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BY SUNITA MENON

Rabia Ghoor is at the helm of a make-up and skin-care empire, has conquered the e-commerce market with a niche product and has her brand SwiitchBeauty on the tip of every SA make-up artist’s tongue and she’s not even old enough to vote or drive. Dressed in a crisp black pants suit with perfect eyeliner that could rival any Mac artist’s, Ghoor is all smiles but gets straight to business and her business insight could rival that of seasoned entrepreneurs. It’s disarming when she throws in a pop culture reference her current favourite is "bye Felicia" as a dismissive farewell and you remember that she’s just 17. Even as she negotiates business deals and creates innovative products, she’s most excited about turning 18 in February so she can get her driver’s licence.

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SwiitchBeauty began as a passing idea when Ghoor was 14 and she told her dad she wanted to sell make-up online. A year later, she was running a successful business while juggling school. The make-up industry is growing but with a gap in the local market for affordable make-up, Ghoor’s sharp wit and social media know-how have kept her brand popular with SA millennials. "It started out with a few products. I learnt that there wasn’t really a good-quality affordable cosmetic brand in the country and I wanted to make that available to people. I wanted to start a brand that wasn’t hit or miss, a brand that was universally flattering," she says.

A company called Beyond the Lemonade Stand, which mentors "teenpreneurs", gave Ghoor her first big break as a speaker at a Gibs Business School summit. Last year she dropped out of school and with ongoing support from mentors, went into the business full-time. She’s become somewhat of a powerhouse. Operating out of her "headquarters" in Laudium in Pretoria, Ghoor manages a four-person team and has the final say on everything. She’s involved in the entire process — she works with manufacturers overseas, researches the latest trends and creates exciting packaging and names from the tongue-in-cheek "Glowgasm" palette to the "Slays for Days" palette. Every product gets sent out to make-up artists and influencers to test out before it goes on sale online.

"I look at international trends and how we can bring them to SA. What’s hot overseas and what everyone is loving that we don’t have here. We keep very up to date with what’s happening and that’s why customers love the brand." The SwiitchBeauty Instagram account has over 45,600 followers. The brand has quirky packaging, witty weekly e-mails and helpful tips on its blog. "There’s a constant two-way communication with our customers. I asked them: ‘If your two favourite face products could make a baby, what would it be?’ That’s how I get my ideas," says Ghoor.

Ghoor welcomes feedback, asks her followers what they’d like to try next and recommends products to them based on their previous orders. Prices range from R80 to R450. While most 17-year-olds are trying to figure out what the next step is, Ghoor is fast becoming as popular as Huda Kattan, a Dubai-based beauty cult figure with her own make-up line, or Kylie Jenner, the Kardashian with the billion-dollar lipstick line. "I just want SwiitchBeauty to become a lifestyle. Use our products, pop it in your bag, look at our Instagram post, watch our Instagram story and then just when you think it’s quiet, we’ll send out an e-mail to check up on you."

Source: Business Live