Entrepreneur

Mbali Sebapu is building her beauty empire one 'add-to-cart' at a time

The founder and CEO of Hermosa Flor Cosmetics is a former SANDF member and a self-made woman on a mission to build her beauty empire

21 August 2022 - 00:00
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Mbali Sebapu, founder and CEO of Hermosa Flor Cosmetics.
Mbali Sebapu, founder and CEO of Hermosa Flor Cosmetics.
Image: Supplied

From a decade-long tenure serving in the SANDF, to becoming one of SA's most promising beauty entrepreneurs, Mbali Sebapu is a force to be reckoned with. Having recently been named a Bold Future Award finalist at this year’s Veuve Cliquot Bold Woman Awards, Sebapu sits at the helm of Hermosa Flor Cosmetics (meaning beautiful flower in Spanish after the meaning of her name, Mbali) as founder and CEO after having leveraged her social media influence into a burgeoning career in beauty entrepreneurship.

We chat to Sebapu about building the brand, what true female empowerment should look like in today’s SA and, of course, get stuck into some must-have beauty products and must-know secrets.

'Support your words – what are you doing day to day to empower women? What are you doing to ensure that women are in a better place financially?' - Mbali Sebapu
'Support your words – what are you doing day to day to empower women? What are you doing to ensure that women are in a better place financially?' - Mbali Sebapu
Image: Supplied

What inspired you to start the Hermosa Flor Cosmetics brand? I was in the Defence Force and I wanted a better life and to use my social media influence to build something that I own and that is mine. My audience always asked me about the products I use when I do my face so I decided to leave my 9-5 and go into business, specifically makeup, because I have always loved makeup and beauty

How has your experience in the SANDF helped you become a successful beauty entrepreneur? The Defence Force has taught me discipline, time management and team work; you need these skills to run a successful business. It is important to show up on time for your meetings and work, and discipline helps you to commit to everything that is a priority for the business.

Most people believe that as a CEO/founder you have a choice to show up or not because you are the boss, but that’s not true. Discipline pushes you to show up even when you don’t want to. You can’t build a successful brand without a good team. Good team skills helps you bring out the best in your team. You need to have good leadership skills, especially when starting your company.

You need to teach them how to work together so that the vision you have can come to life. The Defence Force also took me to Stellenbosch where I did my degree.  I had degree modules like business law, leadership, ethics, contract law, personnel psychology and employee wellness; all of which I put into practice in my business. 

Share your creative process when developing and launching a product or collection. With the development of our eyeshadows, for example, I design everything — how it looks on the outside, how I want the palette to look and the shades. Our shade names are inspired by the flower that we chose for the palette and what it symbolises. I choose the shades that I want according to what’s on trend and I also ask my audience and customers to advise me on what they would want in the palette, which helps a lot. Then I send everything to my supplier, who will also advise on what she thinks will work and what won’t. Then we go ahead with printing the cases for the palette and make the shades. They send me samples and when I am happy, it will go into full production for our bulk stock. 

Which has been your favourite Hermosa Flor Cosmetics collection/product to launch and which are you most proud of?  Our first collection, which I created the look and feel of on a flight back from China after having paid for all my stock and approving all the samples. I was super-excited even though I didn’t know what the reception would be. So it will always be the first collection — it’s special.  

Did the pandemic help or harm your business or influence the way you run your brand?  Our business grew by 80% during the pandemic.  I think the reason was because we didn’t stop doing the marketing and made sure our customers knew we were still operating and that they are a priority. 

What challenges have you faced in getting the Hermosa Flor Cosmetics to this level? We still have challenges. Demand is greater than supply. We can’t keep up. Our products are always sold out.  Since I’ve invested my pension into starting the business I always have to reinvest. Hopefully, one day, we will get funding to make sure that everything runs smoothly and we can keep up with the demand. 

Mbali Sebapu as a Bold Future Award finalist at the Veuve Clicquot Bold Woman Awards.
Mbali Sebapu as a Bold Future Award finalist at the Veuve Clicquot Bold Woman Awards.
Image: Supplied

What does Women's Month mean to you? It means putting words into action. I am not about long speeches and seminars that make women that need help pay ridiculous amounts of money to just listen to our stories. How about giving women the skills and giving women funding to help them out? Support your words — what are you doing day to day to empower women?  What are you doing to ensure that women are in a better place financially to be able to compete with men and be independent — what are you doing? I think we should focus on that as a country and work hard to make sure we put women in better positions to be equal to men. 

What is your advice to aspiring female entrepreneurs who want to leverage their online platform into a profitable beauty business? Do it. You’re not going to be young forever, you’re not going to be the hot trending topic forever so use what you have now to build something — a legacy for your kids and to have the best life. I am proud of myself for doing this early — even though my brand and numbers are still growing — I have a brand. For new followers and people who come in, I want them to know that I am the brand first before I am @gorgeous_mbali. Instagram is my office. I come onto Instagram to run my business so if you have numbers, put them to good use to build something that can sustain and support you and your family.

What Hermosa Flor Cosmetics products odes every woman need in her kit? The White Lily Palette; it can be used as eyeshadow, blush, highlighter and contouring. The Brow Gel shapes, tames, and sets unruly brow hairs in seconds without leaving any residue. Our Sparkly Gloss and Dream Chaser Lipstick; the formulas are amazing as it hydrates the lips, is not too thick and is long-lasting.

Which is your go-to Hermosa Flor Cosmetics product and why?  The Brow Gel because I can use it with or without makeup. It helps hold brows in place the whole day, is smudge-free and easy to wash off.

Best beauty secret for long-lasting, flawless looking makeup? Set foundation with a light loose translucent powder and finish off with the Hermosa Flor Setting Spray.
Best beauty secret for long-lasting, flawless looking makeup? Set foundation with a light loose translucent powder and finish off with the Hermosa Flor Setting Spray.
Image: Supplied

What's next for Hermosa Flor Cosmetics? Definitely pop-up stores around the country; we are going to do a lot of pop-ups because we want to introduce people not on social media to the brand. We want to give people the whole experience; how to use the products, through masterclasses we do around SA, and we are planning to collaborate with one of the big brands in SA to take over their stores with Hermosa Flor experiences.  A lot of brand growth is on the cards — I just want to grow the brand, employ more youth and create opportunities for any one that wants to work for Hermosa Flor Cosmetics. 

MBALI’S QUICK FIRE:

  1. What book are you reading? Crushing (God turns pressure into power) — TD Jakes 
  2. Most recent beauty product you have finished? Sunscreen
  3. What song is on high rotation on your playlist? Izethembiso by Joyous Celebration
  4. Beauty product you can't live without? The Hermosa Flor Cosmetics Glow Cleanser
  5. Best beauty secret for long-lasting, flawless-looking makeup? Set your foundation with a light loose translucent powder and finish off with the Hermosa Flor Setting Spray
  6. Runway makeup look you're obsessed with? The bat wing liner

MBALI’S TOP PICKS:

  1. Hermosa Flor Cosmetics Dream Chaser Lipstick R160
  2. Hermosa Flor Cosmetics Brow Gel R120
  3. Hermosa Flor Cosmetics Matte Goddess Setting Spray R180
  4. Hermosa Flor Cosmetics Sparkly Lipgloss R120
  5. Hermosa Flor Cosmetics White Lily Eyeshadow Palette R310

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