Connie transforms from fitness to beauty
BEFORE Connie Bhebhe started to invest in her cosmetics brand, she spent most of her days in tracksuit pants.
“I remember watching JLo when I was 14 and she was dancing and singing. I remember thinking how amazing she was as the full package.”
Bhebhe spent a lot of time working on her body and eventually started on gym-fitness competitions.
“I had a problem with that lower-belly area and I wanted to get rid of it but still keep my curves. I realised I had to do a lot of cardio to get rid of it.”
She used cling and plastic wraps around her midsection and then decided to find a material that could do the same thing or work even better.
“I designed the material into something that looks presentable and a person wouldn’t need to hide when wearing.”
That’s how her fitness business Cobe Fit gained momentum. Her thermosculpt belts are available for order and used by several celebrities.
She branched out into cosmetics after two years of running Cobe Fit.
“I always found myself in gym clothes and felt like I didn’t look like a girl anymore so I thought I need to transform myself. What could I do that wouldn’t be drastic but would still make me feel a little more like a girl? Make-up was the obvious choice.”
By that time though, all Bhebhe knew was how to apply make-up in the same way she’d been doing since she was 17.
“I didn’t even know how to do my brows. I had been wearing the same lipstick since forever, so I tried to look at what else was out there.”
While travelling to Canada last year Bhebe tried different brands but still couldn’t find the right shade.
“When I returned I wanted to get a lot more stuff but a lot of brands were either too expensive or just not the right one. It was a case of: ‘If I’m getting into make-up again for the first time, I’m not going to spend that much money on just one item’.”
A friend of hers planted the seed to start her own cosmetics brand.
“It was weird for me because I was all about fitness and people identified me with that, so I thought they would call my bluff if I was suddenly this beauty girl.”
For a long time she looked for someone who could be the face of her brand while she focused on the business end, but no one was buying into her vision.
“I ended up using my face and name. Three months later we put out our first Connie Transform range of lip shades.”
Bhebhe gained an edge from not looking at her competitors.
“It was a blessing because you hear a lot of noise about what other people are doing. All I knew was I could not find the kind of lipstick I wanted anywhere.”
The only difficulty she faced was getting the formula right.
“It took three rounds of samples. It costs money to get the samples – time and money.
“If it doesn’t work out a second time you start to feel discouraged. I had to try one more time and it was perfect. The smell was perfect, it was light on the lips, it was long wear and smudge free. I could not believe it.”
Sampling is where a lot of people give up but Bhebhe said was important to go the extra mile and put in the extra hours.
“Many people are not willing to do that and that’s the starting point a lot of people need.”
Connie Transform has 20 distributors and Bhebhe hopes to get it to 100 before the end of this year.
“In the next month, I will be releasing high-quality lashes. I was so determined to get them right, probably the hardest thing after eyebrows.”
The 27-year-old is also working on launching other beauty products.
She said social media had a big influence on beauty.
“As Africans, what we would look at initially were people’s clothes and the cars they drove to determine who they were. Now we are getting more into detail – what kind of hair and make-up she’s wearing. We are zooming into everything, not just how you live, it’s more about skin, where you’re eating, where you’re invited and so on.”
Somehow she’s managing to juggle it all, without tying to manage her time.
“I realised I was going to be successful if my work and I became one. So it’s a complete mash-up. I have no schedule. I could work for six hours in the morning or evening or go for breakfast and work for an hour. I really wanted to design my businesses to fit my life and not the other way around.”
‘I’d be successful if my work and I became one’
PERFECT FIT: Connie Bhebhe, the owner of cosmetics brand Connie Transform, wanted a lipstick that could work perfectly on all shades.