Lavie is a household name in Tanzania’s beauty industry. Originating from the French word for life, La vie, the name that started out as a nickname on BBM has turned out to be meaningful to Upendo Shuma’s makeup and cosmetics business.
The 32-year-old mother of one has really made a mark in the beauty industry. Famously known as Lavie, Upendo’s beauty products boast a line of lipsticks, foundations, makeup wipes and eyeshadow among others. She soon plans to introduce makeup concealers and powder.
During her interview with Woman, I could not help but notice an air of calmness all around. I asked her if she has always been as calm or if it was just because of the interview.
Upendo aka Lavie, pointed out that although she grew up a quiet child, she had to practice more calmness through prayer and meditation because most of her clients, especially the brides are usually stressed and tense.
“Creating a sane, calm and kind environment helps to set a positive vibe and energy for the clients,” she says. This gives [them] assurance as she and her team carry out an excellent job on them.
Although she has considered venturing in other areas such as the film industry, Upendo has a great passion in events makeup and especially bridal makeup and wants to invest more time and energy in this area.
Before she settled for makeup, the bachelor’s degree in business management graduate worked as a cabin crew for Precision Air and Fastjet.
“I had been obsessed with makeup and beauty since I was young. I grew up watching my aunt working in the salon and there on I knew that I wanted to deal with beauty and especially makeup,” says Upendo.
She recalls doing makeup for her friends on campus and after campus so as to grow her makeup name on social media. During standbys as a cabin crew, she would use the time to watch makeup tutorials on YouTube so as to grow her craft.
Her journey to the makeup world began in 2013 when she took three months unpaid leave to open her first try out salon in Mikocheni. She started with one employee.
The free makeup she did for friends did the advertising for her. She started being recommended to various people. Slowly, her clientele started to grow, prompting her to consider having a makeup studio. After the three months trial, Upendo made a huge decision and left her cabin crew job to embark on her makeup artistry journey.
This was quite a shock to her friends and family who viewed makeup artistry as just a basic salon job. For a degree holder, this was perceived as a high risk and it did not make sense to anybody. With a leap of faith and gut feelings, Upendo embarked on this journey full of hope and very assured that someday she would become successful.
Jokate Mwegelo, the district commissioner of Kisarawe and former beauty queen was her first client. Upendo credits the growth of her brand to the exposure Jokate gave her by being her client.
Other famous clients she has worked with include the Vice President, Mama Samia Suluhu and former UN Deputy Secretary General, Dr Asha Rose Migiro.
In 2016, she dropped her eyelashes line, prior to which she had been researching on quality makeup products, due to the scarcity of authentic makeup products in Tanzania.
At the beginning of her career, Upendo had to order makeup from abroad, which resulted in extra charges on her clients.
Since she wanted any Tanzanian to afford her services, she started researching on how to produce authentic makeup products. She has since never looked back.
In the same year of 2016, Upendo was among Forbes 30 under 30 young successful Africans. In 2017 she was featured by Forbes as one of the most successful young Africans. The achievement shone more light onto her growing business.
She has gone on to win Malkia wa Nguvu award and Makeup Artist of Africa ABRAYA award from Uganda. She was also recognised by Tanzania Consumers Choice Awards in 2019 as the most outstanding and recognisable brand.
In 2018, Upendo who had been operating from Kijitonyama moved her operations to Mikocheni in a bungalow, thinking that it would be enough to accommodate her growing business and her team of 12 employees.
A year later, she had to look for a bigger space because her business was growing rapidly. There were more students at her makeup school, more makeup clients and Lavie cosmetics were in high demand.
Lavie’s clientele is mostly based on event-going people - weddings and brand launches. Upendo credits social media and customer recommendations for her success. The company, whose headquarters is in Mikocheni, has since expanded to Arusha where they have a branch.
On giving back
Upendo has made a remarkable contribution to the growth of the makeup artistry industry in Tanzania through her makeup school. She perceives this as giving back to the community. She is proud that many of her students have gone ahead to become successful makeup artists themselves. They are now among her Lavie makeup products customers.
She plans to launch online tutorials in the near future, where she will be able to reach a huge number of Tanzanians from different places who have an interest in makeup artistry.
Upendo continues to pave the way for young artists who have a passion in makeup. She aspires to reach out and enlighten more young people on makeup artistry and how to create a huge authentic makeup line in Tanzania.
Among the challenges she faces in her operations are difficult clients she meets once in a while. Sometimes some customers refuse to be served by her employees and insist they want Upendo to do their makeup herself. She also faces social media attacks but she always ensures she does not let these attacks get the best of her. Instead, she rises above them by working wiser and harder.
Upendo credits makeup artists such as Maznat and Glam madam as being her inspiration at the beginning of her career, as well as Jide and Bmpro from Nigeria. She is also rooting for makeup artists such as Diva glam, Gyver and Rostii and looks forward to their tremendous growth.
She tells young entrepreneurs to take other people’s doubts as challenges and rise above them by executing their dreams in major ways.
“You will get discouraged but nobody will understand your dreams more than yourself, some will try but not to your capacity.” She concludes.