Social entrepreneur, Ifeoma Adibe-Chukwuka, is CEO/Founder, The Omaness Skinfood Company, Nigeria’s first social impact company providing a range of indigenous natural bodycare products that enriches the skin and unlocks empowering economic opportunities for women along it’s value chain. Ifeoma has been in the business of entrepreneurship for over a decade. She started the business, when no other company in the market was deliberately engaging women to distribute any sort of indigenous produce and has ever since built a solid customer base and currently has a unique distribution chain program that recruits and supports women through the production, promotion and distribution process of her skinfood products. Scroll down to enjoy our interview with her.
Can you briefly describe yourself and your business?
My name is Ifeoma Adibe-Chukwuka, I am a 33year old social entrepreneur, I was born into a lower-middle class family of seven. Being raised from this background where I watched my parents work tirelessly to meet the basic needs of I and my siblings instilled in me the motivation to want to become an entrepreneur because I wanted to create my own opportunity and a future that was better than I had and I thought being an entrepreneur was the only way I could.
My first venture into entrepreneurship was in tertiary institution, not long after I got admission into Lagos State Polytechnic in 2005 I noticed there was a huge gap between the job offers polytechnic graduates got than their contemporary university graduates in the labor market and I thought I could do something about it. So at a young age of 19, I started organizing skill enhancement and corporate readiness programs, work exchange placement and volunteering outreaches for polytechnic students to get them better prepared and exposed to better job opportunities. This got me started on a journey to where I am today as a Social Entrepreneur and what I am doing with The Omaness Skinfood Company .
Omaness Skinfood is Nigeria’s first social impact company providing a range of indigenous natural bodycare products that enriches the skin and unlocks empowering economic opportunities for women along our value chain. We produce a line of high-quality, natural bodycare products using indigenous ingredients that are primarily sourced from Nigeria. Asides from offering wholesome alternative products that draws beauty inspiration from Nigeria’s rich traditional heritage to meet the everyday skincare needs of our consumers, Omaness Skinfood is a company that is dedicated to empowering and providing women with sustainable income through every step of the production, promotion and distribution process of our skinfood products
What is it like being a female entrepreneur, and why did you chose to be one?
It can be immensely challenging being a female entrepreneur especially for women like me, when you consider the so many hats I have to wear; from being an everyday mum, wife and still having to oversee the day-to-day operation of building a sustainable business. Be it single or married, I know that female entrepreneurs face a host of similar challenges in the marketplace, varied by only the degree of impact. Nonetheless, regardless of these challenges, I am of the belief that therein also lies one of our greatest strength because regardless of how much we are stretched, as women we have the natural capacity to take it all in and still do more and be more!
I choose to be an entrepreneur because I saw it as the most liberating way to create the future that I wanted and it puts me in a position to create opportunities for others
What new innovation have you introduced to your business?
At Omaness, we are innovating the skinfood distribution chain in Africa.
When I started the business, no other company in the market was deliberately engaging women to distribute any sort of indigenous produce to end-consumers even down in the grassroot. With Omaness, I have been able to develop an innovative and independently women-driven social distribution model that encourages women to startup enterprises they can profit from as they retail our skinfood products and a skinfood evangelist program that young girls can also earn an income from as they promote our products in their social circle
What will you say is responsible for your success so far?
What’s responsible for my success is the combined effort of all the women who come together to make, promote and distribute our skinfood products.
From the artisan women in local villages who harvest and process our raw materials, to the women who are with me at our skinfood kitchen formulating products, to the creative young girls who evangelize and spread the word about our products in their social circle and the enterprising women who start-up micro-enterprise to retail and ensure our products are available to consumers. These women are the ones responsible for my success so far. And not forgetting women like my mentor, Mrs. Tokunbo Chiedu, who always makes herself available to teach me the ropes of running a business
In your opinion, would you say that there are any unique challenges that female entrepreneurs face?
Female entrepreneurs face a host of challenges that can be immensely daunting; in my opinion one unique challenge we face is asserting our leadership position and not having to come across as being too vocal especially when you work with men. Nonetheless the female entrepreneurs who change the status quo do not consent to this challenge, they have conviction in their position as entrepreneurs. We ask for what we want. We don’t accept what is unacceptable and we manoeuvre our business with our feminine and intellectual power.
What values and principles have helped you so far?
