Make-up artist harnesses YouTube to draw in global clients


The irony of life is that sometimes careers are built on hobbies, not university degrees. Kangai Mwiti, for instance, pursued a degree in International Business Administration at the United States International University (USIU) after dropping out of campus several times.

Prior to joining USIU she lived in the US and doubled up as an entrepreneur and student. As an entrepreneur, Ms Mwiti specialised in law and identity theft insurance services. She secured a franchise deal with a giant insurance company based in the US.

However, she abandoned the business after her mother insisted on her pursuing studies.

Speaking to the Business Daily, Ms Mwiti said she flew back home to concentrate on studies.

“Business had picked up and was doing great because identity theft is a big challenge in America, but it took my mother’s intervention to embark on studies seriously,” she said.

However, being artistic, Ms Mwiti yearned to do more with her life. In 2008, while at university, she began experimenting with make-up but it was not until 2012 that she decided to take the hobby seriously following encouragement by friends.

“They must have seen how passionate I was about make-up. They thought that I was talented and that I needed to pay more attention to my passion,” she said.

And so Ms Mwiti opened a YouTube channel, Belles Africa, to share tutorials on how to use different make-ups to create appealing looks for women of colour.

Using her four years of practice and research, Ms Mwiti started off slow, attracting 12 subscribers in eight months.

The numbers did not worry her because indulging in make-up was a pastime which, she said, gave her a lot of joy and purpose. Being a full-time employee meant that she only worked on her channel during her spare time.

Self-taught skills

She was not keen on the number of views her first posts garnered until each reached over 1,000 views per week.

This encouraged her to research more on making high quality videos and relevant content in order to pull in followers.

Although most of her skills are self-taught, Ms Mwiti sought the help of a friend to perfect the art of video editing and photography.

Learning new trends, current technologies to apply, following newly-launched beauty products in the market and tips on make-up helped the 31-year-old to keep her followers updated.

To attract and keep followers, Ms Mwiti invested in hi-tech cameras to record quality videos and for photo clarity.

Keeping videos simple and ensuring that they are short and catchy has helped keep viewers glued to the screen. Ms Mwiti has perfected the art of placing the camera at the right position to record while working on a model or herself.

“It is a lot of work to do by myself, however I like the pressure and the good feeling it brings when all is done.”

Today, Ms Mwiti makes good money from the YouTube posts. After quitting her well-paying job as a marketing manager at a popular Nairobi beauty outlet last week, she now reserves all her energy for the channel.

YouTube uses her channel to advertise and in turn she gets a commission.

Hobby pays me well

During the early days of the channel pay was little, but, she says, it is getting better now.

“So far it has been a hobby that pays me well, but I can make more if I give it undivided attention. I am very scared and at the same time attracted to having to rely on my talent and owning a business,” she said.

The channel has 65,000 subscribers, 85 uploaded videos to date and a number of clips with over a million views.

Ms Mwiti is also hired during advertisement shoots and to for bridal make-ups too.

She is tied up on most weekends. In fact she is fully booked for bridal make-up from January to March 2015.

In a week’s time she will be flying to Australia to do bridal make-up for a client who learnt of her prowess through the channel.

Besides, she will be conducting consultancy services for a cosmetics company which will keep her there for eight weeks.

“I plan to have a lot of adventure in my job and so it will involve a lot of travelling across the globe as I do make-up for people of different cultures,” she concluded.