#LadyBossInterview: “Within the next five years we want to be recognized as THE TOTAL SCENT SOLUTION providers in Nigeria”#LLA Meets Bolaji Fasanya & Buky Akinmboni, CO-Founders, Scentify

Founded by two friends Bolaji Fasanya and Buky Akinmboni, Operations Director and Creative Director, respectively, Scentify is a luxury fragrance brand for the home and body, created with the purpose of delivering the ultimate scent ambience through products such as scented candles, Reed Diffusers, Wax melts, Room Sprays, body products and Car Fresheners. With a vision to be recognized as THE TOTAL SCENT SOLUTION provider in Nigeria in the next 5 years, this duo embraces commitment and lots of values that puts them at the top of the game.

Can you briefly describe yourself and your business?

The business was founded by two friends Bolaji Fasanya and Buky Akinmboni. Bolaji started her career at Insight Communications Agency in Nigeria where she joined their management trainee programme and worked for 4 years before relocating to the UK.  In the UK, she decided to use her finance degree to progress her career; her current role is in the finance department of the number one and largest Recruitment Company in the world.  She is the reason there’s a Scentify. She woke up one fine day and felt the thought of selling candles was a nice business idea. Today, she functions as the Operations Director.

Buky is at heart a communications girl. With over 10 years’ experience in advertising and brand management, she has developed a wide range of knowledge and skills in advertising, media, events and PR. She is very passionate about scents and smells. Fueled by her passion, she left paid employment in 2016 to manage the Scentify brand and works as the Creative Director for Scentify. In this role, she oversees, New Product Development, Strategy, Marketing and Sales. With Scentify, Buky is one happy girl as she is able to live out her two passions –Scents and Communications.

Scentify is a luxury fragrance brand for the home and body. Our products are hand made with love and created with the purpose of delivering the ultimate scent ambience that will inspire its users to do and be better. If our products are being used at the office, it’s our aim that the fragrance helps create the perfect atmosphere for you to do your work optimally. If used in a restaurant or hotel, it should create the perfect ambience for conviviality or relaxation as the case may be. If used on the body, it should make you super confident so you can go smash your goals.

We offer products such as scented candles, Reed Diffusers, Wax melts, Room Sprays and Car Fresheners. We are also have a range of scented body products which includes Scented Body Butters, Hand Creams, Hand Washes, Shower Gels, Luxury Bars Soaps, Body Mists etc

What is it like being a female entrepreneur, and why did you chose to be one?

Being an entrepreneur whether male or female, requires a lot of hard work; being a female entrepreneur means you may be required to put in double the work as we continue to find the balance between our businesses, family and other social commitments. As females we are more emotional and this gives us an added advantage in a lifestyle business because we can feel and express our emotions in a better way to bond with our customers that are made up of mostly women.

We may be one of those people that have entrepreneurial genes in our body because we had a choice not to start a business but we could not resist the pull. The business was not borne out of a necessity to survive but it came from a place of how can we give back? We both knew we wanted to start a business that will add value to the Nigerian economy through job creation and improvement of the well being of the people etc. We tried a couple of business ideas that did not take off as planned but we did not give up and kept on trying until the Scentify brand came into fruition.

What new innovation have you introduced to your business?

We are always looking to improve our products and processes. We are currently working to integrate technology in our processes to create efficiency and improve our capabilities.

What will you say is responsible for your success so far?

Our successes so far is based on resilience, passion, being agile and basically love for what we do. Lots of focus and knowing that failure is not an option

In your opinion, would you say that there are any unique challenges that female entrepreneurs face?

We don’t think there are any gender specific challenges that female entrepreneurs face when compared to their male counterparts. Both genders deal with the challenge of raising capital for the business, building a strong brand, creating a good corporate structure and governance, rising and fluctuating exchange rates, in-availability of good quality raw materials in Nigeria etc.

A woman may experience gender specific challenges in her paid employment, but the playing field as an entrepreneur is different. She may thrive better in the latter because the power to make her business succeed is in her hands, if she can put in the hard work, diligence and time.

What values and principles have helped you so far?

We try to always do things right. In a country where cutting corners and sharp practices are pitted as a norm for business survival, we strive to do things properly and by the books. We are really very open and honest business women. We seem to have gotten more backlashes from adopting this stance than help but it’s who we are and we cannot be anything else.

One of our core values is to ‘inspire’ – so we have inspirational/ motivational quotes on the labels of our products and partner with or sponsor events that align with this value.

Our business is also built on the principle of giving, where we support at least one good cause or charitable organization per quarter.

Why did you decide to go into this particular line of business?

Well, my partner and I had engaged in other business ventures before Scentify but they never really took off. However we were both very committed to getting a business off the ground. At the time it was all about having some sort of investment outside of our 9-5s. So even though we were not getting much luck with our endeavors we never gave up and kept thinking of what else we could do.

