When Ayo Bassey founded the COC Beauty School, her mandate was clear — to teach skincare product formulation and makeup production — in a world class, beauty institute with excellent standards. Ayo is the cosmetic business coach and head tutor at the beauty institute, and has helped raise over 100 beauty entrepreneurs in 10 countries and counting.
Presently, the world class institute boasts of an enviable roll call of distinguished alumni — all making great strides in the skincare and beauty industry.
In today’s special edition of #LLALady Boss, we’ll be spotlighting four of the accomplished alumni from the COC Beauty School.
Meet the New School
Photo Credit: Nma Arua
Nma Arua; Founder Classic Organics — a skincare brand focused on children, adolescents and women.
Photo Credit: Violet Adesina
Violet Adesina; Founder Amla Botanicals — a skincare brand focused on educating people and correcting misconceptions in the skincare formulating world. Amla botanicals currently achieves this through targeted online training for those who want to learn more.
Photo Credit: Oluyemisi Akinrinola
Oluyemisi Akinrinola; Founder Princess Naturals — a natural skincare brand produced specifically for adults and children. An ITEC certified therapist, Yemisi also runs a spa that offers services such as: facials, pedicures, manicures, massage, body polish, microneedling, microdermabrasion, microblading and waxing.
Photo Credit: Yejide Erogbogbo
Yejide Erogbogbo; Founder Eres Bella Organics — a skincare brand specialised in the development of natural and organic skincare products that target skin issues such as acne and hyper-pigmentation.
The Journey on becoming an entrepreneur
For these women, being skincare specialists is a passion they all have in common, however, their journeys into the world of business are different. For Nma, it was a passion to create lasting products for children and adults — and that passion and vision carried her through.
For Violet, it was a God-given vision that came from on high, which spurred her to constantly push and challenge herself in the face of difficulties.
Oluyemisi started out as an HR Executive, but quit her job after four years, because the lure of creating products to help women and men look good, was a stronger motivation. She started out with the production of organic black soap, and seven years later has expanded into a line of 20 products.
Yejide began her business because of a problem she needed to solve — dealing with post-puberty acne while she was studying abroad, and her mother coming up with a black soap recipe, which she improved on — provided the much needed impetus to start a business.
With their inspiring stories of grit, focus and determination, none of these women have looked back since they set out to impact the world through their line of business.
Navigating the challenges
The challenges of being an entrepreneur, is something all four women can readily attest to. From operating in the difficult and rather peculiar landscape of Nigeria, to the attitudes people have towards patronizing homegrown businesses, these are some of the hurdles they’ve had to learn to overcome.
“Being an entrepreneur is a very difficult task for both genders — especially in this country, and the journey hasn’t always been smooth. But these impediments have made me work harder to overcome them” says Nma. For her, securing funding was also a challenge but through hard work, dedication and an unrelenting devotion to her vision, she’s been able to surmount the obstacles.
For Violet, her own personal challenges are keeping up with the ever vibrant social media scene. “I’m naturally not a social media person, and so have struggled with posting content consistently. I’d rather stay in my workshop formulating, but have realized the importance of social media, and so employed someone to assist with that. It helps to push me out of my comfort zone.”
Getting clients to accept Nigerian brands was one of the first challenges that Yemisi faced, but the effectiveness of her products and word-of-mouth referrals helped her to surmount those challenges. Another challenge is the cost of having to generate power for her business; “we have to run on generators most times to attend to our clients and this eats into our profits” she says.
According to Yejide, the key is to not be afraid of making mistakes. “You need to hone your technical skills so you’ll feel confident when you want to cut loose and get really creative. Without solid technique, you will never become a truly versatile formulator. Don’t be afraid to make mistakes. If you never make mistakes, you’re playing it safe and your abilities are not evolving and growing. Some of my favorite techniques are the result of work-arounds I discovered while fixing a mistake.”
Lessons learned and the way forward
Being aware and being able to surmount challenges in the world of business is important, but so also is moving ahead and charting the path to a successful future.
“There are many advantages to being in the beauty industry” says Nma. “Not only do you help others feel confident about themselves, it also provides you with the opportunity to pursue more than one career path. Prioritizing your time is also something you quickly learn, you also learn knowing where to focus your energy — once you become excellent at doing all of this, in addition to holding yourself accountable and being committed to your vision, you’ll see that the sky is your starting point.”
“My approach is being honest, being open and always putting God first” says Violet. “I understand the place of consistency but I also know that it’s good to step back once in a while. I take time out to re-evaluate and re-strategize on ways to stay relevant. If you are looking to come into the beauty industry, let your major drive be to add value and not money, get standard knowledge of formulating and please be honest about what you give people to put on their skin — integrity always pays.”
Yemisi echoes similar sentiments: “Don’t make it all about money — yes, money is a major part of business success — but your passion and vision are the things that will keep you going everyday. Constantly seek to improve and reinvent yourself — get the right education and training, as this will make you confident of yourself and what you’re offering. It will also set you apart from quacks and competitors.”
Originality and being authentic to ones’ self are crucial elements to Yejide. “My biggest piece of advice for those looking to create something in the beauty world is: don’t try to be like everyone else. Learn to recognize the thing that you do, or have created that sets you apart from everyone else. Understand that you can’t be everything to everybody — be true to what you love and what you are passionate about, and the pieces will come together.
Importance of mentors and support networks
Mentors and support networks are key for those wishing to succeed at being an entrepreneur.
According to Yejide, “Networking with other dedicated beauty entrepreneurs and working with them has actually helped our separate businesses grow in amazing ways. I find mentoring to be very fulfilling and I encourage everyone to get involved regardless of the stage of their career. My mentors are the other women in the skincare industry that I’ve come to know and respect.”
On her part, Nma gives huge props to the COC Beauty School, acknowledging them for contributing to the vast knowledge she has in being a skincare entrepreneur. She also speaks of her love for Folorunsho Alakija — “She boosts my morale. She is such a brave woman that has made not just Nigeria proud but the whole African continent. She has also been giving back to society through her foundation Rose of Sharon.”
Violet credits Susan Baclay-Nichols — a great cosmetic chemist, who she’s learned so much from, her supportive husband, her business coaches, The Prophetic Tribe Sisters, as well as the COC Beauty School for her success in life and business. “It’s taken a whole village to get me this far” she says.
The Lady Boss Series is an 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.