Undisputedly owning the title of ‘The Brow Queen’, Unaiza Suliman is so much more than a pretty face with perfectly arched eyebrows. A diligent businesswoman who never stops working at building her empire and a pioneering force in the beauty industry, Unaiza takes the concept of ‘brows on fleek’ to a whole new level of expertise. After opening her very first brow bar in 2011 – with much success and a few stumbling blocks – this committed and resilient FEMtrepreneur rose from the ashes and rebuilt her brand into something even more dynamic and influential. Read on as this monarch of lush lashes and flawless brows shares tips on making it in the beauty business.
What inspired you to start your company?
I believe that after something bad falls apart, something good comes together. In 2009, after having experienced a tough time on a personal front, I bought off a spa business in Krugersdorp. As with most new establishments, I had no customers and needed to improvise a plan to get my name out there. At the time, this area was new to threading so I started offering free threading services at an organic market every Saturday. Ladies who had their brows groomed at the market eventually found their way to my spa and became regular clients. I got so busy with eyebrows, that women travelled all the way from Pretoria to have their brows neatened. One of my clients suggested that I open up a brow kiosk at Clearwater Mall. This piqued my interest, and I researched brow bars internationally, particularly Shapes Brow Bar in the USA, which I’m very inspired by.
I took the plunge and pitched my idea to the heads at Clearwater Mall, but they declined. Determined and persistent, I went back to them and did a threading demo – which they loved! They finally understood what my craft was all about and that my business would be a unique offering within the shopping centre.
In 2011, my first Brow Bar kiosk was born; a 16m2 space with a few chairs. Here, and newly pregnant with my son, I began practising the first steps of eyebrow mapping which excited and intrigued people. Queues started to get longer. I now had a growing bump and a growing business! It became quite tiring to commute from my spa to the kiosk, and after a year at the mall, I combined both businesses into one. Clearwater Mall hosted my flagship store, and from there, we expanded to the Mall of the South and Durban.
How would you describe your business?
It’s a unique, one-of-a-kind brand that focuses solely on the grooming and enhancement of eyebrows and eyelashes. UniqBrows isn’t just another brow business; we’re specialists at brow mapping which is the most crucial step in the entire process of perfecting the eyebrows’ shape for each unique face.
How did your brand grow into the phenomenon it is now?
I became somewhat known as the celebrity brow specialist in South Africa.
It started with Khanyi Mbau – the very first celeb I worked on – who opened up a new door to many other VIP personalities in the entertainment industry. Minnie Dhlamini became our brand ambassador and from there, things escalated quickly. I was also the only person doing microblading in the business.
Miss South Africa representative Nicole Henkel asked me to do a brow correction for then-reigning Miss SA 2016, Ntando Kunene. Impressed by my brow work, former Miss SA and brand manager, Claudia Henkel, approached me for a full pageant sponsorship, however, I didn’t feel ready to sign a contract at the time. A few years (and a lot of experience) later, and I have an existing partnership with Mrs South Africa.
What is your vision for UniqBrows?
In 2018, I rebranded to ‘UniqBrows by Unaiza’. I wanted to attach my name to my business because I wanted to have something that was truly my own. I became the face of my brand, following in the marketing footsteps of international beauty heavyweights like Huda, Kylie and Anastasia Beverly Hills. I aspire to grow my brand by offering store franchises, as well as micro franchising. I’d like to see UniqBrows studios outside of the general mall setting too. UniqBrows has evolved into much more than just a brow bar. We now have Uniq IV as well as Uniq Laser and Aesthetics. Right now, I’m in the process of developing an exciting new product range, the first being a brow and lash growth serum.
I’m also passionate about my women’s empowerment programme – giving opportunities to women who may not have had any before. I train, mentor and employ these ladies in my salons around the country. They learn new skills from me while earning an income, and they receive continuous training as new beauty treatments trend.
Did you study in the field of your profession?
I studied Beauty Therapy & Aesthetics and did a few courses on permanent makeup. I’ve explored so many different brow courses, however, none of them gratified me enough and I didn’t find what I was looking for. I then did an online course, PhiBrows, at PhiAcademy, and that changed my life. Everything fell into place when I learnt about brow mapping.
My primary focus now is training my aestheticians in the art of brow mapping.
Where can local ladies get their brows done?
