#LLAInterview: “Wherever you find yourself, pull up another woman” Farida Yahya, Founder, Lumo Naturals

Image credit: Farida Yahya

Farida Yahya is a social entrepreneur, an author and an active citizen. She is the Founder and CEO of Lumo Naturals, an Abuja-based natural haircare solutions brand that provides a combination of natural products, techniques, artistic styles and education about African hair and the importance of healthy and natural hair to naturalistas.

She is also the founder of The Brief Academy, a learning hub dedicated to developing and supporting female-owned startups to achieve wealth and scalability via training in business and leadership.  Farida is also the author of “Redefining Beautiful”– a book that chronicles Farida’s journey into the world of natural hair care business, lessons she learnt, as well as business strategies she used to grow her company; which is a wealth of resource for aspiring and existing business owners in that niche seeking to achieve scalability and avoid pitfalls she made while growing her company.

She is also the Founder and anchor of The Startup Show, an enterprise education talk show dedicated to helping Nigerian startups with the information they need to build community-driven solutions. In this interview with Leading Ladies Africa, Farida takes us on a journey of the inspiration behind the establishment of Lumo Naturals, the challenges she faces as an entrepreneur and why women should always support each other. Lean in!

 1. The inspiration behind becoming an entrepreneur (what are your roots, what connects your childhood to what you do now? Who are the most important people in your life and how did they impact you? )?

Answer: I have always been a curious child. I was born and raised in Maiduguri, Borno state. Growing up, I remember watching my mum start many companies before venturing into banking. Learning from her creativity and mistakes, I knew the importance of balancing passion with financial literacy, if you want to build a strong brand. 

 I didn’t realise that my love for haircare was so deeply rooted in my childhood until I started working on my book, “Redefining Beautiful,” in late 2018. I have always been drawn to haircare and telling people around me how to care for it. I have always wanted to build a community that is diverse and inclusive, and I believe my two outlets; Lumo Naturals and The brief Academy, have given me exactly that. And these are the places where I feel very fulfilled and thrive. 

 2.  The gap your business fills in the current market space.

I believe that Lumo Naturals is a home for anyone who embraces their natural beauty. From our niche of hair care treatments made with locally-sourced ingredients, to a uniquely designed detangling process, we fill the gap of personalised and flexible hair regimens that help our clients fall in love with their hair and also nature’s bounty.

Image credit: Farida Yahya

 3. The impact of your business’ products/services on your customers/clientele?

Let me tell a simple story to explain this: In December 2019, I was having a meeting with my general manager when a client came into the back office to talk to me. She recalled that I had washed her hair myself the first time she visited the salon four years ago, and I had drawn up a regimen that rebuilt her confidence in her hair’s potential to regrow.

“Four years later, and every set of stylists you have seem to be better than the last, and my hair is currently thriving at over 16 inches. I just wanted to really appreciate you, Lumo” she concluded.  That, I believe, is the impact of Lumo Naturals on its clientele.

 4. Challenges faced in the course of running your business?

The Nigerian startup ecosystem has numerous peculiar challenges. With respect to running Lumo naturals, I think two of these stands out;

i. Finding the right fit when hiring to bring your vision to life. The haircare industry in Nigeria is still very informal. Therefore, translating business models and breaking down design thinking processes at the beginning comes with so many obstacles. So when hiring, you are not only looking at skills and attitude, you will also need to invest in reorientation and crushing the limiting beliefs of your team members, in order to build your dream team.

ii. Working with an efficient ecosystem. From raw materials sourcing to proper nutrient analysis, to adhering to global best practices when manufacturing; the Nigerian ecosystem for natural/organic products is still at its infancy. This largely affects supply, availability and also pricing. 

Image credit: Farida Yahya

 5. Mistakes and lessons learned.

Three key ones worthy of highlighting are:

i. Business is a game of numbers. Learn to outline clearly where the money is, how it will be used, and what percentage will be used for maintenance. I learned this lesson many times in the beginning when we found ourselves with huge debt and a looming deadline that seemed almost impossible to meet.

ii. Always optimize your vault. Trends come and go, but style is forever as the popular saying goes. While niche is amazing for value proposition, always build and learn to move two steps ahead of the industry, if you plan to stay in the game long enough to make an impact.

iii. Build people. Founders are largely skeptical when it comes to handing over the operations of their business to team members. But, I have learned that building people who understand your systems, make delegating and building easy and seamless.

6. Milestones and achievements.

In 2018, we were the first haircare brand in Nigeria to build a mobile application that allowed our customers to not only book appointments, but also learn about their hair and how to build a regimen.

 We were nominated as one of Nigeria’s Emerging Startups to Watch. We have also received the 2017 Corporate Social Responsibility Award from I am Nigeria Social Media Week, and media mentions from the BBC, Leadership Newspaper and Blueprint Nigeria for our work with building communities that teach women about financial literacy.

Image credit: Farida Yahya

7. Success markers + Outlook.

With every woman who walks out of our door fulfilled and learns to embrace her natural beauty, we expand our community and stay true to our mantra. Clients choosing us over and again despite the competition, clients turned family who nominates us for awards and refers everyone they know to use our products – that for me remains the ultimate validation and true definition of success.

Lumo Naturals’ short term plan is to build upon our mobile application and be a leading voice in the use of technology for beauty. 

 8. Advice for younger female entrepreneurs.

i. Lift others. The odds are generally stacked against us. Wherever you find yourself, pull up another woman, leave the door open and share to build an army of strong women.

ii. The race is against poverty and hunger. While healthy rivalry is good for business, you must remember that collaboration serves to defeat the true enemy in our communities; poverty and hunger. 

9. Legacy/ What you would want to be remembered for.

I want to be remembered as the lady who founded the first community-driven haircare company to be listed on the Nigerian stock exchange – Lumo Naturals. 

 

The Leading Ladies Africa weekly interview series focuses on women of African descent, showcases their experiences across all socio-economic sectors, highlights their personal and professional achievements and offers useful advice on how to make life more satisfying for women.

Do you know any woman of African descent doing phenomenal things? Send an email to lead@leadingladiesafrica.org and we just might feature her.

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