I’m not sure I have ever seen a Black Canadian woman owning a makeup company and was intrigued to find out more about her and the business. After weeks of scheduling conflicts, we finally got a chance to have a quick conversation about her and the business.
How did you get started in the makeup business?
PABA Cosmetics was actually created by my mother, Felicia Sarpong because she could not find a makeup line that blended well with Black skin.
My mother spoke to a few people to get some feedback on the business, and based on input received, started the business with the basic “cover-ups”; foundation, powder and a few lipstick shades.
I was starting high school at the time and suffered from acne, and this motivated my mother even more to find a solution to cover up my own blemishes and at the same time not making my skin break out more.
What type of person is your target market?
Women of colour, with an emphasis on brown and black skin types. Although we are not limited to those shades, because products like lipstick, eyeshadow can be worn by other ethnicities as well.
A lot of makeup companies focus on Caucasians, whereas we consider the skin shades and conditions that affect people of colour, like eczema, acne, etc.
We developed products specifically to suit Black skin and provide that “natural” look while wearing our products.
What’s your take on the lack of black female models in Canadian fashion shows?
I think the perception of the owners of fashion companies, is that women of colour don’t represent the brands out there. A lot of Canadian fashion house owners are not Black. That’s a reality.
Though a lot of people are breaking down barriers, particularly in the USA (for example Tyra banks), there is still the assumption that the “norm” for a fashion model is a non-black.
What has been the most impressive event that you have worked on to date?
I would have to say African Fashion Week, for the fact that this was the first time they were producing the event and made it so memorable. To me, it had a global feel in its delivery; marketing and the organization. It was actually the first ever African focused Fashion week in Toronto.
Do you have a business mentor? Who is your inspiration?
5 years ago, she resigned from CIBC to focus on the makeup business full time. It blew my mind that she quit a good paying job. Moved to Ghana, and is now managing 4 stores there, by herself.
Our products are sold through over 20 stores in Ghana, outside of our stores.
She left me in charge of the Canadian business where our product is currently sold in over 10 locations in Montreal and Toronto. it is a family run business.
How can people find out about you and your products?
On our website Pabacosmetics.com we have a list of our products and also where you can purchase them in Canada and Ghana.
Paba Cosmetics was founded in 2001 to provide unique beauty products developed specifically for women of colour.
Paba is a name simply borne from the initials of a young lady of colour whose unique skin tone-inspired research leading to the creation of a line of cosmetics products to meet the needs of women of colour.
The company has it's offices in Mississauga, Ontario, Canada and Accra, Ghana. From its humble beginnings, the company's products are currently available in major Canadian cities including Toronto, Montreal & Ottawa.