For the first time ever, an African owned makeup brand – Pauline Cosmetics from Kenya – has been invited to attend and participate at one of the top three beauty trade fairs in the world: Beautyworld Middle East.

The trade fair, which will be held on 15th -17th April, 2019, in Dubai, has a special feature called Ready to Beauty, which is focusing on brands made for people of color.

We spoke to executive director and founder of Pauline Cosmetics, Nelly Tuikong, to understand what inspired her to start the business, highlights of Pauline Cosmetics and what she would do differently if she were to start over.

Nelly Tuikong. Photo/Courtesy

When and why did you decide to launch Pauline Cosmetics?

My background is in Critical Care Nursing, the idea of beauty or business for that matter, was always far from my mind as I had planned a perfect heath care career trajectory.

All that changed while I was working and living in the US. I had a hard time getting makeup for myself and imagined how much harder it was for my sisters back at home.

I also noticed that although African women took pride in how they looked, make up was not a huge emphasis. I believed that given the right makeup products that works for us, Kenyan and African women at large would embrace it and turn it into a lifestyle. That’s when I quit the ‘American dream’ and moved back to Kenya.

The executive director and founder of Pauline Cosmetics, Nelly Tuikong. Photo/Courtesy

What are some of the highlights of the business?

There have been many amazing highlights in my business. I am currently en-route to Dubai Beauty world as an exhibitor, the first African makeup brand to exhibit at an international expo of this magnitude.

This is huge. With the growing need to build and promote multi-cultural brands, this couldn’t come at a better time.

 The other moment that was incredibly surreal was when we got featured on Essense Magazine alongside Mo Abdu and Musonda Mumba, two amazing African entrepreneurs.

More than anything, it’s been amazing to be recognized as an industry leader in East Africa through awards such as Women In Business Award, as well as the Top 40 Under 40 women in Kenya. Getting messages from women who say I inspire them is priceless. I am grateful to God for having guided this journey since the day I decide to take the leap of faith.

Have you experienced any hardships along this journey?

As an industry leader in East Africa it’s up to me to keep innovating and keep the beauty industry exciting. I’m constantly watching international trends and trying to understand what will translate well in our markets.

 Just because a trend explodes in the west today, it doesn’t mean it will make a hit, at least immediately in some parts of the continent.

Having to balance between getting excited for trends and how it translates into bottom lines, while also still striving to be an industry leader. Sometimes I get it right, sometimes I fail terribly.


Speaking of failure, would you do anything differently if you were to start your business over again?

Oh yes! I would do a lot of things differently. I started my business when the beauty industry in Kenya was non existent, so I had to do a lot of figuring it out on my own. There was no guidance.

However, all the mistakes I made, have provided a foundation that I’ve built on. My business has gained a lot of momentum because of those layers.


What else would you like us to know about Pauline Cosmetics?

First, for anyone coming to Dubai Beautyworld to please come by our booth at the US Pavilion, Sheikh Saeed Hall 1- S1-G26.

Our vision is to build an all inclusive and extensive beauty brand for all women of color, for all shades of black. From the dark, rich cocoa tones of South Sudanese women, to the warm caramel shades of Ethiopian women. We make colors for our color.

Our mission is to be part of those working to shape and change the single African narrative, and to rightfully take a sit on the global table and participate in transforming our beauty, and our continent.