our society. Many women want to look good. I mean if you go onto social media platforms like Facebook, women in Zimbabwe are talking about beauty and makeup. There is a lot of video uploads, teaching other women, and experimenting with makeup application techniques etc. We also have a lot of up and coming makeup artists and a lot of activity going on in the beauty industry which has spurred the revival of the Cosmetology Association of Zimbabwe (which Smudge has applied to be a member of) because they realize there is a need to regularize the market in order to ensure that both the consumer and the supplier are protected. There is a boom in the market and there is great potential for this industry to contribute to the economic growth of the country.
6. What are your 3 favorite products?
My 3 favorite products are liquid eyeliner, mascara and a lip gloss/lipstick. I love to look good but wearing heavy makeup everyday is not healthy for your skin. It needs to breath and sometimes looking natural is the way to go so only when necessary, that is when I need to look extra special, is when I wear really heavy makeup complete with contouring and highlighting (still perfecting that by the way lol). So on normal days it’s just me and those three products I mentioned above.
Make up by Charlene ..
7. 3 top tips?
1. Your makeup must enhance your beautiful features not the other way around. So if you have beautiful full lips (like mine lol) then enhance that; likewise if you have beautiful eyes enhance that; if your eyebrows are on fleek naturally, then fleek them to the highest point of fleekness lol (if there is such a thing); if your cheek bones are on point enhance that with contouring.
2. Your makeup must not make you look like a different person. Don’t become yellow bone when you wear makeup when we know you have beautiful dark chocolate skin or don’t have excessively pink rosey cheeks when we know a black person does not show when they blush hahaha (be subtle with the blush; there are many other pigments other than rosey pink).
3. You are beautiful, with light skin or dark skin, with a small nose or a big nose (my sisters always laugh at my nose lol), with soft hair (varungu) or hard hair (mufushkwa).
8. Your tag line?
The cost of beauty doesn’t have to break the bank!
9. What is the worst experience you have come across as you worked?
My worst experience in this industry so far has been when people did not believe in my idea and walking out on me when I needed them the most. Being compared to another successful woman in the industry is the worst. I have been compared a lot to Jackie from Vault and I understand that she is an inspiration to many including me because she has pioneered a new dispensation in the beauty industry in Zimbabwe. But it is also the worst when people compare me to her because people draw conclusions on what I must do to succeed whereas there are many other ways in this industry to achieve that kind of success. I am my own person who is capable of achieving success in my own way on my own terms.
When we compare each other to another person, we are already limiting what that person can do. Therefore, because of this, I have had people who told me that I will not be successful, that if they had the money they would do what I am doing in a different way or the “Jackie way”. Despite this I have held my head up. Of course there is my fiancé and family who keep me motivated even when I give into other people’s negative words. Also sometimes even people that I don’t know and don’t expect to believe in me and my idea, have believed in me more than those I expected to. So there’s a balance. #shoutouttoallmysmudgecustomerswhohavetoldmethatIamdoingagoodthing.
Make up by Charlene..
10. Who is your role model and why? (in regards to your career)
You know my father always asks me this question and I always tell him that I do not have one. I do not know why. But when I had just finished high school there was a family friend, Dorothy, who was working for this international NGO, I considered her to be my role model because she was doing a similar job to what I saw myself doing in future. Then when I was working for the local NGO there was this lady, Busi who is also an economist, I believe she is my role model in terms of my professional career now. She worked with government and an international NGO that oversees processes in Parliament especially economic policy. At that point in my life, I wanted to be that because that was my work at the NGO during that time.
I think I have never quite grasped the concept of a mentor or I just haven’t made the effort to try and look for one. I mean does it even happen naturally, or it’s an agreement between the two parties and if it’s a person you have never met before how does the concept of role model work.
I believe as a young person, my career preferences continue to shift as I’m trying to find where I fit in this economy seeing that there are no jobs. So what one could have studied for in university and envisioned to be is not what you are going to become. Not all the time but it happens most of the time. Who thought that when I was studying economics, I was going to end up in the beauty industry? I really craved to be an economist with government or an international NGO designing and implementing policy. So at the moment I believe I do not have a role model or perhaps they are there I am just not looking hard enough.
11. What could help change the Zimbabwean fashion and beauty industry?
If we all support and not look down on each person’s ability by discouragement just because we don’t want to face a little competition, we will change this industry. We have amazing designers and beauticians here in Zimbabwe, but we would rather support South Africans, Namibians or Nigerians or whoever as long as they are not Zimbabweans. In Zimbabwe we have the mindset that if it’s a Zimbabwean product or service it is not good enough and I do not blame us for having such a mindset because in the same feat we have reduced our own standards and quality. If we as producers and suppliers in the beauty industry improve the standard and quality of our products/services coupled with an improvement in our customer service and reliability, I believe we will begin to see a change in this industry. Not only will we notice our talent and ability but others on this continent and the world over will begin to notice us just like what the Nigerians and South Africans have managed to do.
Website (launching in the near future): www.smudge.com