Stella Ndekile is the Founder and CEO of Nuban Beauty, one of Nigeria’s leading beauty brands, providing premium quality cosmetic products to Africans. She also founded St. Nika Apparel, a growing brand that caters to the fashion needs of pregnant women and nursing mothers. The Serial Entrepreneur and Business Development Strategist has over 12 years of experience across different roles in management, digital marketing, public speaking, procurement, and process analysis. As CEO of Nuban Beauty, she oversees strategy and management, recruitment and training, core operations and client management, as well as administration, sales, and marketing. She is also a Medical Laboratory Scientist with a Bachelor’s in Medical Laboratory Sciences. Before entrepreneurship, she worked in different institutions, including the University of Lagos Medical Centre, as a Medical Laboratory Scientist. With a drive to proffer life and business solutions, she combines speaking engagements with her growing career in innovative business development.
She takes us through her entrepreneurial journey in this inspiring interview. Read and Be Inspired
As a successful female entrepreneur, you’ve shattered barriers and achieved remarkable milestones. What key attributes or mindsets are essential for women striving to excel in business and overcome societal norms?
Thank you for your interest in my perspective as a female entrepreneur. Women indeed have immense potential to excel in business and challenge societal norms, but they also encounter unique challenges and barriers along the way. To overcome these obstacles and achieve success, certain key attributes and mindsets are essential.
Female entrepreneurs must fearlessly pursue their dreams, taking calculated risks and learning from failures to forge a path forward. Believing in one’s abilities, even in the face of adversity, can inspire others to have faith in the entrepreneur’s efforts too. Bouncing back from setbacks and responding effectively to challenges is crucial for sustained progress. Understanding and connecting deeply with customers, staff, and partners fosters positive relationships and a supportive organizational culture. Consistent effort and determination help overcome obstacles and drive progress toward goals. The ability to see the bigger picture and formulate effective strategies to capitalize on future trends can set successful entrepreneurs apart. A willingness to be flexible and open-minded, adapting strategies based on new data or conditions, is vital in a rapidly changing business landscape. Building strong relationships and networks creates opportunities for partnerships, investments, and support. Being open to gaining new skills and consistently evolving knowledge is crucial in dynamic industries. Recognizing the importance of self-care and family time prevents burnout and fosters better decision-making.
It is essential to remember that every entrepreneur’s journey is unique, and these attributes serve as valuable guidelines for aspiring female entrepreneurs. With the right mindset and determination, women can shatter barriers and achieve remarkable success in the business world.
In “Success Uncharted,” you share your journey as a female founder in traditionally male-dominated industries. How did you navigate gender-related challenges, and what advice would you give to women entrepreneurs facing similar obstacles?
I believe that women have a lot of potential and opportunities to excel in business and overcome societal norms, but they also face a lot of challenges and barriers that can hinder their progress and growth.
We can take the power out of gender-related challenges by refusing to believe a word of it. By laughing at gender barriers as we overcome them, and by believing, beyond the shadow of a doubt, that we have what it takes to lead. Thankfully, there are plenty of women trailblazers like Chimamanda Adichie, Mo Abudu, Hillary Clinton, Ibukun Awosika and many more who have risen to the top of male-dominated industries. Having a mentor or a role model can really help develop confidence and it is something I have found very useful throughout my entrepreneurial journey.
Your brand, Nuban Beauty, has become a symbol of empowerment for women. How do you ensure your products and marketing efforts resonate with your diverse female audience, celebrating their unique beauty and individuality?
I believe that beauty is diverse, inclusive, and individual, and every woman deserves to celebrate her unique beauty and individuality. To resonate with my diverse female audience, I ensure my products and marketing efforts follow these approaches:
Our products are designed to suit the skin tones, types, and conditions of African women, often underserved in the mainstream beauty industry. Nuban Beauty offers a wide range of shades and finishes for lipsticks, eyeshadows, foundations, concealers, and more. We also prioritize using high-quality and environmentally friendly ingredients and materials.
