I first heard of the term “metrosexual” when I watched that hilarious movie “Guess Who” which featured the late great comedian Bennie Mac. According to the Merriam Webster Dictionary, “a metrosexual is usually an urban heterosexual male given to enhancing his personal appearance by fastidious grooming and beauty treatments.” I am sure you have seen these ones before. When men become particular about their grooming, you know there is an opportunity lying somewhere just waiting to be exploited.
Indeed, the beauty industry has rich “pickings” for those who recognise opportunities in the changing demographics of urban culture among different groups. Though the beauty industry is worth billions of dollars and it is important for Zimbabwean entrepreneurs to recognise the trends that can potentially turn into opportunities especially among the emerging black communities.
Bazaar, a leading fashion and beauty magazine notes that brands and retailers have made significant strides in catering to under-represented communities. The magazine reports that, Superdrug, a makeup company announced their decision to only stock foundations that come in a minimum of 20 different shades. This decision was informed by research that revealed two-thirds of black and Asian women do not feel that high-street brands cater for their beauty needs.
In this article we look at the beauty industry and the gaps and the entrepreneurial opportunities that exist. It is thus noteworthy to argue that the past decade has really seen black beauty being celebrated. Famous eye surgeon, cum hair activist, Dr Guramatunhu has been at the forefront of celebrating African hair and beauty. Movies such as “Nappily Ever After” and Chris Tucker’s “Good Hair and Bad Hair” have opened up important conversations on how black people should celebrate their natural looks.
Africans have always been beauty savvy for centuries. Most African beauty rituals use essential oils such as Argan and Lavender oil, which well are known for their nourishing properties. Shea Butter has been used in West and Central Africa and is well known for its nourishing effect on the skin and is also an ingredient in the formulation of the popular black soap.
The beauty industry does not lack its fair share of Black African Beauty pioneers. In America, the most celebrated beauty architect, is Madam CJ Walker who revolutionarised the beauty industry by creating a hair straightener for black hair. She was later to become one of the first black female millionaires. In the same breadth Connie Mashaba’s “Black Like Me” which was created in South Africa, has been on the market for more than 30 years and is a favourite for many Africans in the southern African region.
In Zimbabwe the most memorable pioneering brand is Kubi Cosmetics, which was founded by Kubi Chaza-Indi. A former model who even acted in a Bond movie with Roger Moore in 1973. Upon discovering that the products catered for white skin only, she decided to create a brand that catered for black skin. Since then other Zimbabweans such as Jackie Mgido have stormed the international market with black inspired products.
So what are the opportunities that exist in this industry?
Emerging male African brands
Men are increasingly growing conscious of their looks, spending more money on beauty products. As women, we will ever be grateful to that GQ Magazine where we have learnt the differences between “six packs and 4 packs”. According to recent research mens’ personal care industry is predicted to hit US$166 billion by 2022.
Surprisingly, research has shown that men spend most of their money on facial moisturisers. Companies such as Nivea, Aesop and Anthony are well established companies which have been offering beauty products to men for more than 20 years. Regrettably, a majority of these are foreign based and it is important for African entrepreneurs to design products that are suitable for African men.
The global cosmetics industry is estimated to be worth about US$500 billion, and yet Africa and the Middle East can lay claim to only about 3 percent of this figure. A majority of African inspired brands come from Nigeria and South Africa. A deep dive survey by Southern Africa Development Consultants (SODECO) revealed that in Zimbabwe, most large departmental stores stock foreign brands. However, local brands such as Divine Pro, have also found their way into stores such as Edgars. An opportunity thus exists for more home-grown beauty products. Young female entrepreneurs in this industry should be commended though more start-up funds are still needed to upscale their businesses.
Kuda Mupawose is one of the very few trichologists in the country. Trichology is the paramedical science that studies hair and the scalp. Though there are a diverse of technical skills within this industry we certainly need more people with this skill. This can be an opportunity for budding entrepreneurs to take up this niche training market. A survey by SODECO also revealed that there are certainly few beauty training houses in the country.
GenZers should be considered
I wrote an article earlier this year on how entrepreneurs should not ignore Generation Z (GenZers). Next to millennials, GenZers are the next big spenders. Experts predict that GenZers will be more skincare savvy at a younger age and will thus adopt serious beauty routines at early stages of their lives. To this end, they are poised to be the largest consumer population of beauty products in the future.
Florence, a popular make up line by Millie Brown, has managed to penetrate this market. Likewise, African teenagers also need specific brands that are suited for their needs. As articulated in my earlier article GenZers are conscious about their products as they tend to choose environmentally friendly beauty ranges.
In the same breadth, children’s products are increasingly becoming popular among parents who are progressive. According to research, the Global Children’s Cosmetics Market is estimated to reach US$1 795,15 million. African children brands are however, still largely missing on the market
Natural hair products
Taliah Waajid the founder of the World Natural Hair Show, notes that there has been a boom in natural hair. She first opened a natural hair saloon when no one was interested in natural hair in Atlanta and since then she has observed that more 4 in every 5 black women are “rocking natural hair”.
Recent research has also seen a drop in hair straighteners. A quick perusal by SODECO on WhatsApp groups have revealed that in Zimbabwe, natural hair products are a big seller. However, most products are foreign based and not locally made. Zimbabwe is well endowed with various plants and fruits that enable production of these products.
The growing trend in sustainable skincare and beauty should certainly not to be ignored. Consumers who are environmentally conscious are increasingly embracing environmentally friendly beauty products, processes and packaging. In conclusion, entrepreneurs in Zimbabwe will do well to follow beauty industry trends and plug into this very lucrative industry. I sign off with my favourite quote on beauty.
“Be your own kind of beautiful. And girls watch out the boys might just overtake you in grooming.”
Joseline Sithole is the Founder of Southern Africa Development Consultants(SODECO). Get in touch on 0773634062.