You can find a UniqBrows studio or kiosk at:
- Life Day Spa, Fourways
- 27Pinkx Beauty Bar, Centurion
- Mall of the South
- Soulstice Day Spa, West Rand
- La Lucia Mall, Durban
- VodaWorld, Midrand
- Umhlanga Laser Clinic, Gateway
- The Vaal
- Sandton City
What was the very first successful project you handled and how did it make you feel?
Before opening The Brow Bar, I worked as a therapist and consultant for a beauty salon in 2008. I was challenged with boosting this new business and finding customers. I managed to increase the financial income from R80 000 to R280 000 a month.
What challenges have you faced as a FEMtrepreneur and how did you overcome them?
Being a Muslim FEMtrepreneur has its frustrations and challenges. Initially, people laughed and mocked my idea of opening a brow kiosk. So, with a newborn baby, I decided to fund the project myself. I powered up and went into work every day. I needed to prove that I could do it, I could build a career out of this.
Another challenge is retaining staff. Often I’d train someone to be the best brow artist they can be, and then they’d leave to pursue “other opportunities” using the skills I taught them. Through it all, I’ve learnt some hard lessons and realised that I cannot rely on anyone else but myself.
What drives and motivates you each day?
The fact that I love what I do makes it easy. I love doing brows and I put passion into everything. I’ve been conditioned to live, eat, breathe and sleep brows. It gives me purpose.
What has been the most effective way of marketing your business?
Having influencers promote our services has been beneficial. Kefilwe Mabote is one of our biggest influencers and generated massive clientele for us. There’s something about that celebrity appeal that drives people to our stores.
Also, word of mouth has been very effective; if people love their ‘UniqBrows’ experience, they will tell their friends and family about it. I’ve learnt that partnering with the right brands has its advantages too.
What is the most courageous thing you’ve done as a FEMtrepreneur?
Becoming the face of my own brand.
How did you establish yourself as a figurehead in this industry?
It just happened! I didn’t set out to become ‘the name’ in brows. My business started evolving without me even realising it. I never saw my own success the way that people on the outside saw it.
Describe yourself in three words:
Energetic. Grounded. Self-motivated.
What do you love most about your job?
I love seeing the success of my girls (brow artists). Their success is my success.
Is there anything you dislike about your job?
It can sometimes be difficult balancing work and family each week.
What are the biggest challenges about working in the beauty and aesthetics industry?
It’s a very saturated market so you have to position yourself as being different. There are brow places everywhere. I think choosing the right locations is important.
What has been your greatest career achievement thus far?
I’ve been nominated by Beauty Revolution for the award: Entrepreneur of the Year in Beauty.
Is there anything you haven’t done yet that you would love to achieve?
I’d really like to develop and complete my product line and focus on products that enhance longevity. I want to get a better physiological understanding of the brows.
In future, I’d like to have an international presence too.
What advice would you give to other young female entrepreneurs?
1. Cut out the noise. Don’t listen to the negative opinions of others. No one understands you better than you do yourself.
2. Read as many motivational and business books as you can.
3. Train to become an entrepreneur. Prepare yourself mentally, emotionally, financially and physically. You know how far you can extend your limits.
Fun Facts about Unaiza
|Favourite business tool:||A blade|
|My personal style is…||I’ve recently changed over from high heels to sneakers|
|Heels or flats?||Both|
|Three things I never leave home without:||Watch, primer and sunglasses.|
|I unwind and relax by:||Going to the gym daily|
|Favourite lipstick shade:||A nude pink by Huda|
|Book recommendation:||The Alchemist by Paulo Coelho. I’ve read it multiple times.|
|A brow service I highly recommend:||A henna tint|
|Instant beauty tip:||Try using a brow gel|
|If I had an unlimited budget, I would shop at:||Dior, Dolce & Gabbana, and Gucci.|
|Dream destination:||Texas, USA|
|The one thing required for success is…||A powerful mindset|
Unaiza has given meaning to the statement “brows speak louder than words”.
If our eyes are windows to the soul, eyebrows are surely the curtains 😉
This brow queen presides over her fempire with grace and faithfulness, and her dedication to her craft is admirable. A trendsetter in the beauty industry, mentor to her many trainees, mum of two and the crown jewel of the UniqBrow dynasty, Unaiza inspires us with every precise move she makes.
Here’s to gorgeous brows, long lashes and the never-ending reign of UniqBrows by Unaiza.