We feature models of different skin tones, types, and conditions in our campaigns. Our aim is to showcase the diversity and beauty of African women, inspiring them to embrace their natural features and express their personal style. We also represent different segments of our target market, such as age, gender, income, etc.
Partnering with those who positively impact the lives of African women helps us reach and attract new customers. We collaborate with influencers, bloggers, vloggers, and journalists who can endorse our products, increasing brand awareness and loyalty.
These approaches ensure our products and marketing efforts resonate with our diverse female audience, celebrating their unique beauty and individuality.
With over 12 years of experience across various roles, you possess a diverse skill set. How have these roles contributed to your ability to lead and make well-informed decisions as an entrepreneur?
Having a diverse skill set is crucial for an entrepreneur, as it enables me to adapt to different situations, challenges, and opportunities while making well-informed decisions.
As a medical laboratory scientist, I learned to conduct tests and analyze biological samples accurately and reliably. This background allowed me to apply quality control, measurement, and testing techniques to develop and improve my products, ensuring they meet high standards. Additionally, my scientific training equipped me to make data-driven decisions based on research and evidence.
In my role as a business development strategist, I honed my ability to identify growth opportunities for various businesses. This taught me to be creative, strategic, and proactive, leading to successful ventures like Nuban Beauty and St. Nika Apparel. I excel at finding and reaching new markets and customers, creating competitive advantages, and building strong brand awareness and loyalty.
Being an author added to my skill set, as I wrote and published my book “Success Uncharted,” sharing my knowledge and insights with the world. This role taught me how to effectively market and promote my book, using various tools like blogs, podcasts, social media, and events to reach a wider audience and inspire aspiring entrepreneurs.
These roles have provided a well-rounded perspective on entrepreneurship, covering product development, marketing, sales, customer service, innovation, leadership, management, finance, and more. They have shaped me with a growth mindset, encouraging continuous learning and self-improvement. In essence, my diverse skill set has played a pivotal role in my journey as an entrepreneur, empowering me to navigate the ever-changing landscape of business with confidence and competence.
Throughout your career, you’ve been a trailblazer in business and as a working mother. Could you elaborate on how you balance the demands of entrepreneurship with your role as a parent and what support systems have been instrumental in your journey?
Balancing entrepreneurship and parenthood is undoubtedly challenging. For me, the key has been prioritizing, setting boundaries, and seeking help when needed.
Early on, I realized the importance of effective time management and scheduling. Being intentional with my time allowed me to be fully focused on work when needed and present with my children during family time, preventing the two from blending together.
Prioritizing tasks and accepting that perfection isn’t always necessary has been liberating. I dedicate significant time to critical tasks and delegate others to my team, fostering their growth and freeing up my own time.
Support systems are indispensable in this journey. It’s a team effort involving my family, employees, friends, and sometimes professional services like babysitters or housekeepers. My partner’s incredible support and shared parental duties have been invaluable in understanding the commitment required by my entrepreneurship.
Peer support networks of other women facing similar challenges have also been beneficial. Sharing experiences, strategies, triumphs, and even failures offers reassurance and opportunities to learn from each other.
Embracing uncertainty and owning my journey have been crucial. Flexible and resilient approaches help navigate blurred timelines, emergencies, and changing plans.
Balancing entrepreneurship and parenthood is a dynamic journey; it evolves as both my business and children grow. It’s about making the best decisions in each moment, knowing that having it all isn’t necessary, but rather, enjoying the journey as a parent and an entrepreneur.
“Success Uncharted” offers valuable insights for women striving to achieve their goals. Can you share a powerful anecdote or lesson from the book that speaks explicitly to women’s challenges and triumphs in their pursuit of success?
I firmly believe that women have immense potential and opportunities to succeed, but they also encounter significant challenges and barriers along the way. That’s precisely why I share my personal stories and lessons in the book.
