British expat SAMINA MALIK wears multiple hats. On top of running her award-winning vegan makeup brand in Singapore, Sceptr Cosmetics (known for some of the best lipsticks out there!), the busy mother-of-four is also a private makeup coach who has lived across the globe, from the UK to the UAE, Germany, USA and now Singapore! We chat with the beauty powerhouse about her story.
How did you get into the cosmetics industry?
I’ve been in the makeup industry since I was 20, starting in Benefit Cosmetics at Dickens & Jones on Regent Street in London, while studying at the London College of Fashion back in 1999. I moved on to offer personal makeup lessons because I know the power that good makeup can have on someone’s confidence. Knowing how to use makeup correctly is a power you have for life – not just for a few moments.
I used to be bullied. I had extremely low self-esteem and didn’t consider myself to be beautiful. Growing up in the UK and having racial discrimination thrown into the mix also kept my confidence from rising. The epitome of beauty was Cindy Crawford and I was far from that.
My world was turned around one day in a Selfridges store in London, when someone from the Benefit Cosmetics counter gave me a free makeover. It changed my perception on how I saw myself. From that day, I starting loving makeup and developing an interest in its theory. I focused on the realistic and wearable approach to makeup. In my mind, that’s where true confidence in one’s beauty comes in.
In 2010, I created personal makeup shopping services in Dallas, Texas, before moving to Singapore. At the time, nobody was offering makeup lessons at home, let alone a personal shopping experience with a beauty expert. I had a method that made perfect sense in my mind and realised that it was exactly what was needed here. Many fellow expats shared how hard it was to find help with makeup recommendations and application in stores, as they felt their concerns weren’t always understood. This is where I filled the gap and built up my niche in Singapore.
What brought you to Singapore?
I’ve been living in Singapore for almost a decade; we relocated because of my husband’s work. I’d always wanted to visit Asia, so it was an immediate “yes” from me! I love this country for its safety, access to travel hot spots, food options and religious tolerance.
When I started my makeup coaching service in Dallas, I had four kids under the age of 10, so I wasn’t able to give it as much time or effort. Thanks to my helpers in Singapore, I was able to do more here! My first helper was incredible. Riza took care of the household chores, which gave me time to focus on my work.
Tell us more about your business.
Sceptr Cosmetics started as an idea back in 2016 when I had designed a unique makeup brush; it was going to be called The Sceptr Brush. A sceptre is a symbol of power and strength often in the hands of monarchs, kings and, of course, queens! My brush was to be the perfect symbol of power for all my queens. I wanted my brush to make them feel powerful and confident through makeup. The brush was also designed to be easy to use and hold, especially for makeup artists.
I knew that creating the brush would take a long time as it had to go through a patent and design registration process, so I decided to launch my vegan makeup brand with lipsticks. While shopping with my customers, I saw there was a lack of long-lasting, transfer-proof matte lipsticks in wearable shades. I wanted to create a solution for that.
What’s one beauty product you can’t live without?
A brow pencil! It used to be concealer but let me tell you this: a set of clean and defined brows frames your face and makes you look put together in an instant. Second would be concealer, and third a good lipstick.
What has this past year and a half taught you?
The importance of family, health and staying connected with my loved ones. Time is a valuable commodity and we need to savour it.
Charity is an important part of my life. We’ve been dedicating 10 percent of profits generated by Sceptr Cosmetics to Kiran, an up-and-coming start-up in Pakistan. Kiran aims to be a sustainable fashion supplier that works with local artisans who are affected by the pandemic. I know how hard it is to start with limited means, and I often wonder about those who are capable but have no opportunities. They deserve to dream as we do, so I’m committed to help where I can.
What’s a piece of advice you’d give to someone starting a business in Singapore?
It’s a great place for start-ups as you can get access to contacts and media mentions faster than most countries due to the small size of this beautiful country. When something is good, word spreads – and that was definitely something that helped me. If you fail, at least you’ll learn from your mistakes, but you’ll always be part of a community of women who generally love to support local businesses – and each other!
What are some of your favourite places and services in Singapore?
Vogiro Hair Boutique for hair services, The Big Blow for a good blowout, The Salon by Viva for a luxurious pampering experience with friends, and TheAC Boutique in Joo Chiat for the best eclectic finds from local and international brands.-