As part of our African Women Build Series, we interview Edwina Kulego, owner of Essentials by Edwina a vegan cruelty free lipstick line in partnership with Celfie Cosmetics. We Admire Edwina's passion and drive for entrepreneurship. With her recently launched beauty line, we have a chat with her on business, life and success.
WCA : Who was Edwina Kulego growing up?
I was very curious and inquisitive while growing up which resulted in my desire to constantly read books. My mother bought toys for my older brother and books for me. I remember when I got my first encyclopedia, I was so happy and excited to learn new things. I had the opportunity to travel a lot across Europe while young so my love for culture grew at an early age.
My mother was a single mom who started her business by doing hair at our home. Her efforts eventually lead to opening the first salon and beauty supply for Afro hair in Malmo, Sweden. I spent a lot of time with her in the salon; learning how to service customers and how to handle finances. I am very grateful for that experience as I now realize that it gave growth to the business savvy side of me.
WCA: Tell us about Edwina The brand and the businesses she now owns?
In 2017, I realized my passion for creating positive business solutions and value for women. It came to me in the most effortless and genuine way. I found myself surrounded by so many wonderful women with great business ideas who were seeking my advise on different things.
This passion now manifests in various efforts; mentorship, consulting, and partnerships. My partnership with Celfie Cosmetics resulted in the launch of my first beauty collection “Essentials By Edwina” a three color vegan lipstick collection designed for busy women on the go. I wanted to create something simple yet luxurious that every woman could wear.
I am also working with FASH:ED, a Fashion support network and resource hub based in London. I have the privilege of mentoring a fashion designer over the course of 6 years. It’s been a great experience so far.
Edwina Kulego as a brand is still evolving which is very exciting. I am finding myself in great spaces, being exposed to amazing people, places and ideas. I am currently working on my second beauty collection with Celfie Cosmetics launching Spring / Summer 2018.
WCA: With all the amazing things going on around you, how do you balance business life and pleasure or having a self-care check in?
I was blessed with the gift of carrying a child this year; it is the most wonderful surprise I’ve ever received. Realizing that I am going to become a mother and being responsible for another human being has definitely put things in perspective for me.
Before getting pregnant, I was under the impression that I made time for myself but after stepping back and evaluating I realized how much I actually worked. In industries like entertainment and fashion it’s easy to mix business with pleasure. For example, I am always networking and connecting even on vacation or at a party. It’s important to be conscious of that balance and switch the worker bee off in order to enjoy the moment.
In finding balance I have also learned to “take back my weekends” by actually doing that I love; taking walks, reading books, or having brunch with my girls. I used to utilize my weekends to catch up on work that I missed and I have decided to no longer do that, unless it’s imperative. A great tip is to make plans and book them in your calendar so you don’t forget to have some fun, go to the spa and actually take care of yourself.
WCA: What are your biggest accomplishments so far?
Becoming a mother, I am due this spring but my experience being pregnant has been the most life changing time for me. Connecting with this life inside of me is just unreal. Moving to New York by myself at the age of 19 will always be a big accomplishment for me. Launching my own brand has definitely been a great entrepreneurial and learning experience and I am really excited to continue growing the brand.
WCA: how do you stay up to date in the entrepreneurial world ?
By connecting with my entrepreneurial peers and reading articles and books that pertain to new ideas and developments. I am also writing my first book this year, which is extremely exciting. I have grown so much as an entrepreneur by sharing therefore I think it’s time to put some of my experiences in writing.
WCA: What keeps you going in times of challenges
Having conversations with my mother, Beatrice Morton. The never-ending support, and wisdom that she provides is priceless. When times get tough she reminds me of the curious little Edwina and she keeps me going.
WCA: What is your message to young African women wanting to start their entrepreneurial journey whether in fashion or beauty or any other category?
My message would be to try and be as specific as possible with your goals and business plan. There will always be competition around you but when you narrow down your idea into a specific need that’s when you have something powerful and unique.
Another piece of advice that I would share is the importance of knowing your customer. It’s key in getting successful results from your endeavors. Knowing the behaviors of your ideal customer, Where they shop? What they do in their spare time? What social media platforms they are on? Etc.
WCA: Tea or coffee?
I enjoy tea but coffee does the trick for me. I love the caffeine kick in the morning before starting my day.
WCA: Lipstick or eyebrow?
Lipstick for sure. A bold lip can turn any frown into a smile. One of my favorites is Shiraz from the Essentials By Edwina collection.