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Beauty, Brains, and Business: Unveiling the Millennial Powerhouse, Mathebe Molise

Mathebe Molise is a Johannesburg-based beauty entrepreneur and personality. Mathebe's core interests include; business, skincare, fashion, beauty & fitness. Mathebe's corporate training in Investment Banking has shaped her into a well-rounded creative and strategist. She is a balance of beauty, brains, and creativity. Mathebe has evolved into an entrepreneur and founder of Beauty on TApp and Pastry Skincare. She is a representation of the ultimate millennial powerhouse.

1. Who is Mathebe

I was born and bred in Johannesburg, I grew up here. I went to one school my whole life called Redhill School, based in Morningside, and thereafter, I went to Wits to do a Bachelor of Accounting Sciences to become a CA(SA). I wanted to focus on banking during my articles and joined the financial services team at EY. My focus industry during articles was Insurance but I managed to do bank regulation audits which gave me banking exposure. I had always wanted to work for a bank growing up and luckily, right after my 5 months Boston secondment I got a credit analyst role at Rand Merchant Bank. I’m a fitness enthusiast as well, I love working out and spending time with my friends and family.

2. What made you passionate about the beauty industry

I don’t think I was specifically passionate about the beauty industry but I was more passionate about creativity. When I was growing up, I wanted to be a fashion designer and my mom convinced me to become a CA(SA) because I had the capabilities to become one. So, I’d say I stumbled across the beauty industry because I had this craving for creating and creative work. I did know a little about the beauty industry and had a few skills like braiding my own hair, doing my make-up, etc. so I think my passion for beauty had always been there but it had never been about wanting to be part of the beauty industry and making an income from it.

3. What is Beauty on TApp (BOT) all about and when did you start it?

Beauty on TApp is basically an aggregator of beauty brands - we put everything on one platform essentially giving people the option to buy multiple brands in one basket. When BOT started, it was an app that was a marketplace for beauty services and we were trying to fill a gap in the market for people who were looking for small mobile beauty services. More than anything, BOT has always been a business that empowers small Beauty Brands by giving them a shopfront to showcase whatever product or service they offer. 

4. The Beauty Industry is vast and overpopulated. What makes BOT stand out?

I think a long time ago, especially with beauty, a lot of the time you’ll find that bigger international brands are more popular but if you look in local markets, there are a lot of niche brands that are really amazing that people don’t know about and often they do not have a retailer that wants to take a chance on them and distribute their products. I also believe South Africa lacks bespoke beauty retailers. In international markets, you’ll have multiple cosmetic retailers that offer multiple layers of affordability. For instance, in the USA you’ll have your drugstores, you’ll have Target, Sephora and then you’ll have your department stores; Whereas in South Africa, department stores focus on big international brands, other beauty retailers have closed down and now you mainly have pharmacies retailing cosmetics. So, BOT was the answer to giving consumers a bespoke beauty shopping experience. I think that was what was missing in the local market and I think that is what made the brand quite popular.

5. Can you share the story behind the inception of Beauty on TApp and its evolution from a service-finding app to an e-commerce platform? 

Beauty on TApp started as a service offering that connected customers with local beauty businesses and evolved into an e-commerce business that retails a range of beauty and self-care products. Despite having been in business for close to four years when COVID hit, the pandemic encouraged people to start relying on e-commerce to shop for their essentials, and Beauty on TApp was well positioned to service that through outstanding customer service and efficiency. 

6. How do you build trust with potential customers on social media in such a heavily saturated industry like beauty?

I think for us, the most important thing was being reliable and building trust which we did through educating people and being factual and honest about beauty products. Our social media posts are very focused on educating people rather than promising people certain results in a certain amount of time. We don’t sell transformation, we sell education. I think when you have an online business, you have to make sure that when people log on to your website, they know what they are going to buy and they are not confused hence consumer education is crucial when it comes to cosmetics. We also make sure that we deliver fast and have open lines of communication for customers to reach us and this has differentiated us in the market.

7. What is one key piece of business advice you’ve learned since starting Beauty On Tapp?

The one thing that I have learned, and I know quite a few people will not necessarily agree, but I believe in controlled business growth. I think you should not let your business run away with you, it should not grow outrageously to the point where you cannot fulfill customer orders or where you’re constantly dropping the ball. For me, BOT’s growth has been gradual and calculated which is what has made it successful. We’ve managed to keep our promise to customers which is efficiency and quality.

8. When you feel like you have too many projects going on, how do you center yourself?

I delegate. The one thing I learned from investment banking is that you need to learn to rest and center yourself. When I was in banking, I had an executive coach and she told me that before you sleep, you need to shut down your brain for 2 hours. I used to work until I sleep but now, I rest and recharge in the evenings which also helps calm my mind. When I feel overwhelmed, I ask for help from the team but it’s also important for me to step back to take a break because when you work with a clear mind, you can tackle things more efficiently. Even when you have a lot to do - take time out to rest. 

9. If you want to build a network in the beauty industry, but don’t know anyone, where would you advise one to start?

Social media is a great place to start growing a network for beauty. Start by following certain brands and influencers then build your little niche community around you. Try to go to beauty expos as well - there are so many that happen, and it’s a great way to learn and expand your network. I met so many brands that we have on BOT at beauty expos and I had the opportunity to go to Korean expos to meet potential brands. Build your network on social media digitally but also go to expos and present yourself physically.

10. Besides this business, what are other work/projects that you are busy with? And how do you balance all these?

I’m not really busy with anything right now - Beauty on Tapp and Pastry have been keeping me busy - but the one thing I do want to start getting into… is starting a foundation. I want to launch our own incubation programme for beauty brands to teach them about packaging, how to position their brands, and then retailing them via our various platforms. I am very passionate about women empowerment so it is important for me to find a way to work with younger women specifically education, mentoring, and showing them that anything is possible as I am a CA(SA) who went into the beauty industry.

11. How do you stay ahead in terms of innovation and consumer trends in the beauty industry? 

Our community is very vocal about their concerns and needs - this makes product development seamless. Reading and researching are also extremely important as a business owner - watching international trends and seeing how they fit into the local market also helps us with fulfilling needs at the right place and at the right time. Technology is constantly evolving so as an e-commerce company we have to stay ahead.

12. How important are resilience and adaptability in the entrepreneurial journey, and how have these qualities helped you overcome challenges? 

Resilience and adaptability are extremely important. Right at the beginning of my entrepreneurial journey, I had a business partner who decided to leave the business. This was a hard pill for me to swallow at the beginning but as time went on, I realised it was important for me to persist and see the vision through. I am the entrepreneur I am today because I allowed these experiences to shape me for the better. 

What aspect of Mathebe Molise's background resonates with you the most?

  • Her upbringing in Johannesburg and education at Redhill Scho

  • Her career trajectory from accounting to investment banking

  • Her passion for fitness and spending time with loved one's

What sparked Mathebe Molise's interest in the beauty industry?

  • Her childhood dream of becoming a fashion designer

  • Her desire for creative expression and exploration

  • Her skills in hair braiding and makeup application

What sets Beauty on TApp (BOT) apart in the beauty industry, according to Mathebe Molise?

  • Its focus on international beauty brands

  • Its commitment to offering niche and local beauty products

  • Its emphasis on affordability and accessibility

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