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Sipho Gumbo of Yangu Beauty : “Perseverance”

I think it is Daymond John of Shark Tank who said ‘success takes fifteen years’. He was right, success takes time and it certainly does not happen overnight. In those long years leading to success there are trials and tribulations on the way that will make an entrepreneur wonder why they got on this path […]

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I think it is Daymond John of Shark Tank who said ‘success takes fifteen years’. He was right, success takes time and it certainly does not happen overnight. In those long years leading to success there are trials and tribulations on the way that will make an entrepreneur wonder why they got on this path in the first place. Perseverance has to be your middle name if you are to get into the entrepreneur’s journey. Every successful business person knows that making it usually is a long journey. When I tell people I launched in 2016 they are surprised. It has been a long journey from 2016 to 2020 for Yangu Beauty. The key is to not give up just before you break through and that requires a lot of mental, spiritual and physical strength to keep it going.


As a part of our series about women who are shaking things up in their industry, I had the pleasure of interviewing Sipho Gumbo.

Sipho Gumbo is a wife, mother, philanthropist, and entrepreneur. She was born in Zimbabwe, Africa to Xhosa and Ndebele parents. She studied and attained her Bachelor of Arts degree in Traditional African Literature and received her graduate certificate in Healthcare Administration. She continued her education and attained her MBA in International Business. As the creator and founder of Yangu Beauty and Munhu, Inc, a non-profit that supports and educates children orphaned by AIDS. Sipho Gumbo has always been passionate about helping her community and inspiring others to embrace and love themselves for who they are.


Thank you so much for doing this with us! Before we dig in, our readers would like to get to know you a bit more. Can you tell us a bit about your “backstory”? What led you to this particular career path?

I grew up in rural Zimbabwe, and had the opportunity to learn about the flora and fauna of our area from my grandmother, mother, aunts and sisters and community at large. The many ingredients in my skincare line are plants that I grew up with — I used to either pick fruits from these plants, pick nuts from the plants or just enjoy the teas from the leaves.

Years of suffering breakouts from skincare products formulated with harsh ingredients led me on a journey of researching natural skincare. While reminiscing about fond childhood memories, I realized that living in the US had disconnected me from my African traditions and roots. This realization led me to recall the beauty rituals of my grandmother who used to use African herbs, superfoods, and botanical oils harvested in the wild to look after her skin. I was determined to find products that worked for my sensitive skin; so, armed with the beauty wisdom of my grandmother, I launched Yangu Beauty.

Each Yangu Beauty product is thoughtfully formulated using advanced plant science and pays homage to the time-honored beauty wisdom of my Southern African foremothers.

Through Yangu Beauty, I am reconnecting with my roots through beauty and sharing my culture with other women around the globe.

Can you tell our readers what it is about the work you’re doing that’s disruptive?

Combining ancient wisdom, in this case using ancient African oils and herbs, together with modern chemistry and pharmacology to develop a skin care line that addresses skincare problems for women of color is disruptive. Proactively creating a full range of products that is for women of color, not as an afterthought, is disruptive. Declaring that it was designed for people of color is disruptive. Many brands, even those that cater to people of color, are not willing to say they created something for people of color, yet there is great need and demand for these products. I know what it took for me to find something that works (I had to create Yangu Beauty.)

Can you share a story about the funniest mistake you made when you were first starting? Can you tell us what lesson you learned from that?

The funniest mistake I made was being sold a booth for an event in Atlanta that I had not done enough research on. I went by what the salesperson told me. To my disappointment, I never got a chance to showcase my products. The event was not properly organized. I had carried products with me that I never showcased. The funny part was I had turned down a trip to Vienna with my husband to attend this. I learned to trust but verify. Always do your homework before spending your money. Some of these can be costly mistakes. I did not get a refund for this.

We all need a little help along the journey. Who have been some of your mentors? Can you share a story about how they made an impact?

