Revolutionising the Makeup Counter with Rabia Ghoor

While still in high school, Rabia Ghoor founded SwiitchBeauty, an accessible and trendy cosmetic brand whose popularity continues to grow faster than our excuses for buying “just one more shade of lipstick.” Business Live has called her SA’s Kylie Jenner, fitting considering her impeccable Kylie impersonation. While she dropped out of high school to focus on her increasingly demanding business, she sure isn’t a beauty school dropout. With an intuitive understanding for business and what people want, she is killing the beauty game and bringing a fresh perspective to a stale industry. We sat down with Rabia to talk business, Chicken Licken and why men (except Trevor Noah and her dad) are trash.

What are the biggest challenges that you face as an entrepreneur in the beauty industry?

Number one, the beauty industry within South Africa is fairly male-dominated and sometimes it feels like getting my opinions taken seriously is a bit of a task. Number two, being young gets in the way of feeling validated within business. Number three, I think it's a very personal thing but when you’re younger, you question everything you do. You question am I doing it right? Is this the way it's supposed to be done? Is there someone who could do it better than I can? I don't know everything. Also, the fact that I didn't finish school and never went on to study and get a degree; that kind of gets to me sometimes and then I'm just like maybe if I did that I would be smarter, maybe I wouldn't have made that mistake, maybe we wouldn't be in this space right now.

If you could give young female entrepreneurs who want to start their own business three pieces of advice, what would you give them?

  • Don’t be afraid to self-teach certain things. With our generation, the internet is the greatest thing that's been handed down to us by the technological gods and I believe people are not utilising it to its full extent. You can teach yourself anything and everything. What you learn there is even better than what you would learn in a school because you're teaching it to yourself. There's no one there to guide you along the way so it's more of a struggle and so when you're finally reaping the benefit of learning it, you're like, "Yes, I did it!" Don't be afraid to teach yourself, don't invalidate teaching yourself. Don't think that the course I can learn at UNISA is better than the course I can do from my laptop.

  • Remember that experience is the greatest teacher.

  • Take things one at a time. Everyone has a vision and everyone has this goal in their head of where they want to be but trust the process. As cliché as it sounds, trust the process. Just go with it.

Who do you look up to as an entrepreneur? Who's your role model?

My dad, definitely, you need to meet my dad. This man, WOW, he dropped out of school a year younger than me and by the time he was twenty, he had three leather factories. My dad has been hustling and he's been through businesses failing and restarting and he's just the most confident, motivated, driven human being that I've ever had the pleasure of knowing. My dad always says to me that your confidence is everything. Until you're six feet under, you don't say I'm done or it's over for me because when you're six feet under, you can't say that. It's impossible because you're in the graveyard.

What other local or African skincare or makeup brands inspire you or are your favourites to use? Do you want to take us through your skincare routine?

Let me put you onto something! There's a woman by the name of Dr Judey and she's South Africa's only female skin tissue engineer so she understands skin on a cellular level. So my skin was highly problematic at one point and I had congested, breakout, dry but still oily but still annoyed. Just issues, my skin had issues. I started using Biomedical Emporium last year in September and I will never rep a brand as much as I rep Biomedical because I buy every single product with my own money.

Here is what I do for my skincare: in the mornings I don't skip sunscreen because I am not stupid. I wake up in the morning, cleanse my face and moisturise with Estee Lauder Daywear. Then I go in afterwards with my Dior One Essential sunscreen. Then I come back from the gym and put on makeup. In the evenings, I use an acid exfoliator. I use the Pixi Glow Tonic every night. Do not make the mistake of playing yourself by not getting Pixi Glow Tonic. After that, Biomedical Emporium has a few different serums. They have an anti-acne serum which I used when I had breakouts and congestion and really red skin. It really helped me overcome that and get through all the problems in my life at the same time. It's more than a serum you guys, it's a therapist! It is like the Queen Latifah of serums. They have others and they’re all packed with active ingredient so you put it on, you wake up the next morning and you see the results.

With regards to hydration at night, there's an Estee Lauder nightwear cream that is really good. Alternatively, the Biomedical Emporium Hyaluronic Acid Contouring Mask is out of this world.

Top songs for a productive work sesh?

Yoh guys! Craig Lucas. He's South African and his songs are just amazing. I was banging his songs thinking he's some international unknown indie artist and then afterwards I hear him speaking Afrikaans and I'm like what?

What three books should every girl boss read?

Definitely Outliers by Malcolm Gladwell. Thinking, Fast and Slow by Daniel Kahneman and The Four by Scott Galloway. So those three books! Ooo can we do four? Shoe Dog by Phil Knight. What a book! Phil Knight, the founder of Nike. It is a frickin’ memoir of note! What a book!