Nuban Beauty is one of my most successful businesses, and it is also one of my most challenging ones. I started Nuban Beauty in 2015 while working as a medical laboratory scientist for several years. I had always loved makeup and beauty, but I was frustrated by the lack of products that suited the skin tones, types, and conditions of African women. I decided to create my own products that would cater to the unique needs and preferences of African women, who are often underserved by the mainstream beauty industry.
However, I faced various challenges, including limited funding, a lack of knowledge and experience in the cosmetics and business industries, and insufficient support and recognition.
The scarcity of funding required me to use my personal savings, borrow money from friends and family, and apply for loans. Additionally, I had to handle all aspects of the business by myself, from product development and marketing to sales and customer service.
Despite lacking formal education in cosmetics or business, I embraced a learning journey, researching and studying various sources to acquire the necessary knowledge and skills. Managing finances, operations, and the supply chain became a learning process that I was determined to master.
Furthermore, I encountered skepticism, criticism, and discrimination from various individuals, which made it challenging to gain support and recognition within the industry and society. As a female entrepreneur, I faced doubters who questioned the quality and effectiveness of my products.
Nevertheless, I remained tenacious and unwavering in my pursuit of my dream. I refused to give up and persisted through adversity. My consistency even in the face of uncertainty was a key factor in Nuban Beauty’s immense growth.
Ultimately, my journey as an entrepreneur has taught me invaluable lessons about resilience, adaptability, and the potential to overcome obstacles. I hope my book inspires and empowers women to face their challenges head-on, as they carve their paths to success and embrace the rewards of their hard work and determination.
Since 2022, your company has partnered with the Safety for Every Girl Foundation to address period poverty. How do you perceive the role of businesses in tackling social issues, and could you highlight other social causes that are close to your heart?
I strongly believe that businesses play a crucial role in addressing social issues and can use their resources, influence, and expertise to create positive change in the world. By doing so, businesses not only improve their reputation but also foster customer loyalty, boost employee engagement, and make a significant social impact.
One of the social issues that is close to my heart is period poverty, the lack of access to sanitary products, hygiene facilities, and education for women and girls who menstruate. It affects millions of women and girls worldwide, particularly in developing countries. To tackle this pressing problem, Nuban Beauty joined forces with the Safety for Every Girl Foundation in 2022. This non-governmental organization empowers girls and women by providing them with reusable sanitary pads, hygiene kits, and menstrual health education. It also advocates for policies that support menstrual hygiene management and gender equality.
Under our campaign named “Nuban Beauty Pads A Girl,” we introduced the ‘ULTRA Collection,’ with 50% of its proceeds dedicated to providing girls in rural areas with reusable sanitary kits lasting for a minimum of two years. By raising awareness and funds through our website, social media, and events, we were able to assist hundreds of girls and women in Nigeria in experiencing safe and dignified periods. This partnership not only increased our brand loyalty but also allowed us to fulfill our social responsibility while staying true to our vision and mission of empowering women.
Another cause that holds significant importance for me is education, as I firmly believe it unlocks potential and opportunities for individuals and societies alike. To promote education, especially for girls and women, Nuban Beauty supports various initiatives and organizations. For example, we have partnered with the Digital Marketing Institute to provide entrepreneurs with the skills to leverage technology and scale their businesses.
As a thriving entrepreneur and business leader, what advice would you offer aspiring entrepreneurs embarking on their journeys?
Being an entrepreneur is not easy, but it can be very rewarding if you have the right mindset, skills, and passion.
Start a business not just for money or trends but to provide a unique solution that makes a positive impact in the world. Passion for your mission will keep you going through tough times. Embrace failure as an opportunity to learn and improve your strategies. Build strong connections with partners, employees, customers, and competitors, as they can open new doors for your business. Take calculated risks, make informed decisions and understand potential outcomes. Always be learning — whether that’s new skills, recent trends, or understanding your competition better.
Remember, every entrepreneur’s path is unique, and what works for one might not work for the other.