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TApp into your melanin magic

Businesswoman Mathebe Molise.
Businesswoman Mathebe Molise.
Image: Kandee.

Mathebe Molise, a 34-year-old investment banker, reveals how the whirlwind success of her beauty and wellness e-commerce business has seen her take a leap of faith into full-time entrepreneurship. 

Who inspires you?

I come from a matriarchal family. The women are powerful, vocal, and outstanding, so I learnt a lot about women power from them.

How did Beauty on TApp come about?

I founded Beauty on TApp in 2015, but when it started it was just a “find a beauty service” application. It transformed into e-commerce a year later. I founded the business with a partner, but he left a few months in. Beauty on TApp was a right-place-and-right-time kind of thing.

When the pandemic started, everyone began to look to e-commerce for their self-care, and we had a range of products people were looking for. So, it really took off during the pandemic and we leveraged the power of the Beauty on TApp brand to launch our own skincare brand — Pastry — in 2021, and it is also doing really well. I have been so lucky and blessed that the past two years have been so fruitful

What interested you in the beauty industry?

Growing up, I used to say to my mom, “I’m going to be a fashion designer,” and I used to make my dolls’ clothes and create looks with pantyhose and so on. I have no idea how I became a chartered accountant because I love creative work. While I also grew up with a lot of ladies who used makeup, I don’t think I’ve been a beauty enthusiast my whole life, I’ve just always had a creative bug and finally tapped into it.

What has your own journey been with beauty?

I had difficult skin from hormonal acne as a teenager and into my adult years. By owning Beauty on TApp I have learnt so much about skincare, active ingredients, and what my skin needs. My skin has transformed because I understand it, even though acne cannot be cured completely.

What were the challenges of running your own business while working full time?

One was funding. That’s why in South Africa a lot of people side-hustle until their business can sustain them. Funding is not readily available, so I had to use my own finances for the business.

Funding the business out of my own pocket was hard, and you grapple with this Catch-22 where you need more people to grow the business, but you can’t afford them. Finding the right talent has been really difficult, and as the only founder you carry this responsibility by yourself.

What do you enjoy the most about your business?

Seeing how Beauty on TApp’s community and customers interact with the brand. What has been really nice is that we built the business [using] feedback from people — even the e-commerce website launch was from feedback we got. I enjoy consumer interaction and building a business around what consumers want.

Why is it important for Black women to be behind skincare brands?

I think what is emerging in South Africa right now is locally made skincare. This is a trend that has emerged in a lot of markets — climates are different and people’s needs are different. The Black female consumer is always neglected, and no one is thinking of her when they are formulating skin products. So Pastry was born from catering to Black women and their concerns.

What do you have planned next?

We want to optimise our efficiency, as no e-commerce business has an excuse to deliver late. We want to get orders out as fast as possible and to get more brands on board. We want to make sure that customers do not need to go to a shop to get their favourite products. We also want to see if we can have a brick-and-mortar store in the next year and to launch more Pastry products.

What would you say to your 17-year-old self?

I would say she should stay confident. Even though I grew up overweight, I was very confident. I have always had great self-esteem — do not let people deter you from that. Remain confident, because that’s what will carry you.