With just 1,000 naira / 20 gh cedis, Ogechukwu Alexis-Obah kicked off her business in 2014. In 5 years, she has emerged the winner of the Next Titan, an entrepreneurial reality show with over 50, 000 applicants, has been listed on Forbes Africa 30 under 30 list in the Business Category and recently won the 2019 Nigerian Entrepreneurs Award for Most Enterprising Personality of the Year.
Her Skincare and cosmetics brand, Bodylikemilk has since grown and is one of the few Nigerian owned beauty companies, with foot prints in more than four West African countries. Oge had a chat about her skincare brand on the LLA Lady Boss Series. Enjoy!
Hello Oge, It’s great to have you on LLA, Can you briefly describe yourself and your business?
My name is Ogechukwu Alexis Obah, I am from Anambra state, 27-years-old born & I’m an entrepreneur , business owner , founder of Bodylikemilk a skincare and cosmetics manufacturing company which creates a wide range of products from skincare, haircare and lipcare.
We are a made in Africa brand, creating jobs for over 130 people monthly as well as impacting the lives of over 1 million Africans in Nigeria, Ghana , Togo , Ivory Coast, South Africa and beyond with our products and services. I am also the founder of Beautypreneur Africa, which is our new initiative to help aspiring young entrepreneurs who are in the beauty / fashion / art & crafts sector with training, mentorship and funding. Previously, I was a Nurse and healthcare practitioner before starting my company at 21.
You moved from studying nursing to being a successful beauty entrepreneur, tell us the story behind it? What would you say inspired BodyLikeMilk?
I left Nursing because I consciously needed to do better for myself and family. Bodylikemilk was birthed out of the struggles of having to survive and be the breadwinner of my family. My father had an accident that took things to the lowest it had ever been, we struggled to have a meal, we lived in an uncompleted home for a while. It was hard for everyone. I had to take charge as the first born.
Beauty was something I was already passionate about as a young female, I was so curious about my hair and why it wasn’t growing like other races, why these foreign products never work on our skin type and how to create something for our own type of skin and hair.
I was very creative with my hands so once nursing wasn’t working out, I knew what next I wanted to go into and I had my goals set out from the start .
When you launched your business, did you have prior knowledge on how you could run one? How did you make it work?
I did have a background in sales plus, I’ve always been very driven, be it with collection for school charities or whatever, I had the drive plus the passion, so that helped with sales.
Also, I studied a bit of marketing in Meridian pre university GHANA. I tried as much as possible to understand the market and how to manufacture on a small scale because I started with nothing, I had no money, and my savings were spent on caring for my family. I had nothing but God and my faith that Bodylikemilk would get me out of the situation I was in.
I started taking online courses later on as small money started coming to me, I invested in knowledge and that gave me more understanding. I made it work by learning on the job; I made some mistakes, learnt from them and kept pushing. No one is a perfect entrepreneur we all must face ups and downs. It’s how you pull through that matters.
What’s the biggest misconception about entrepreneurship that you’ve heard, how would you describe running a business?
So many, but one I’ll like to speak more about, not because of me necessarily, but for young aspiring entrepreneurs out there is that: Entrepreneurship is better than employment. This isn’t true. As much as the entrepreneurial life looks glamorous it’s not always the best. It all comes down to you as a person and finding what makes you happy every day. Here’s the thing about non-entrepreneurs. They can shut work off the second they leave the office. As an entrepreneur, the success of the business becomes part of your identity, and you bring that with you wherever you go. Running a business isn’t a sprint, it’s a marathon with hurdles. You have to take your time, be strategic and be open to bad days and a lot of challenges. It’s been tough , sweet and a life changing experience for me. I wake up every day and I feel like I’m about to fight another battle , it’s been amazing .
You’ve come really far in a short while, How would you describe entrepreneurship?
Entrepreneurship is the process of designing, launching and running a new business, which is often initially a small business. The road to entrepreneurship is often a treacherous one filled with unexpected detours, roadblocks and dead ends.
There are lots of sleepless nights, plans that don’t work out, funding that doesn’t come through and customers that never materialize. It can be so challenging to launch a business that it may make you wonder why anyone willingly sets out on such a path.
Yet despite all these hardships, every year, thousands of entrepreneurs embark on this journey, determined to bring their vision to fruition and fill a need they see in society. Entrepreneurship is a personal journey not all can walk this path but those who are called make the difference.
Early on in the year, you were listed on Forbes business under 30 list and won, you’ve been nominated for several awards and have won some. How do you feel about this and what is your secret to success?
I still think back and I’m shocked not that I made it this far but shocked that it doesn’t take so much to make it in life but just faith, a little faith like a mustard seed , hard work , passion and drive to do better every single day.
Forbes was a dream now that’s done and dusted I think bigger every day, I believe there’s no secret to success just do your best give your all and be ready to fight for what you believe in.
As an entrepreneur, you must have encountered different kinds of people, what have you learnt most and what will you say has been the highlight of your journey so far?
Highlights would be Next Titan Nigeria , Forbes and also several prestigious awards and events I’ve been opportuned to attend , I’ve met and have been mentored by billionaires and top personalities in business and I’m truly grateful for that.
I believe these are just a few of the highlights more are yet to come and the future is bright.
What are some of the challenges you’ve faced in the course of running your business, and what’s kept you going?
I’ve faced several challenges from starting out very small and having no backing, it was a struggle trying to push my products out in the market especially in my field which is highly saturated. I had no marketing or advertising budget, no branding, no social media presence or fame to help push my brand out there. I couldn’t save well enough because I had to pay the fees of my little ones as well as help my mum and also invest more in my business. The struggles were a lot but I kept going. I moved forward and I never looked back. I told myself I’ll never beg or lack anything ever again in 2014 and till date I never did. God has been my driving force and with my faith I’ve been able to scale through even hurdle I come across.
What’s your five-year plan for your business?
Five years from now I see us being in the top 10 African beauty brands, our products in all Africa countries, expanding our range and also growing as a brand in all areas. We want to create more jobs, empower more people. With Beautypreneurafrica we would have empowered over 2 million women and men with training and funding to grow or start up their businesses. Bodylikemilk will be a household name and a brand Africans all over can trust. We see our brand going global as well.
Can you share some strategic tips for upcoming female entrepreneurs to be successful in this path?
Gain knowledge- don’t just think up and idea and jump on it. Gain ample knowledge about that industry or field
Get feedback- ask experts, seek advice from those who have succeeded in your field and also learn from their mistakes
Have passion for what you want to do. this is something you will do for a long while, you need to do something you love.
Be ready for failure don’t be afraid to fail, it’s part of the journey, pick yourself up and keep on going.
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.