Delphine Okoronkwo: Living her dream
Words By – Josephine Agbonkhese
The CEO/Creative Director of Bare to Beauty Cosmetics Limited, Delphine Okoronkwo began her career in beauty as a makeup artist in 2013 with the launch of Bare to Beauty. Five years into the industry, her passion for beauty spurred the launch of her brand, Bare to Beauty Cosmetics, precisely in 2018.
A top celebrity makeup artist to some of the biggest celebrities and women on the continent, the serial entrepreneur also sits at the helm of Deldamivo Nigeria Limited and Del’s Place Mall, two businesses she has successfully grown, earning herself a reputation as a shrewd entrepreneur.
An Igbinedion University graduate of Microbiology, the dotting mother of one, also, holds a Master’s Degree in International Business from Brunel University, West London.
In this interview with Allure, she discusses her foray into the beauty industry, her experience as a cosmetic manufacturer for people of colour, her personal life, style, and more, as she reveals she is motivated by her daughter.
How did a microbiologist become a makeup artist?
I went to the university to study medicine. I realised it wasn’t for me after one year of study, then I switched to Microbiology because that was the closest related course at the time. After graduating, I went ahead to get my Pre Master’s in Business and Management from the London Institute of Business and Technology, LIBT, before proceeding to my Master’s at Brunel University, West London. When I returned to Nigeria, I started to work with a multinational company. However, I always knew that was temporary as my passion for beauty was strong and I always knew I wanted to pursue that professionally.
What inspired you to go into the beauty sector in the first instance?
I have always liked makeup and have always tilted towards beauty. I’m a self-taught makeup artist. This is my natural talent. Back then in the university, I would always do makeup for my friends. So, when the time came for me to leave the corporate world, I already knew my place was in the beauty industry.
Take us on your growth journey and how you attained the celebrity makeup artist status.
The first celebrity I ever made up was Bimbo Akintola then Mercy Johnson, then Omotola Jalade-Ekeinde. The looks were iconic looks at the time. I am self-taught, so my style was different and it created a demand for something unique, which has now become the “Bare to Beauty Signature”.
Also, I had to learn how to manage celebrities’ busy schedules vis-a-vis my work schedule as a makeup artist. This also taught me patience.
At what point did you decide it was time to venture into manufacturing and how did you pull the strings?
Owning a makeup line has been a vision and a dream coming true before my eyes. Even before I became a makeup artist, I knew that I had to own a successful makeup line. I am proud to say that the Bare to Beauty Cosmetics is 98% to range completion. I’m also proud to say that Bare to Beauty Cosmetics products are paraben-free and non-comedogenic. As a professional makeup artist, I can also tell you they are completely safe.
Your beauty brand recently launched new products when it clocked five last December. Tell us a bit more about that…
We started with lashes, brow pencils, and lipsticks, and over the years, other products such as powders, mascaras, eyeliners, lip glosses, brush sets, and eyeshadow palettes were added. However, I always knew that when we established our flagship products and after studying the market, we would expand to a full product range. This new collection brings us 95% closer to completing our goal. In celebration of our fifth anniversary last December, we launched the Bare to Beauty Cosmetics Foundations, Concealers, Setting sprays, Primer, Blush, and Highlighter Palettes. This new collection launch is almost completing the full range of make-up.
What has been your challenge coming up with new collections from time to time?
My major challenge is the technicalities of perfecting colour shades suitable for black skin tones. I am a perfectionist and I oversee every detail of the process to ensure that all our products meet the global standards for beauty products.
What are some of the lessons learned in the last five years as a manufacturer…
I have learned that entrepreneurship is not always rosy. It requires a lot of discipline and strength but it can be a rewarding experience. I am most grateful for the growth and the opportunities I have been exposed to in my career over the years.
What lessons did you take from working with a multinational company in building your businesses?
My years in A.G Leventis Limited prepared me for entrepreneurship. It was a very thorough experience. I had two assistants and was the Executive Assistant to the GMD. I perfected punctuality and professionalism, even in the most seemingly casual circumstances. Accountability is also critical. I worked for a conglomerate; you have to be able to be relied upon.
What has been your experience manufacturing cosmetics for people of colour?
It hasn’t been easy battling with the traditional manufacturers’ preference for lighter skin tones, but we have made good progress. It was important for me to be able to capture all skin tones. I ensure inclusivity. I can proudly say that my team and I have developed products in all skin tones for women of colour.
How has it been striving to establish your brand in the international market?
So far, we have distributors in Houston Texas, Dallas, and the Netherlands. We are planning to have distributors in the UK, more parts of Europe, and hopefully, expand to other parts of Africa so it is easier for customers to access our products. It is a gradual process. But before the year ends, we will have distributors stocking our products and later on develop our stores in those countries
Who has had the biggest impact on your career journey?
To be honest, the biggest impact is the realisation that I can achieve whatever I desire. It is an amazing feeling. I have always known that I would be a successful entrepreneur and here I am; it is very encouraging.
What inspires you daily?
My daily inspiration comes from my daughter. When I think about how I want to give her only the best, it pushes me to get up and do much more.
You have all the features of a model; have you ever considered modeling as a career?
Yes, I modeled a bit in my younger days and now, as a brand influencer, I do a bit of modeling on the side.
Generally, what are your thoughts on the Nigerian beauty industry?
I strongly believe that while it is growing and expanding globally, we lack a fundamental structure as an industry that is recognised, or even supported by the government. It would be great to have some regulation in the sector and support from the government to enable it to become a proper industry.
Being fair has become the yardstick for measuring beauty, leading to all kinds of whitening beauty products. Is black still beautiful?
Absolutely! As a makeup artist, I can tell you dark skin reflects makeup so well, especially my makeup.
As a beauty entrepreneur, do you feel pressured to be an advert for your product?
I am a walking poster for my brand. When I go to events and occasions, I have to represent my brand. My look is elegant and lush and that is what Bare to Beauty Cosmetics is.
What is the best advice anyone ever gave you about life and business; and who was that?
My mother taught me to have integrity in everything I do. My word is my bond; I do what I say I will do.
What do you do for fun?
Traveling somewhere scenic with blue waters, and lots of shopping. If in the country, I would get dressed and go to a nice restaurant with a friend or loved one/ones.
Can you share with us your daily beauty routine that makes you look radiant?
Moisturiser; but I cannot leave my house without the generous help of sunscreen.
What is your definition of style?
Style is personal; it is how you feel and what you like that defines your style.
What is your most cherished beauty item?
My Bare to Beauty lipsticks. Even when I am not wearing makeup, I always wear lipstick. I love my lipstick.
What’s your best advice for aspiring beauty entrepreneurs?
Nothing comes very easily. Sometimes, you have to be in the industry for a while before you are recognised. So, don’t give up. Keep persisting, pushing, and staying humble. You can’t do one celebrity makeup and start to feel like you have arrived. You need to be humble in this business if you want to be successful. You also need to be hungry for more success because being an entrepreneur is very dicey. You can have so much money today and be broke the next month.