Expert advice on ‘making it’ in the beauty sector
Published on: Monday, July 13, 2020
By: Audrey J Ansibin
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Cabrine with her Dad.

Cabrine wearing PPE while attending to a customer.  



CABRINE Solibun, the first certified PhiBrows Artist in Malaysia, talks to “Young Spirit” about her nine-year journey in the competitive and ever-changing beauty industry in Sabah.

Cabrine, affectionately known as “Cabby”, is the youngest of three siblings and hails from Kampung Kibabaig, Penampang. 

She is also the first Sabah-based BrowXenna-certified trainer in the country. The Moscow company had contacted her about joining their team and she completed her training in December last year.

At just 31, the founder of CSA – formerly known as Cabrine Solibun Arts – has been making a name for herself in the industry for nine years. Following is the interview.

Q: Who or what inspired you to delve into the beauty industry?

A: I was inspired by my Mum and sister from young. I was amazed by how putting on make-up can brighten someone’s face and give them that extra boost in confidence. 

In high school, I would also volunteer to be the make-up artist for the student-dancers. Being given full creative decision-making (subject to approval by the teachers, of course) further confirmed my dreams and passion in the beauty industry.  

 Q: How long have you been in this industry? What is the most rewarding part?

A: Nine years! I actually started in bridal make-up and created a Facebook page for my services in 2011 as Cabrine Solibun Art. 

One of the most rewarding part for me is the growth of my team throughout the years. I cannot imagine going through any of the ups and downs without them. I am so grateful to them that I can proudly and happily say they are like family! 

Also, it is always rewarding to see my customers’ transformation and increase in confidence even with just a slight tweak of their “Kudou” (“eyebrows” in Kadazan). Nothing more rewarding than essentially making your customers happy. I also love maintaining a relationship with my customers.

Q: How has the pandemic crisis affected your business? Did you have to make the difficult choice of letting go some staff? 

A: It was an unexpected event that definitely affected the business. We were really not prepared for a mandatory (but temporary) closure! Being in the beauty line, where contact is inevitable, we were quite worried about the customers coming back. However, we truly understand their hesitance. The uncertainty of that has greatly affected the business. 

During the MCO (Movement Control Order) period, it never crossed my mind to let any of my staff go. As an employer, I felt the responsibility to assure the team that they are being cared for since the pandemic is happening to all of us. It was almost up to a point where I would rather close the shop (due to rental cost etc) than letting go of any of my team members. 

In these hard times, I believe we have to stay strong, positive and be patient – this works better as a team.     

Q: What are some of the safety precautions that you take when you have customers at your shop during the Recovery Movement Control Order (RMCO) phase?

A: First thing we did was to inform everyone that we do not allow walk-ins. Only appointments via our website are allowed. When they make it to their appointment, only they are allowed in and no guests are allowed. All the standard SOPs are then applied to the clients such as temperature check, check-in using QR Code and hand sanitisers are provided. 

For the team, we are fully equipped with PPE including face shields and gloves for both the team and clients’ protection. 

Q: These days, there are so many branches in the beauty sector. You no longer hear of only “make-up artist” (MUA) but also those specialising in eyebrow and even lip tattoos. Why do you think is the beauty sector evolving so quickly?

A: I think beauty standard itself has changed a lot due to diversity. No longer a one-look-fits-all concept. The number of choices available nowadays is to ensure that everyone gets what is right for them. Plus, the availability of social media and other digital platforms allows for wider exposure to the global audience. 

Feeling beautiful gives you confidence, so there are many there who may be too busy to do their own make up or prefer a long-term solution. Alternatives such as eyebrow and lip tattoos allow them to start the day early and not worry about the time required to put on make-up. 

The nature of creativity and the availability to spread the trend to almost everywhere in the world, thanks to technology, has really helped boost the growth and diversity of the beauty industry. 

Q: Do you follow international MUAs and social media influencers like Tati or James Charles? What do you think of the animosity among MUAs when they should be supporting each other?

