After a long break from the corporate lady profile, we bring you some great stuff. The stuff that makes you ask yourself why you should not have it all as a woman. This lady has allowed herself to have it all. Catherine Olivia Apondi Athembo, 33, is a CEO, a student and a mother of two boys. Meet Olivia, as her friends call her.
I am a mother of two, currently on my last year pursuing a bachelor in Social and Humanitarian Sciences. My first degree was in business analysis at Linköping University, in Sweden. The entrepreneur in me has always had an idea of being my own boss. I am am the Current C.E.O and director of my own consultancy and analyst firm, C.O.A consult AB, in the Scandinavia. I work as an independent analyst and consultant with different companies. I am also into real estate and most recently, became the C.E.O of Lipsy lips enterprise and cosmetic company. At Lipsy Lips we produce makeup that blends with different skin tones and hues especially for the woman of color.
The beauty of being my own boss is that I choose my own working hours. I can work at any given time and place around the globe. This has given me time to learn and discover different cultures and at the same time, work and have financial stability.
Jobs are scarce and for job fulfilment, one should do what they are passionate about. You should be able to do what you love in order to love what you do. We should also think long term as the utmost goal in whichever line of work we choose.
I started working as an analyst with businesses when I had to help a friend who had problems with workers in their firm. I helped out with techniques that would save the company-analysing and problem solving scenarios. The solutions I proposed had a positive outcome, as a result, I was paid for my services. The painting company- my first client recommended me to other companies. That is how I registered my independent consultancy firm.
Lipsy lips enterprise and cosmetic company started as a joke in September 2016, right in my kitchen. After searching, researching and testing so many cosmetic products, especially within the lipstick line, I couldn’t find the perfect lipstick. It was either too heavy or too dry, that it could chap my lips, or the colour tone didn’t match my skin. This was not only my reality, but also many friends’. I decided one day to start making my own matte lip line.
First I bought all raw materials and did it on my own to get different colours, hues and tones. My circle of friends was readily available for trials. I had diversity to work with, as my friends come from different backgrounds. I wanted something that would suit all skin tones, and it wasn’t easy creating such a product.
I sought help from a Danish cosmetology and cosmetic formulator, who helped me get the perfect formula for my lip cream, and recommended me to their mother company that makes different brands of cosmetics. They gave me a head start to launching my custom line of lip creams.
It’s also noteworthy to mention that I have been doing my own body butters since 2009. I even distribute them to friends. So I had an idea and experience with beauty products. That’s why it was not too hectic for me to venture into this business. What started as a joke became a serious idea as friends of friends requested for my home made makeup.
Though I had clients from referrals, I wasn’t ready to risk supplying makeup that would have negative reaction to people, or as they say “use it at your own risk”. I decided to go to full production without missing or skipping processes. From testing to approval standard according to European Union, FDA and OEM regulatory bodies, which are quite restricted on ingredients and microbial testing on body products and makeup.
Lipsy lips smooth matte lip cream combines organic and science in the formulation. Naturally sourced ingredients are formulated with organic and phytochemicals and actives like aqua cell raspberry prh, which is an antioxidant used in cosmetics. But let me not bore you with the science behind it.
The name Lipsy lips was inspired by my girlfriends, with whom we always joked around with the name ‘lippie lip’- the term we use when one has a good lipstick on. Since I am a Kenyan, and I love nature, the African names were automatically inspired by nature and cities across the beautiful continent of Africa. I wanted a product that will place Africa on the same if not at a better level with other global brands.
For example, Kenya was inspired by savannah grass during dry season as they change colour to be light brown (nude). Afrique which is my best shade is the tone of earth, if you look at the color it reminds you of the soil just before planting season.
Kilimanjaro has a coppery tone like the mountain soil itself. Motomoto speaks of itself as it is like a firy lippie. Olivia which was my first shade has my signature and Ratba named after Senegalese pink lake. More shades such as Kalahari, inspired by the Kalahari desert, Calabar which will be orange inspired by the city in Nigeria where they have the Calabar festival that is full of color and life similar to carnival. Victoria named after Lake Victoria amongst others will be included in our collection of lippies.
Juggling motherhood, studies and work is not easy. We have to get things going. I thank my high school Home Science teacher and my sweet mum for teaching me time management and multi-tasking. I plan ahead in everything I do. I read ahead before I walk into my lectures. Sometimes I have to take my one year old son with me to classes to study or to do presentations. People understand and respect me for that. It’s not easy, but you’ve got to do it anyways.
Many women inspire me, but I would pick three. The first one is my mum, she always quotes that a woman is always respected more if she can stand on her own and achieve her goals and dreams. The perfect woman you see is a hard working woman not idle, not a fine lady but one who uses her hands, brains and the good of her heart to achieve their goal in life. Mothers are always number one teachers.
Another woman who inspires me is Rebecca Bustamante, a former a janitor and now C.E.O of a company. Her interest and passion to know more and get an education got her to her position as head of Claire’s Association, a multinational recruiting company. She never gave up on her dreams.
Lastly, Rosa Parks, whose single act of defiance and courage on a Montgomery bus led to change. Her single act always motivates me, encourages me to move forward and defy all odds no matter how tough the going might be. Others are Maya Angelou, Princess Diana, Michelle Obama, Florence Nightingale and Amelia Earhart first female pilot in the 30s and only solo pilot around the globe of whom I love and live by her quotes. One of her quotes on a devoted woman who loves challenges is, “I want to do it because I want to do it. Women must try to do things as men have tried. When they fail, their failure must be a challenge to others.” I can confidently call myself an ‘Alpha female’.
All women have obstacles in their path. That’s an interesting statement. It can only be interpreted that if one lets the obstacles clog their goals then the statement is true. There is nothing impossible to achieve- if you focus your mind and give it all effort. I always live by the mantra that we should dare and take risks. If one fails, they should not be afraid to try again and again, just like a baby learning the process of walking from crawling, to step by step with falling in between till they are strong. Women should have courage and boldness to face challenges that are deemed obstacles to their success. Always bend but never break and keep a positive mind.
Right now our Lipsy collection is available all over the world, with international shipping from our website. Since we just penetrated the African market we have our main office and agent in Nairobi Uganda house room 24, second floor Kenyatta Avenue. We also do doorstep deliveries by the swift box courier service which charges a small fee. Payments are accepted by PayPal worldwide and world remit. We also have an m-pesa till number in Kenya. We have agents in Kenya, Tanzania, Uganda, Nigeria, Burundi, Cameroon and we are expanding wider and faster. Soon we will have major supermarkets and beauty shops stocking our products on their shelves.
We are also planning to have our products produced locally to create jobs within local communities. Lipsy gives back to the society by helping educate underprivileged children. For every product purchased, 20Ksh goes to educating a child in need. Our lippies go for 689ksh in East Africa and 8 euros for the rest of the world due to taxation system from different parts of the globe.