Nelly Tuikong - Makeup Mogul & Founder of Pauline Cosmetics

Nelly Tuikong is driven by creating products specifically targeting African skin. Products that compete internationally. By now we have heard her story - how she is inspired by her mum, so much so she named her cosmetics company after her.

What was your vision when you started Pauline Cosmetics?

When I started Pauline Cosmetics I had 2 things running in my head. I was living and working in the United States and representation for black women when it came to beauty was almost non existent at that time. I was also in a space where I had to be an African representing the single African narrative of poverty, disease and war, which was not my personal narrative at all!

So I had two missions, to create a makeup brand with the black woman in mind, and be a part of the visionaries creating a new African narrative; a continent that creates solutions for its own problems.

Are you living up to it?

I believe so. Pauline Cosmetics started pre the current craze of inclusivity in brands. In a way we have been part of creating the movement for beauty brands that provide makeup products for black women because we also want to look and feel great!

How do you separate Nelly the woman from Nelly who founded PC?

For the longest time it's been hard to separate the two. It was necessary for me to put myself at the center of building the brand and I ended up giving the brand all of me. That meant I gave very little of myself anywhere else, be it friendships or family. But, I feel like the sacrifice has paid off and it that it was necessary for me to do so. I don't regret it at all. Right now I am slowly creating more balance and trying to really learn what that is supposed to look like.

So how did the I Am collection with Caroline Mutoko happen?

Caroline and I started the conversation early last year (2018) after I had launched the LIMITLESS lipstick for the Anyango Capsule Collection for Adelle Onyango. The timing was perfect! We also connected because there is never a two-hour meeting with us. It's practically an entire day of digressing. This made it really great and easy working with her. We went through different versions of what the lipstick would be, look like and what the messaging around it would be, because we are both about delivering context and not just creating a product for the sake of it.

Now you have to tell us all the brilliant achievements PC has engineered since it was born.

  • We were the first African makeup brand to be invited to exhibit at the Dubai Beauty World Expo, one of the world's leading beauty expo!
  • We have created products that really work for the Kenyan woman. We feel we are satisfying the market because our numbers and continued demand tell us that.
  • We are the first local/indigenous brand to run above the line marketing with billboards in Nairobi as well as partnering with Daily Nation in sponsoring Top 40 Women Under 40.

Have you ever wanted to walk away and let it burn and do you ever think about selling?

This is the first year I have thought to quit amidst all the milestones and successes we have had. And partly because the push to the ‘next level’ has had to require me to really get out of my comfort zone and learn to confront challenges head on. I am not sure I would have been able to a year ago. Now I know I am ready to knock this out the park, so watch this space! Selling also crossed my mind this year. I was simply exhausted. However, it goes against my vision or changing our narrative. This business runs so deep it is not just about me. It is a Kenyan and African legacy.

Sounds like you have only just rediscovered self-care!

I suck at this! I live, eat, breath and dream Pauline Cosmetics. I am learning to let go bit by bit, more so as to create more time for me. These are very small things. They include taking time to enjoy my coffee in the morning outside my house, more date nights with my husband, seeing my parents more often, going for a hike, enjoying my travels a little more and being in the moment rather than putting out fires on email and WhatsApp while in the US, China, Korea, Italy, Dubai or wherever work and play takes me. I want to take the time to meet up with friends.

What are your hobbies?

What are those? Ha!

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