One fine day, Bolaji came across the idea of candle making amongst the numerous ideas she has had in our search to start and own a business. She pitched the idea to me and highlighted all of the reasons it was a good business idea – the barrier to entry and startup costs were low, and it was a novel idea at the time in the Nigerian market. Nobody was really making scented candles locally. The idea may also connects with the fact that her late dad owned a candle manufacturing business amongst his numerous ventures; he was also a serial entrepreneur and as they say the apple doesn’t fall far from the tree… lol

For Buky, being a scent and candle lover, the idea of being able to create the scents she loves and to share those scents with the world was just too exciting to pass. And so we started this journey.

So the decision to go into this line of business was both strategic and passionate. Strategic because Bolaji identified a gap –which was that scent lovers had to wait till they travelled to stock up on scents for their homes. These candles are heavy and eat into baggage allowance; which is like gold to Nigerian travellers. Passionate because not only did we see a business opportunity we could tap into, but Buky was also very passionate about scents and fragrances.

For us these are two critical requirements to start a business. Building the business is another kettle of fish with its own numerous requirements lol!

Once we started the candle business, we realized more opportunities in the scent world that we have since tapped into. What we started as a candle business has now grown into a scent solution (physical spaces and body) business. Our products now span scent solutions for body, home, office …and really any physical space.

What are some of the challenges you’ve faced, and what’s kept you going?

Raw Materials: Sourcing raw material has been a major challenge. We import 100% of our raw materials to achieve the quality we want to maintain. The local materials do not cut it for us. We want people to use our products and find them to be as good or even better than the foreign brands they were used to. The challenge of importing raw materials is multidimensional:

Stock levels: because we cannot just pop into the market to buy stock, we have to be very diligent about our stock planning. We cannot over stock because that’s just tying money down but more importantly some of the raw materials do not have a long shelf life and if they are not used in time, they impact on the performance of the end product. We also cannot understock because the most painful thing that can happen to any business owner is for customers to demand your product and you are out of stock. Balancing the stock levels has proven a major, major, piece of work

Pricing: Importing 100% of our materials also takes a toll on our pricing and profitability. One of our goals when we started the business was to make our products affordable such that people just entering the category find our products relatable. Early on in the journey, we identified that we could not just rely on the existing candle users to be our customer base. Compared to the US market, candle use per home is extremely low in Nigeria. And so it was clear that we would need to recruit new users into the category. We wanted these users to land our products and make it a part of their lifestyle- not because anything fantastic was happening, but just because that is how life should be. For this to happen we had to ensure the pricing did not break the bank and also the product was of great quality. With that in mind, keeping the price affordable and maintaining the quality of our products and packaging has taken a toll. But we are confident that over time, we will have the numbers that will make up for the sacrifice.

What’s your five-year plan for your business?

Over the next five years we intend to achieve the following

Physical Location: We also intend to set up our flagship store where people can come and have the Scentify Experience. This way we are even closer to our customers and can get a better feel of what they want/desire.

Complete Scent Solution Offering: Within the next five years we want to be recognized as THE TOTAL SCENT SOLUTION provider in Nigeria. Whatever your scent needs are, we will have a product or two to address those needs.

What do upcoming female entrepreneurs need to do to be successful in this path?

Generally, for any entrepreneur to be successful, they need to become masters at their game. They must be consistently learning and have a strong desire improve, on themselves, their product/ services, system, structure etc.Know your business – know everything concerning your business and industry.

Also, keep the consumer at the centre; ensure you are monitoring the pulse of the consumer and giving them what they want and not what you what or what you think they should want. This is actually the more difficult part because unearthing what consumers need is quite complicated.

Lastly, we’ll say keep your eye on the competition to know what’s happening in your space, but focus on your goals – meaning you must have written well thought out goals that you are willing to stick to come what may. Do not get distracted by the activities happening in your space so much so that you stray away from our goals.

Specifically, to succeed in the scent industry, you must have a keen nose that is able to whip up commercial scent blends and you must have really good packaging. Customers in this category are quite vain, they do not just want a product that performs, and they want it to look appealing too. For them image and associations are important, so if the product does not seem to add to their cool credibility, even if it performs, they will not associate with it.

The LLA Lady Boss Series is a weekly interview series that highlights the achievements and entrepreneurial journeys of African female entrepreneurs. The idea is to showcase the Leading Ladies who are transforming Africa and the African narrative through enterprise and business.

It is an off-shoot of Leading Ladies Africa, a non-profit that promotes leadership, inclusion and diversity for women of African descent.

If you know any kick-ass women of African Descent doing phenomenal things in enterprise, email lead@leadingladiesafrica.organd she could possibly be featured.

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