This has been a lonely journey. Being that the few who have made it in the beauty industry are not easy to access, it leaves very little room to find knowledgeable advisors about the industry. With that, I found myself digging back to the ancient wisdom of my grandmother, my mother and the many women in my family and friends who took time to listen to my dream and give me support and advice. My husband gave me a lot of support and in the pharmacology side of the business as well as the financial support to get the business moving.

There are truly many invisible hands that have supported. I can only mention a few. When it comes to the cosmetic industry itself, the cosmetic chemist on our team has been an invaluable resource when it came to product development. Other supporters were my dear friends who invested in the business. They are humble and would never let me mention their names. Yangu Beauty ‘s Brand ambassador Carlotta Lennox who chose to be a brand ambassador for a small unknown brand at the time, yet she normally models for bigger luxury brands. I am most grateful to Pastor Fredrick Douglass Haynes and Mrs. Debra Haynes of Friendship West Baptist church and their congregation for supporting us. They opened their doors to Yangu Beauty. We exhibited and sold in their church on many occasions. I had the opportunity to meet with a giant in the cosmetic industry Joe L. Dudley of Dudley Products Inc. His 50 years of experience and expertise in the cosmetics industry as a black man brought an interesting perspective. He encouraged me to stay the course as he believes that there seems to be fewer and fewer black owned cosmetics companies in the US. His encouragement emboldened me to keep working hard despite the many challenges I faced. He prepared me for the tough road ahead. Lastly, my Public Relations Strategist Leah Frazier. She has done a lot to help me get the word out about Yangu Beauty.

In today’s parlance, being disruptive is usually a positive adjective. But is disrupting always good? When do we say the converse, that a system or structure has ‘withstood the test of time’? Can you articulate to our readers when disrupting an industry is positive, and when disrupting an industry is ‘not so positive’? Can you share some examples of what you mean?

Disrupting for the betterment of the present is always good. I will use technological advancement as an example, when cell phones came into play it was a good disruption for ease of communication. However to the companies that were in the old landline industry it was not so good for their market share.

Disruption like Yangu Beauty is doing in the cosmetic industry is good, because it is providing solutions to a long neglected and forgotten market that always was forced to contend with what was on the market. They had to buy products based on trial and error. Yangu Beauty is giving people of color the confidence to shop a luxury cosmetic product knowing it actually answers their skincare problems and it was designed with them in mind. A friend of mine who has been in the media for a long time, told me that there were many times she has bought products because of the late night infomercials that she knew deep down would not work for her skin but found herself buying them in hopes it might just work.

Can you share 3 of the best words of advice you’ve gotten along your journey? Please give a story or example for each.

Money:

The adage you need money to make money is true. Think hard before you get into business if you do not have money to support your business. It does not matter how amazing an idea is, if it is not well funded it will fail. To start a business or brand from the ground up you need money to pull it off. Figure out the sources for your business before you start. Money is the oxygen for every business. This is true in the cosmetics industry. After buying all the packaging and paying for production of the products I just did not have any funds left for marketing. This slowed the company growth because without funding I had to rely on my own ways to market the brand. This meant relying on myself to do everything, since I could not afford to pay the marketing companies or gain good publicity for my product line.

Timing:

Timing in your stage in life, finances and other business ventures is very important. What do I mean? Do not start two startups at the same time. My husband and I made this mistake and it was the most trying thing we have ever done. My husband and I started two different companies at the same time. This strained us financially as well as emotionally. Start up challenges are real — they are worse when they are double and with limited funding it made it all the worse.

If you can, start early when you have room to fail and recover. My advice is to be very cautious if you have young children or other responsibilities that need your finances before you plunge into a business. Do take stock of where you are in life, and ask if it is a good time to start a business. Make sure other aspects of your life are not disrupted by the new venture.

Perseverance:

I think it is Daymond John of Shark Tank who said ‘success takes fifteen years’. He was right, success takes time and it certainly does not happen overnight. In those long years leading to success there are trials and tribulations on the way that will make an entrepreneur wonder why they got on this path in the first place. Perseverance has to be your middle name if you are to get into the entrepreneur’s journey. Every successful business person knows that making it usually is a long journey. When I tell people I launched in 2016 they are surprised. It has been a long journey from 2016 to 2020 for Yangu Beauty. The key is to not give up just before you break through and that requires a lot of mental, spiritual and physical strength to keep it going.

