22 Nov Success Meets Hardwork: Stephanie Adu of Colorbox Cosmetics
Stephanie Adu started her cosmetic line in Ghana in 2014 with a big bang! With dedication, consistency and discipline, she penetrated the beauty industry rather quickly. Her brand was nominated for the ‘Most Promising Ghanaian Owned Brand’ at the Bi-Annual 2016 and 2018 Makeup Ghana awards. However, in January 2017, Stephanie was involved in a near fatal car accident and had to be flown out for emergency surgery in order to be able to walk again. Fast forwarding to this April 2018, Stephanie made the somewhat brave decision to return back to Ghana to continue the pursuit of her entrepreneurial dream – Colorbox Cosmetics. Upon her return, her team threw a welcome back party on her behalf and launched a new exciting highlighter range called Melanin Glow. The event definitely helped kick start meaningful interaction for the brand within the local beauty industry, and successfully added two new shades to their Melanin Glow product range! It has been a rollercoaster ride over the last 20 months for Stephanie, but she is fortunate enough to come back to a functioning business against all odds.
Please tell us about your business.
Colorbox Cosmetics is the pioneering affordable luxury cosmetics brand of choice for the modern African woman. Founded in the cosmopolitan city of Accra, our brand focuses on providing high quality products that help Ghanaian women stay ahead of beauty trends with ease.
Colorbox Cosmetics is unique in the Ghanaian market because we pro-actively seek to keep pace with the global beauty trends, and seamlessly blend this knowledge with extensive local industry research. This ensures we offer relevant & practical products at unbeatable value.
As we continue to grow rapidly, we are also committed to providing great customer service to our loyal client base.
Colorbox Cosmetics is fast growing into a major competitor within the Ghanaian beauty industry, with the brand being nominated for the ‘Most Promising Ghanaian Owned Brand’ at the Bi-Annual 2016 and 2018 Makeup Ghana awards. We are passionate about expanding our commercial outreach whilst robustly promoting a message of women empowerment. A message that we hope will inspire many women, just like our products do.
Address: Teshie 1st Junction, Accra – Ghana
Phone: +233 (0) 502734866
Facebook: Colorbox Cosmetics
What made you decide to embark on producing these makeup products?
I have always known that if I was ever going to become an entrepreneur, it would have to be within the beauty industry. After some fairly intensive local research in Accra, Ghana – I could see a clear opportunity and need in the market for a modern yet affordable cosmetics brand, to cater to the growing focus on more advanced beauty trends. With this opportunity at hand, I was confident that I could bridge the gap by transferring my beauty knowledge from commercial experiences in London, over to Ghana in a way that would contribute positively towards the growing cosmetics industry.
I first looked to partner with foreign cosmetic companies to launch in Ghana, but with the currency then in turmoil, the African dream didn’t appeal as it once did to foreign investment. I was still convinced however that this was the next step in my career and what I was meant to do in Ghana. From every challenge comes ingenuity, and I went from frustrations to birthing Colorbox Cosmetics. We started trading in November 2014 with 3 affordable great quality tools, and have been growing impressively ever since.
What influenced your decision to become an entrepreneur?
My background is fairly diverse as although I have been involved in the cosmetic industry for over 14 years in some way, I have a BSc Honours degree in Pharmacology from King’s College London University, and ventured into a dynamic career in finance in Investment Banking. I’ve had entrepreneurial aspirations for as long as I can remember. However, after a few years in the corporate world, I can see that this role was largely responsible in giving me the confidence which lead to my decision to move to Ghana as an entrepreneur. My passion for cosmetics has always played a prominent role in my life, whether it was in my student days working part time with several luxury brands, or trading cosmetic companies on stock exchanges to now owning my very own cosmetic brand – Colorbox Cosmetics!
To what do you attribute your success?
Being strategic, planning ahead, and having a relentless spirit to push for the best standard in everything my team and I do. I have an unbending attitude towards success, and I take what I do concerning my brand very seriously.
I believe I am still very much on the road to success but the habits of deliberate and diligent organisation, cross-checking everything, listening to the market (i.e. our customers), and rectifying mistakes quickly are helping me along the way. In an African business environment, making contingency plans and having a top-level understanding of every area of my business are also very crucial in my pursuit of success.
Lack of capital is often cited as one of the most challenging parts of being an African entrepreneur. How were you able to fund your business?
There is no easy way to fund a start-up on this continent, and more often than not, the entrepreneur is the only one who can see the vision. This therefore often requires the entrepreneur to put their money where their mouth is, and start the business with allocated built up savings. It’s often unheard of that an investor will participate in another person’s dream, without them proving that they are willing to do what it takes to make the venture work. I would also like to add that before my move here, a wise friend offered the advice that on top of my start up capital (no matter how large or small), I should also have a minimum of 6 months living expenses set aside as a ‘life’ cushion. I listened, and let’s just say that I’m glad I did.
What piece of advice would you give to other Africans just starting out?
I’m sure what I’m about to say, many have read several times before. However, one of the rules I have found to be useful on my journey is, if more than 2 of my predecessors are saying similar things independently, then whatever they are saying is probably worth paying serious attention too.
With that now said, I will humbly offer the following 3 pieces of advice that I believe will fundamentally help an entrepreneurial “newbie” starting out on the continent.
- Know your market: Have a very clear idea on who your competition is, who the major players are in your industry and what they offer, who your clients are likely to be, what they want and how to reach them, and last but not least how these players actually make their money.
- Build good habits early: With a particular focus on keeping records whether it be stock taking, book keeping, or post-event reports, make sure you build systems that allow for easy data capturing and always keep an electronic format of these records. Often as an entrepreneur, you over-estimate your memory skills and under-estimate how many other things can occupy your mind.
- Make your product or service easily accessible: The easier your product/service is to find or receive, the easier it is for the consumer to invest and also recommend you. Therefore, it is essential you build a sustainable business chain and/or commercial relationships that allow for a smooth and enjoyable customer experience.
What are some of the biggest mistakes you’ve made? How did you recover?
I’m sure I have many more to make but concerning this venture, however I think so far, its the fact I waited too long for the wrong reasons to start Colorbox Cosmetics, however this isn’t a regret – its just a lesson that has been learnt for future ventures.