Paba Cosmetics, established in 2001 by CEO Felicia Sarpong, is on its way to becoming a household name. After years of struggling to find the right shade of foundation for her skin tone, she decided it was time to take matters into her own hands. Paba Cosmetics is founded upon a mission of helping women, especially women of colour find the right makeup products that work for their skin. Focused not only on providing a perfect match for a diverse range of skin tones, the brand also aims to cater to different undertones and various skin conditions that women of colour experience. Run by herself, and her two daughters Princilla Asare and Daisy Badu, the three women work relentlessly to drive diversity in the beauty industry, while making the shopping and matching process easier for women of colour. The name ‘Paba’ is the initials of her eldest daughter, while her youngest daughter is the face of the brand.
FBI STYLE sat down with Princilla Asare, COO (Chief Operations Officer) of the company in an interview to talk about all things Paba Cosmetics, diversity in the makeup industry so far, and the fun, and interesting work dynamic that exists being in business with her mother and sister.
Over the years, since the company has started, Asare said, “with there being more focus on knowing the need that darker skinned women have is definitely a shift in a positive direction” [brands coming out with more diverse makeup options]. Although it has been a shift in the right direction, she noticed that a lot of other companies felt that by just “implementing darker shades it met the needs of women of colour,” but what they fail to understand is that there is a lot more to diversity than just releasing a line of shades that cater to women of colour. This is where Paba Cosmetics really sets themselves apart from other makeup/beauty companies. Paba Cosmetics recognizes that finding the right foundation shade supersedes the surface level of the skin, and truly understands that undertones and other skin conditions women of colour have such as hyperpigmentation, eczema and acne also play a huge role in finding the right makeup.Their unique formulation is meeting the needs of women of colour and helping them choose the right makeup products.
It is so important to know your undertone and skin type before even attempting to choose a foundation. In her words, Asare expressed that when it comes to makeup, “let everything else be an accessory to the look, but let the actual foundation be a skin finish”. Simply knowing what works best for you and your skin is also such an important factor that goes into choosing the correct foundation.
Asare spoke about the importance of education when it comes to choosing the correct foundation as well as the education provided in makeup institutions in general.
During her time attending one of the best makeup schools in Toronto, there were times when she had to bring her own models because there weren’t any that looked like her. Other times, the products offered at the school did not correctly match undertones, therefore requiring her to have to bring in Paba products. Asare expressed how “school institutions of makeup and cosmetology are not really catering to women of colour, and if they don’t cater to women of colour they are not educating”. Again, it all goes back to the idea of education, if you are not educated, you cannot adequately educate others. The education of women of colour will increase diversity in the beauty industry.
When asked if diversity in makeup has become a buzzword for brands whose primary audience was not darker skin women or women of colour to begin with, Asare responded with, “it is definitely a trend, and the trend being that they are realizing that people of colour are the world’s top consumers”. As these brands are realizing this, they are trying to meet the needs of consumers, but aren’t always successfully doing so. Asare believes that in order to see even more diversity in the beauty industry, companies need to “listen to consumers and listen to their needs”.
A few of the many shades of foundation available at Paba Cosmetics
Although influencers have a lot of power in the industry, companies need to truly listen to the consumers who are actually using the products on a day to day basis. With today’s growing popularity of influencer marketing, on many occasions, influencers promoting brands are not even using their products, nor are they fully educated about what it does. They merely do what is required of them in their written contract for a cheque. The focus needs to be placed back on the consumers who are actually buying the products with their own money because they have a need that they expect to be met.
Constant communication keeps this amazing trio together and on the same page at all times. Princilla, her mother Felicia and her sister Daisy keep communication at the forefront of everything they do. Meetings help facilitate this communication, engaging in both formal and informal weekly meetings. She emphasized that “everything that gets brought to the table is not a decision made by one person, but is a collective decision”. Remembering that everything is done as a team, regardless of everyone’s individual tasks.
(Left) Felicia Sarpong (Middle) Princilla Asare (Right) Daisy Badu
Paba Cosmetics has multiple locations internationally with three stores in Ghana, West Africa, as well as a Canadian storefront in Etobicoke, Ontario. A few goals Paba Cosmetics hopes to accomplish within the next five years is to first and foremost become a “household brand for women of colour”. The brand also hopes to appear in the United States, specifically Atlanta, Georgia and Houston, Texas. They also aim to open up shops in the United Kingdom, more specifically London, England as the Black communities in these cities are very much present and well connected.
Lastly, some advice Asare gave for anyone considering starting in the beauty or makeup industry was “never feel you need to have X amount of products in order to start, you just need to start”. With that being said, she shared that “every seed that is planted which is a dream needs to be watered and nurtured on a daily basis”. Paba Cosmetics started off with just a few products and as their brand has grown for almost 20 years more products and services have been added.
For all the beautiful shades of you. The slogan of Paba Cosmetics hopes to help their ‘Paba Ladies’ everywhere love all their melanated shades. You can keep up with Paba Cosmetics on their Instagram, Facebook or Paba Cosmetics website.