Vivian Shiburi - Founder & CEO
Meet Vivian Shiburi, an African woman from Diepkloof in Soweto and the brains behind the Sheer Elegance brand. She is the founder and CEO of VIP Cosmetics Laboratories cc, the manufacturers of the established brand stated above.
Vivian’s love and passion for hair started when she was a 13 years old girl living with her mother at her grandparent’s house. At this tender age, she had a lady client living next door who worked nightshifts in the entertainment industry that she styled daily. When her parents bought a house about three (3) kilometers away from her grandparent’s place, Vivian relocated with them.
Even though the distance now presented a challenge for Vivian’s lady client, it did not dissuade her from staying loyal and having her hair styled daily by Vivian. This meant that her client had to walk the 3km distance on a daily basis to get her hair done before going to work, which is proof of how phenomenal and exceptional she’s been with hair since her teenage years.
This was the genesis of Vivian’s relationship with hair and beauty, which would later manifest itself with the development of her own brand of hair care products. In Vivian, we are talking about an individual that is highly dedicated, and ambitious on every little thing she sets her mind to achieve. She studied Analytical Chemistry and did an 18-month internship at a Laboratory consulting company stationed at an Environmental Laboratory, which prompted her to further her studies in Environmental Sciences. By this time, she already knew that in the end she is going to have her own company and brand. When she moved to a company that manufactured Caucasian hair products her passion for hair was reignited.
When Vivian was pregnant with her second child, she decided to quit her job and follow her passion to finally develop hair care products that addressed challenges faced by African women. In December 2005, VIP Cosmetics Laboratories cc was incorporated and in 2006 the company started manufacturing its first two products, shampoo, and conditioner under the brand name VIP Cosmetics.
In 2008 VIP Cosmetics Laboratories cc engaged in a research and development project to identify challenges faced by the dreadlock market. The research was conducted with hair technicians in the dreadlocks field and the results pointed to the challenges of dry, itchy, flaking scalp or dandruff; hair loss, build up and dull dreadlocks. This culminated in the manufacturing of what was to be later known as Sheer Elegance hair care brand geared at addressing these challenges. To further enhance her dreadlocks knowledge, Vivian took a two-week course in dreadlocks. When Vivian styled her first customer during her training, she was immediately offered a job as a stylist because of her creativity, which she obviously declined because she had already started her own project.
The product was first marketed in Soweto and we expected everything to be smooth sailing as it is our home ground. To our surprise this was a very challenging experience because at the time, people were only used to established brands and did not believe that an unknown African woman could offer anything better than what was available then. We then decided to open our own salon to help with further development and marketing of our Sheer Elegance brand. This decision helped to endear Sheer Elegance in the hearts of the end users, and through mostly word of mouth, the product grew from a Soweto brand to a South African brand.
Armed with more than 10 years’ experience in the ongoing research and development of the Sheer Elegance hair care brand, we identified another niche market in the 4C Afro hair care market. We then developed our groundbreaking Sheer Elegance Afro Naturals hair care brand to address the specific challenges faced by the 4c hair community which felt not catered for by the available products.
Just like when she started wearing her dreadlocks in 2009 when she developed her dreadlock range, Vivian continued the tradition in 2018 during the development stages of the Afro products to test the products on her own hair. This was an extremely helpful experience as she could understand first-hand the 4C hair community’s dissatisfaction with the available products and the challenges presented by low porosity hair as she herself has both 4c and low porosity.
Normally developing a new product took her a maximum of six (6) months, but with Sheer Elegance Afro Naturals 6 in 1 Leave-in Conditioner, it took her at least two years to come up with this amazing groundbreaking formulation to address her low porosity 4C hair. This was then further tested at our own salon before trying out with other salons and 4C hair sisters.
The brand provides a solution for 4C sisters to feel and look beautiful with ease and affordability. They no longer need to go through the odorous L.O.C. (Liquid, Oil, and Cream) or L.C.O. (Liquid, Cream, and Oil) procedures. It simplifies the maintenance of 4C low porosity hair disproving the ‘myth’ that our African hair is difficult to maintain. The time and money saved in the maintenance of our Afro hair can be best used in the development of other aspects of our lives. Our African soil provides the natural plants from which the extracted oils and active ingredients are used in the manufacturing of our products.
Being a result-oriented brand that focuses on our niche market’s pain points ensures that we make the intended impact in the communities that we serve thus setting ourselves apart from other competing brands. Our love and commitment to natural hair influences our decision to focus only on dreadlocks, braids and afro.