One on one with make-up artist turned entrepreneur
Phoina ‘Tosha’ Wambui is a Kenyan make-up artist turned entrepreneur. She recently launched her cosmetic line dubbed Phoina. She talks to Faith Kyoumukama about her journey in the beauty business and everything style
Tell us about you
I am an entrepreneur who is passionate about make-up and the beauty industry.
Growing up, I watched my mum interact with make-up and you know that saying that some things are better learnt than taught. Seeing her love make-up got me so interested. One trend that I loved the most from her had to be the use of the dark line and lip-gloss. This would get me into a lot of trouble, especially in school.
How then did you end up in the make-up business?
About 10 years ago after college, I was working for a tracking company in a control room, which was a 9- 5 job that I did not enjoy one bit. Sitting for long hours was boring and not exciting for me, so while at work, I would watch a lot of make-up tutorials on YouTube. So, I set up an Instagram page and slowly started posting make-up videos experimenting on my friends and family. The wake up call was when I first got a bridal job and they paid me Sh20,000. This was a Sh3,000 difference from my then monthly salary and that’s when I decided to quit my job to do make-up on full time. My thoughts were if I could earn such an amount in one weekend, what if I put all my energy into it?
Some hurdles you experienced when starting out?
It wasn’t the easiest transition journey, because first this was a gamble. In fact, my mum was sceptical about me leaving a corporate job to fully venture into offering make-up services. I created a home studio and I was doing a lot of freelance jobs. I did not own a car at that moment, and also, the affordable car apps were not in existence then. So, moving around was a challenge by itself. Another challenge was some customers would not be impressed with my work, especially since I had not yet perfected my craft, and so, I had to go back to the drawing board and it took me four years to get it right.
You recently launched your cosmetic line named Phoina. What was the inspiration behind it?
Yes, I have so far launched seven lipsticks, a colour palette and a highlighter. My inspiration behind it was that I saw a niche and a gap. Most of the time I use international products and there are just a few, and because I understand the craft, I’m able to know what’s suitable for the industry. It also allows me to use it in the academy for students who are aspiring make-up artists.
Beauty hack you have learned over the years…
A trick that has worked for me because I have tiny eyes is using a white liner to make my eyes appear bigger by creating an illusion. You can give it a try at home too.
What do you splurge on the most when it comes to matters fashion and beauty?
I love clothes. There is a shop called Boss Babes where I get most of my pieces. I really got the fashion bug from my mum; she loved dressing up.
Which fashion era did you like the most?
The 90s, because in my opinion, it was the beginning of true fashion. It’s actually the mother of fashion. It had the belly bottoms, which I loved rocking with a pair of platforms or blocks.
Your go to stylist in Kenya is?
Victor Maina is my go to stylist. He understands my style and what I love. He always picks what is suitable for me depending on the occasion.
If given an opportunity, which celebrity wardrobe would you raid?
Chioma Ikokwu! She has great style coupled with confidence.
An advice for those that look up to you and would want to follow a similar career path.
Follow your dreams, be consistent in everything that you do, and work hard. Hard work and consistency will take you places that talent won’t. There is a bunch of people I like to refer to as the ‘microwave generation’ who don’t like to get their hands dirty. I would like to tell them that success will not just knock on your door without your input.