A: To be honest, I don’t. I don’t really know the full story, but I did some reading on what happened to them and, wow…. To answer the question, the animosity between MUAs or beauticians is very unhealthy and I discourage it. However, it definitely exists. 

I really urge support from each other even if we are competing against each other. Talking behind your back or spreading lies is just not doing anyone any favour. Just be honest with your work, be original and be fair. 

I believe if there is a platform for all beauticians in Sabah to gather and show support to each other we can achieve great things, instead of putting each other down. 

Q: Do you think it’s the growing competitiveness of the sector that pushes some of those in the industry to be spiteful?

A: Yes. It also depends on how someone handles such competition. It can actually be a good motivator to keep you going but if you take it negatively, then it can turn into something negative. Just concentrate on being a better person for yourself, your team and your customers. 

Q: Do you find the beauty sector in Sabah competitive?

A: Yes, it is competitive. There are a lot of talented Sabahan beauticians out there. All have their own specialty and I am proud to be within the community. 


Q: With over 41,000 followers on Instagram, do you consider yourself an influencer?

A: Honestly, no. I don’t see myself as an influencer. My main social media account is practically a shared account between me and CSA. I do use my social media to express my thoughts, passion, and any updates on CSA events. When I can, I will also help local business, especially home-based business. #supportlocal. 


Q: What are some of the challenges you faced or are still facing in this industry?

A: Similar to many small businesses, ensuring you earn enough to pay rental and staff overheads is an ongoing challenge. Other than that, having to keep up with the mentioned growth in the beauty industry, always updating our skills is also a challenge we face. In order to do that will require cost and time. Due to the natural competitive state of this industry, even in Sabah, a lot must be invested to ensure your products and services must be of good quality. 

Q: Describe your average day.

A: Pretty simple routine. Wake up, workout, feed my doggies, go to work at the studio, attend to appointments (usually Phibrows for two to three people), going through the team’s to-do list, team briefings, clean the studio, go home. 

Q: How do you spend your free time? 

A: As a sweet-tooth-dessert-lover, I have found a new hobby… I fell in love with baking! It all started when I decided to take a basic baking class with a good friend of mine @cakesbyjovi. I learnt how to make butter cookies, which I baked a lot at for a charity drive for Christmas last year. Since then, I have also tried making cookies, fondant, cakes and brownies. This hobby really helped during the MCO period.  

Q: Who’s your No.1 supporter?

A: I am fortunate enough to have the full support and motivation from my family, close friends, my team and clients. 


Q: If you had the chance to get bookings from international personalities, who would you like to work on?

A: I am a big fan of Tori Kelly. She is a great singer and songwriter… love her songs. She is also very beautiful. Would love to hear her story from being a teenager on YouTube to the superstar she is today. 

Q: Tell us about your studies in Australia. I understand you went to a beauty school there? How long did it take you to finish?

A: Yes, I took my Diploma in Beauty at Australian College of Beauty Therapy (ACBT) in Perth, Australia. It was a two-year course. It was tough because for international students like me, we had to score 90pc and above to pass! I studied and practiced like crazy. It was all worth it at the end because I was actually nominated one of the best students in my batch! 

I also took the opportunity to work part-time as a brow artist and masseuse for extra income and some experience. 


Q: For young people who is interested to “make it” in this industry, what advice would you give them?

A: Before you start, you must know what you want to do. Be original, do not copy other people’s work. Don’t rush and learn from your mistakes – things happen. There will always be obstacles both in life and in business. Don’t be too hard on yourself. Always pick yourself up and keep moving forward, step by step. Surround yourself with supportive friends, family and get a team (even if it’s just two people). You will need a lot of support, it will be hard if you do it alone. 

Stay humble, remember you were once learning, too. Always put quality first. It is okay to ask for help or advice. Always be open to learning new things. 


Cabrine (right) in a group photo with her team.

Cabrine with her Mum and siblings.





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