The three top values that have helped me so far in business and as a social entrepreneur is – EMPHATY, SERVICE AND EXCELLENCE
I’ve found myself connecting with the plight and struggle of many resource-poor, disadvantaged women and young people and it always gets me thinking what I can do to make it better. This is a pattern that has been constant with me ever since I can remember up until I started my first organization at 19 and even till now.
Another strong principle that has kept me grounded so far is my faith and how I see Entrepreneurship. I see it differently and for me I see Social Entrepreneurship as my Pulpit, as a platform God has called me to do ministry and serve others with my gifts, skill and resources. So you’d find me asking myself everytime I want to venture into any business- “How does it serve the greater good of others? Does it create opportunities that other people can benefit from?’
And finally, Excellence- I’d never put something out there that I will not be comfortable spending my money on- so I go the extra mile to make sure everything I do has a touch of excellence.
Why did you decide to go into this particular line of business?
I had my first real skin-enriching experience with Shea Butter in 2016 while I was pregnant with my first child. Before then I was actively involved in the day to day operation of the four (4) community learning program I established under the first non-profit organization I founded.
During this period while working and interacting with many of the resource-poor women who were beneficiaries of the program, I discovered the financial challenges many of them were facing as a result of their inadequacies to earn decent income from their trade. This became a pressing concern for me as a female social entrepreneur as I could connect with their struggles of many of these women. Soon after, I got the gift of shea butter from one of the women who was a beneficiary of the community learning program and started using it, I experienced the remarkable way it helped to soothe my pregnancy skin woes better than the other conventional products I had used and I thought why wasn’t she making enough money from sales of her shea butter if it was that good?
That’s when I had a light-bulb moment; So many millennial Nigerians like me do not know about the remarkable skin-nourishing, healing and beautifying properties that were loaded in many of our Indigenous produce like Shea butter. So I thought to myself and asked ‘WHAT IF THEY KNEW? WHAT IF SOMEONE ENLIGHTENS AND BEGIN TO SPARK UP THE INTEREST OF CONSUMERS TO START DEMANDING AND USING OUR INDIGENOUS SKINFOOD INGREDIENTS IN THEIR EVERYDAY SKINCARE?”
As I pondered on this questions, I quickly realized that there was a need in the market for a social impact skinfood brand and that indigenous produce like Shea Butter had the potential to become a sustainable means of livelihood of women if they can be spun into everyday skincare products that appeals to modern consumers
This is the reason why a month after I gave birth to my daughter in April 2017, I decided to venture into the skinfood business and start the Omaness Skinfood Company- a social impact skinfood brand built on a mission to foster economic empowerment of women.
Today, we not only formulate our range of skinfood products using indigenous ingredients that are primarily sourced, harvested and processed by women, we have also established a unique distribution chain program that recruits and support women to make money as they evangelize skinfood in their social circle and retail Omaness products in their various community
What are some of the challenges you’ve faced, and what’s kept you going?
As a new business that is mission-driven, our products are moderately priced so we need the numbers to break even, so one of the major challenges I’ve faced is getting the interest of the number of consumers we want to start paying attention to our products and the impact their purchase can make. The reason for this is that our working capital is limited at the moment so we are not able to fund the kind of marketing budget we need to target more customers, support the promotional effort of our women merchant and funds to also recruit and keep the skilled personnel we need on our team.
What has kept me going is that fact that I know that this too will surely pass. The vision I have for Omaness is strong and compelling enough to bring in the kind of resources we need to move it forward
What’s your five-year plan for your business?
- My five-year plan for Omaness is to ensure that our skinfood products is available to every customer who needs it in every major city in Nigeria
- To own a bigger and better equipped production facility
- To set up skinfood processing clusters and women cooperative in 5communities across Nigeria
- To scale up our business of skinfood network program and increase the number of women skinfood merchants and evangelists to 1,000
What do upcoming female entrepreneurs need to do to be successful in this path?
It should no longer be news to anyone that the next generation of leading businesses are going to be led by social entrepreneurs because the world is in dire need and would create space for the innovators and entrepreneurs that would rise up and proffer solution to the many problems plaguing the world today. So, my advice to young females who want to be successful as entrepreneurs is to forget about doing business as usual; Do business that you are Passionate about, Do business that serves a Purpose and Do business that has Sustainability rooted inside of 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 firstname.lastname@example.org, and she could possibly be featured.