#LLAInterview – “If anyone, male or female will do the needful, build according to plan, focus and be diligent, they will succeed.” Oluwafeyisayo Ogundipe
It is easy to throw in the towel and shut down your business, given the economic terrain in Nigeria, but ‘Feyzo’ as she is fondly called wasn’t born a quitter and has chosen to keep pushing her brand, Fedora Organics. Feyisayo’s story will inspire every entrepreneur who has been thinking of quitting to hold on, because that’s what she is doing.
You will love her interview with us.
Hello Feyisayo. Can you please tell us a bit about yourself?
Oluwafeyisayo Ogundipe is an enigma of some sorts. I am a very passionate and vivacious woman with strengths in creative arts. My artistic nature expresses itself in makeup and special effects as well as music. Popularly called ‘Feyzo’ by friends, I am the last born child of a family of six children. I lost my dad at a very young age and experienced challenges growing up. My mother, Evangelist Ruth Olubunmi Ogundipe, fought through and prevailed raising all six of us against all odds. My mother stirred my interest in makeup and beauty. As far back as I can remember, my mum has been an avid collector of beauty and skin care products. I remember experimenting with the many products that lined her dressing table. My love for makeup and beauty also stems from a desire to make people better, feel better and look better. I have been able to distinguish myself in the field with my art which involves creating abstract body art with special effects. I constantly enjoy to push the boundaries of makeup and creating looks that are out of the norm.
Did you always know you were going to be an entrepreneur?
Not exactly. What I did know was that I was unique, creative and adventurous. All the jobs I had didn’t quite help maximize all the characteristics that make me, ME. I saw a future where I controlled my own empire. I saw my dreams on people, in homes, in countries of the world. So maybe in a roundabout way, I knew paid employment wouldn’t cut it for me all the way.
Can you tell us about Fedora Organics? How did it all start?
Ah! My baby. Fedora Organics is a purely Nigerian makeup and skincare brand focused on providing healthier and safer options for makeup product users, as well as skincare product users. 90% of our ingredients are organic and locally sourced. We are working on hitting 100% locally sourced ingredients. Fedora Organics actually started as a desire to help women and make people feel better about their skin. In 2013, I started a series on Facebook where every Friday, I would post easy DIY facial treatments using ingredients around the house. I would spend the rest of the week experimenting and then share successful results on Friday. Let me tell you a quick story. As a teenager, I suffered major acne and eczema bouts. My mom tried popular drugstore brands; none worked. It dealt with my self-esteem. She eventually resorted to natural remedies. Aloe vera became a staple in our household. I got relief and I think the seed must have been sown with that experience.
The beauty industry is quite saturated in Nigeria. Did you have any fears before starting out?
Oh absolutely. I still do. People are loyal to their choice of skincare products and makeup products. Ladies take pride in saying,” I’ve been using so and so brand for this number of years”. Getting them to commit to another brand, an indigenous and locally made one, was a fear. It’s a challenge but we are making progress. Products that deliver on promises engender loyalty.
What makes Fedora Organics stand out from other skincare brands that exist?
Every single one of the products in our entire line was formulated to meet a need. The recipes are not tryouts from YouTube or some other DIY site. They are formulated to meet a specific and existing need, time tested on someone with a relevant skin situation before being released. So results are guaranteed before they are announced.
How were you able to source for funds to start the business?
The business didn’t start with a cash stash somewhere. It started experimentally with very little or no cash. I must have bought ingredients worth less than N5, 000. I guess the commitment showed it was not merely a hobby. Family and friends pitched in soon after. The business is gradually paying its own way but the next level is imminent.
What challenges have you faced since you started and how were you able to overcome them?
Packaging – this is an ongoing challenge. Getting containers locally has proven to be a herculean task. Buying online is expensive giving the exchange rate. By the time a batch of containers are exhausted, the next batch is double the former price which affects pricing. Pricing is another challenge. As much as we love to make people happy and beautiful, we also have to make profit. So our prices keep jumping up. Ingredients are on an upward incline. Marketing is also a challenge. Convincing people to buy into the brand is a challenge but it keeps getting better.
What strategies did you use to get your customers to trust the brand?
No grand strategies really. Like I said earlier, high performance products market themselves. Referrals have been a major pivot. We also encourage our clients to send in reviews which we, with their permission, post on social media. Nobody wants what no one else wants and vice versa.
Would you say that it is more challenging for women to succeed in the business terrain in Nigeria?
It’s not a gender thing. It is challenging for a new business to thrive in the business terrain in Nigeria. Gender bias is a luxury I don’t indulge in. It’s purely sentimental to think one’s success in business or career has anything to do with gender. Sentiments will hinder success. So if anyone, male or female will do the needful, build according to plan, focus and be diligent, they will succeed. I do business as an entrepreneur, not as a female.
What would you say is responsible for your success so far?
I won’t call this journey successful just yet. We are afloat. We work hard. Due diligence and lots of prayers too. Mentorship is another key factor to this journey so far. I have two business mentors and a number of friends who have taken my matter personal. I don’t hesitate to run to them when things get to a head.
Can you tell us some of the values you live by?
Faith. I am an incurable optimist. I believe in Nigeria. I believe in myself. I believe in the brand Fedora Organics. Prayers. I pray like I don’t intend to work hard. Hardwork; “See ye a man diligent in his business, he shall not stand before mere men but before kings. Excellence; I am my biggest competition and critique. I question the status quo and note ways to do better the next time. No excuses; I believe no excuse is good enough to hinder me from doing the needful. One of my mentors, Tunde-Success Osideko trained me this way. I have learnt not to give excuses (or take excuses for that matter). Kindness; everyone created by God deserves my kindness. Since you said ” some”, let me stop here.
What will you say is your most significant achievement so far?
Four years being an entrepreneur. As tempting as it has been to pick up my CV and find a job, I haven’t caved.
What do you do during your leisure time?
Look for trouble. I sing, I dance, I read, I dance, I sing and read and then watch movies.
Where do you see yourself in the next five years?
I see myself as a thought leader in the organic skincare industry and makeup industry. I also see myself ontrolling a global brand with presence in major African countries and being a mentor and role model for many young women and an icon of hope and possibilities.
What advice do you have for young women who want to strike the right balance between career and family?
Well, I don’t have a nuclear family of my own yet but I know for a fact that we always have time for what is important to us. You have the capacity to do all that you desire. Be a wife, be a mom, be a prayer warrior, be a mentor, be a business mogul, be sexy etc. Don’t take my word for it, spend a week studying superwomen like Mrs Ibukun Awosika and Tara Fela-Durotoye amongst others. If you can imagine it, you can certainly do it.
The Leading Ladies Africa Series is a weekly interview series that focuses on women of African descent, showcases their experiences across all socio-economic sectors, highlights their personal and professional achievements and offers useful advice on how to make life more satisfying for women.
It is an off-shoot of Leading Ladies Africa, a non-profit that promotes women empowerment and gender inclusion for women of African descent.
Do you know any woman of African descent doing phenomenal things? Send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org and we just might feature her.