We are sure you aren’t done. How are you going to shake things up next?

There is so much of my cultural heritage that I would like to share with the world. Starting with cosmetics has given me the opportunity to work with young women on the issues of image and how they look at themselves and appreciate who they are. I would like to have a platform where young women can be free to express their beauty and firmly say ‘Yangu Beauty’, My Beauty and understand beauty as they define it, not from the way the world defines it for them. Coupled with this is the wellness space which is closely tied with beauty, I am planning to introduce wellness products that will help boost women’s health and know it is not a fad but a well tried product that will help to keep them healthy. We will focus on image, self confidence and general wellness.

In your opinion, what are the biggest challenges faced by ‘women disruptors’ that aren’t typically faced by their male counterparts?

Women’s ideas, especially the bold ideas, are dismissed and not taken seriously until they succeed. There is always an element of surprise when a woman pulls it off.

This environment makes it very difficult for women to be taken seriously when they are fundraising for their businesses. It almost feels like people expect a woman owned business to fail.

A man can present an inferior business idea and can get funded, whereas a woman can have a brilliant idea but only get little to no support in funding. The funding statistics show that women businesses only get 2.8% of funding. Women of color get only 0.0006. It is worse still for women of color who are immigrants.

Do you have a book/podcast/talk that’s had a deep impact on your thinking? Can you share a story with us?

Hunhuism or Ubuntuism by Stanlake Samkange and Tommie Marie Samkange.

This book impacted my thinking in that it is a philosophy book based on Southern African beliefs. It is a philosophy on how Southern Africans look at a person and the meaning of personhood. It made an impact in that it was a philosophy I was brought up in and it is the philosophy in which Yangu Beauty is built on. The principles on which Yangu Beauty was founded, uch as Trust, Respect, Integrity, Humility, Belief and Fairness. One of the well known uses of Ubuntu belief system is the way South Africa dealt with the issues of forgiveness after the aphartheid era through the use of the Truth and Reconciliation commission. It is on the beliefs of Ubuntu that forgiveness is achievable and can help heal deep seated wounds. It is through the Ubuntu philosophy that I practice my business dealings. I look for partners I can Trust, Respect and those who have humility. We in turn have applied these principles in our treatment of customers and all whom we do business with. It is yet another way of sharing my culture with the world. In my journey in this business I have met people who do not treat others with respect or those who exhibit manners that are contrary to my beliefs. I have often known that such relationships do not last. I have found myself having to server dealings with such people because I can clearly see that it may take too much time for us to find common ground.

You are a person of great influence. If you could inspire a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger. 🙂

My passion is that every young child gets a good quality education. Armed with a good quality education, the possibilities are endless. If we could give every child in this world a good quality education this world would be a better place. Sixteen years ago, I founded a non profit organization [ Munhu Inc. www.munhuinc.org ] that supports children orphaned by AIDS in Zimbabwe. We pay tuition for the students from elementary school to college.

Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Can you share how that was relevant to you in your life?

Education is the most powerful weapon which you can use to change the world.

~ Nelson Mandela

Education changes lives. Education changes one’s perspective on life. All my success is predicated by being an educated African woman. It is because of education that I left my rural life to seek a better life. It is because of my education that I managed to move from my home country to the US. It is because of my education that I can create a product line, combining ancient African oils and cutting edge science. The number of opportunities an education opens are limitless. When I look at the difference an education makes to the lives of students of Munhu Inc. ( a non profit I started 16 years ago ) I can only be a believer in education.

How can our readers follow you online?

Readers can visit us online at YanguBeauty.com and can also now shop Yangu Beauty online at NeimanMarcus.com! Additionally follow us on social media @yangubeauty.

This was very inspiring. Thank you so much for joining us.

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