When you feel fed up, anxious and stressed out, what is your go-to method for getting back into the groove? How do you self-care? How do you recharge? How do you fix it?

I've been feeling really anxious a lot recently and not me but what really seems to help is showering. Not a bath. I light a candle, get into the shower, put my favourite jams on and use all of the Lush products I own. I give myself a mini pedicure within the actual shower and then I give myself a mini facial within the shower, then I do an in-shower hair mask. Then what else do I do in the shower? I curse my ex. I remind myself that men are in actual fact trash. Actual garbage. I remind myself that I'm just waiting for Trevor Noah to come propose. That's all. You know what the thing is, I think that I'm moderately funny and I think that he's really funny so if we could do like a thing together, we could just roast each other. He could roast me and I could roast him. Make it happen!

How did you come up with the name SwiitchBeauty?

I first started out in the beauty industry when I was 13 so I was like a Dischem hoe. Then I found this amazing thing called YouTube and at the time, there weren't many South Africans in this space so I was watching all these international YouTubers. I started to notice the brands that they were using in their tutorials. Then I started doing more research and I was like, these brands have freakin’ cool messages. They're doing cool things. They're appealing to the customer. They're involving the customer. They're being transparent. They're using social media as a tool to communicate. I thought about the way I felt about the brands in South Africa and how makeup made me feel amazing, and for the first time ever, there was something I was actually interested in and something I actually wanted to work at and get better at. Then I thought about walking into those makeup counters and how the salespeople made you feel and they make you feel like you don't know what's best for you, that they know exactly what you need to be the person that they want you to be on their poster, their poster girl. That entire aspirational aspect of beauty was cool in the 90s but it's frickin’ 2018 so why has everything else evolved except this? Why is every other industry breaking grounds but within the beauty industry, the only affordable options aren’t even South African brands? You're getting a whole bunch of makeup brands selling European, Australian, USA makeup to African women. It just doesn't add up. That's the brand story and I just thought of a name and I was like SwiitchBeauty.

What does it mean?

We're changing the conversation between brand and consumer. It's not about, you need to use this product to aspire to be this thing that we're putting out there. It's about, this is a cool product and you're a cool person and you use it in whichever way you want to use it. Also, it's about really taking her opinion into consideration. A lot of brands like to pretend like they're listening. They want to make you feel involved so instead of just making people feel involved, why don't you just involve them? At the end of the day, they're the person that's going to be spending their hard-earned cash and if you're sitting here having a dictation instead of a conversation with them, it might be okay now but it's not going to be okay in 5 years and it's not going to be okay in 10 years because people are woke. What we're working to do here at SwiitchBeauty is not just try and hard sell to customers so that they buy our products and then they use our products and then it sits in their makeup bag. We want to be the brand that they're engaging with, not buying from.

What does a typical day in the life of Rabia Ghoor look like?

Recently I've been sleeping a lot later which is terrible but I sleep like around 12 AM. I wake up at 8 AM every morning. I lie in bed for like 10 minutes and I check my Instagram and social media, especially Swiitch social media. I have this really cool app which is called Feedly. It basically takes all of the most popular articles from your favourite publications or blogs or magazines or whatever and puts them into one consistent infinite feed for you. I check all today's articles to make sure Trevor Noah isn't single yet, priorities! Afterwards, I go and wash my face and all that jazz and then I go to the gym for an hour. I come back from the gym, get dressed, then I come to work. Every day kind of changes and every kind of day brings its own set of new tasks and new projects and exciting things that are happening. I spend a lot of my time troubling my PA. The other bulk of the time is spent with Cara on product development. The other bulk of my time is spent at Chicken Licken and phoning my brother. Oh, and the rest of my time is spent with my dad

Do you have any CSI projects on the horizon?

I want to start a mentorship program for young female entrepreneurs. Not a once-off mentorship program where you come there and we have a few courses and then you go home and suffer on your own. It's a one-on-one situation where you come in, we build your site together, there are developers, there are designers, there are product sourcers or if you have an existing product, how can we take that one step further? There's a chick by the name of Thokoza, she owns a company called Beyond the Lemonade Stand. When I first got my start as an entrepreneur, she gave me that start and she has a very small-scale mentorship program.

What a frickin’ great chat! With so many ideas and a great business sense for both beauty and brand, we can’t wait to see what Rabia and her team get up to in the future. If you’d like to see what all the fuss is about and join the community, give SwiitchBeauty a follow over here.

P.S. Trevor Noah, if you’re reading this, Rabia is ready for a roast (and a ring).

marcella nigro