Nkechi Alikor’s profile:
Nkechi Alikor is an Entrepreneur and a Legal Advisory Expert with a broad transactional experience of over 11 years in Nigeria’s energy sector. She is also a Certified Capital Market Consultant registered with the Securities Exchange Commission and prior to setting up her own brand, Tsavorite, a fully home-‐grown home fragrance company, she worked as a legal counsel in one of the foremost indigenous energy companies. She obtained her L.L.B / B.L from the University of Lagos and the Nigerian Law School, respectively.
She has been able to add value to both industries through the application of her experience in governance structure, compliance, sourcing, and risk assessment to ensure the companies she works with comply with corporate laws and regulations. She has an intricate understanding of Company law as well as an in-depth knowledge of the internal workings of business entities. She is responsible for the creative direction, strategic growth and expansion of Tsavorite Home Fragrance Co as well as for providing legal counsel to the companies she consults with.
Tsavorite’s products are handmade in Nigeria using the finest eco-‐friendly and ethically sourced raw materials. The products are handcrafted in small batches to ensure consistency and attention to the fine details of luxury home fragrance. Some of the Company’s products include Soy Scented Candles, Fragranced reed diffusers, Room Sprays, Fragrance Oils and Wax melts. She is also very passionate about gender equality and youth empowerment and she volunteers her time towards various initiatives geared towards empowering the next generation of leaders. Nkechi is a member of the Chartered Institute of Arbitrators.
A brief Introduction about “Nkechi Alikor”
I am a wife, mother of two, lawyer and now recently a chandler. Before venturing into business, I worked as a full-time legal counsel in the Energy Industry. Now I just split my time between my business and my legal consulting career.
Can you tell us about Tsavorite, and what inspired this line of business?
Tsavorite Home Fragrance Co is an Eco-‐ conscious company that produces a line of Fragrance products for homes and offices using Eco-‐ friendly and ethically sourced raw materials. All our products are handmade, and hand poured here in the city of Lagos. I have always been a lover and heavy consumer of Home Fragrance, but I realized that the Nigerian market was dominated with a lot of fragrance products that were not necessarily good for the environment. There was a scarcity of healthier and eco-‐friendly options in the market and so I did my research and realized it was something that was obtainable. Also, at that time there were quite a few Nigerian brands and that was encouraging. The entry barrier is somewhat low and so I decided to start the business to give consumers like myself a healthier and non-‐toxic alternative.
What has been the Highlight for you since you founded your business?
There have been quite a few highlights. Achieving each milestone that I have set for the business is always a highlight for me. Building this brand organically from scratch, you can imagine there have been quite a few hurdles and wins on the way. The one that readily comes to mind is opening the Sniff Studio to customers and transitioning from production at home to our production facility in Oniru, Lagos.
From being a lawyer to entrepreneurship? What’s your story? What led to you starting your business?
I would say my story is that of one who is constantly evolving, one who has never stopped learning, never stopped dreaming and one who’s not afraid to keep exploring and discovering all the different aspects of her being. I am a lawyer and chandler today, in another 5 years, who knows? I may have uncovered yet another hidden aspect of my being.
I have always been a lover of home fragrance, so it was almost an easy trajectory for me to venture into this as a business.
Sometime in 2017, after a chance meeting & discovery of another Nigerian brand, I decided to look into producing my own. The more I researched, the more intrigued I was and the more convinced I was that I could do it. At the time, I called it my passion project because I was just focused on providing healthier and non-‐toxic alternatives. After much thought, I decided to pursue it as a business because I was confident of the value proposition I was putting forward and what I was contributing to the Home Fragrance industry in Nigeria.
How do you stay innovative as an entrepreneur? And Your Plans for your business In Five Years?
To stay innovative and relevant in any field or industry, you have to keep learning. You must devote a good number of resources to research and development because there is always something new, always something brewing. If there’s anything COVID-‐19 has taught us, it’s that we can make plans, but we must always stay prepared for any eventualities or disruptions in business or in the normal way of doing things.
However, in 5 years, we hope to have extensively expanded our distribution network by signing on more retail partners and hopefully having more company owned retail outlets. We also hope to transition into a full-‐scale factory which invariably means we would be able to train and empower more people.
Care to talk about Challenges on your journey and Lessons you’ve learnt?
There are different challenges and we take each one as a learning curve, but I would say availability of raw materials is definitely one of our biggest challenge especially at this time. We pride ourselves on being an indigenous company, however 80% of the materials we use in production are imported and I sincerely wish this was not the case but somethings just can’t be helped especially when you’re committed to using only eco-‐ friendly raw materials. For example, we use soy wax for our candles because it’s a better and healthier alternative to paraffin. Paraffin is easily obtainable in Nigeria, Soy wax on the other hand isn’t grown on Nigerian soil and so has to be imported.
Another challenge is the stability or lack thereof of our currency. The recent surge in the Foreign exchange rate has impacted our ability to source some of our raw materials and invariably impacted our bottom line.
Do you have mentors? Who are they and how important is mentorship to you?
I believe in mentorship and in the role of mentoring in business and in life generally. Mentorship can happen in different ways; it does not always have to involve developing a personal relationship and having one-‐on-‐one sit-‐downs with your mentors. You can learn from, be inspired and guided by different great people through books, interviews, or by working together and subscribing to their teachings. That being said, I do have mentors for different aspects of my life, career, business and personal life.
Tips on how you handle when the going gets tough?
Honestly, when things get really overwhelming, I just take a break to de-‐ stress and refocus. It could simply be taking a moment to catch a breath; or a day or two off for some selfcare. Sleeping is a great remedy for me, especially in times where I know I have no control over the situation, and it feels like I could breakdown at any moment. For me, my mental health is really important, and I cannot afford to have a burnout at any cost. It is especially key in this business environment where it seems like everything is set up to frustrate your efforts.
Have you at any point failed at something? How did you handle it?
Of course! Failure is an inevitable part of life. In this business, I have failed at a lot of things that I could probably go on and on if I were to list them all. I failed to get my packaging right the first time I tried to do it, I failed to secure the first location I initially wanted as a production facility; I failed to get my products in at a certain retail store; the list really is endless but the key is to identify the lessons, move on with the wisdom & perspective gained and do better. Another thing I would like to add is that failure is not final and most times not fatal, we just have to keep pressing forward with the lessons learned and new knowledge gained
Final words to entrepreneurs who want to go into this industry and women in our community?
There are quite a few new entrants in the industry and like I said earlier the entry barrier is somewhat low so what I would say to women and entrepreneurs looking to venture into this field, it may seem cliché, but passion is the name of the game. You have to be clear on your value proposition and what exactly you’re contributing or what you hope to contribute to the market because as with any business, there are different challenges and if you’re not clear on your why and on your value you may get frustrated along the way. So stay committed, run the course and with time it will all be rewarding.
The 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.