Economic development should involve every citizen of any country especially women, where they form a large part of the society. For Farida Yahya who runs a hair salon, every Nigerian woman must develop their potential to be able to take their rightful place in the Nigerian business sector as well as globally. Interview by Blessing Bature.
Our brand is dedicated to consistently providing high customer satisfaction…
At Lumo Naturals we provide full-service for natural kinky hair. We also sell herbal handmade hair products. Our brand is dedicated to consistently providing high customer satisfaction by rendering excellent service, formulating and manufacturing high quality natural hair products for kinky hair and furnishing an enjoyable atmosphere at an acceptable price and value relationship. We also maintain a friendly, fair and creative work environment which respects diversity, ideas and hard work. Our team of highly skilled professionals are guaranteed to take care of your tresses as well as share advice on best practices for your natural hair. In October this year, Lumo Naturals would have put in five years of operation as a hair care solution brand. Being of service to the women of Abuja has been a wonderful experience I must say.
We can boast of having over 500 steady customers…
I make bold to say that patronage is very high. When we started in 2013, we were not sure about a lot of things. We were skeptical about going natural because we were not sure if the natural look was for the majority of women in Abuja. We were not sure if they could afford to go natural because going natural is as expensive as it is hard to maintain. However, we had to settle for going natural and by the special grace of God, it has been really rewarding. Today we can boast of having over 500 steady customers which is something we are happy about. Looking back, that is a huge achievement being that we started with just about 10 customers. So having such a number now in just a few years of being around is amazing. Even people from outside Abuja patronize us. We also have customers who even, when they travel out of Abuja, will not want any other person to do their hair. They wait until they are back.
It is people like me with a background in biochemistry who should be in hair business…
The idea for the Jungo Project was to create a community of women who support each other. When I decided to go into hair care business, many of my friends wondered why, as a biochemist, I would choose to care for someone else’s hair. As far as they were concerned, that is supposed to be left for people who do not have formal education. Or worse still, people who do not actually have a plan for their lives. But since I ventured into the business I’ve come to realize that it is people like me with a background in biochemistry who should be in hair business. And I must add that it’s been interesting doing just that. So the Jungo Project is some sort of hair club for all the women in the community. We felt like we needed to know each other very well to be able to help each other because I found out that many of the women that come to us are also business women who sell one thing or the other. Some do other businesses like sowing, knitting or have their own hair or skin care brand. These women I found out, were also going through the same challenges that I went through when I started my own brand. This birthed the idea of the Jungo Projects were we try to look at ways to help each other. We sometimes bring in professionals who mentor us and talk to us about how we can as women, balance life, work and career while taking our leadership role in the society.
The Nigerian business atmosphere is a very interesting one…
The Nigerian business atmosphere is a very interesting one. Very different from most that you find in other parts of the world. Most peculiar is the issue of power supply. Even as we speak, I’m sure you’ve noticed that there are a lot of generators powered around us because of lack of electricity. That goes a long way to tell you how much of a challenge that in particular is for our business. It is not something we can solve as individuals. We need the government and other organizations to come to our help. For me, I think that is the biggest challenge.
The next I would say is financial challenge because everybody is in business to make money. Business people are always looking for money to invest in their business. So financial challenge is there and it would be good if the government can sponsor women who own businesses just so that a little burden is taken off them. Accessing loans and grants I think, should also be made easier.
Nigeria is one of the countries with the highest number of women entrepreneurs in the world…
Recently, the office of the president lunched the ease of doing business programs. I have heard some good things about the program so I am looking forward to engaging them to find out more about the project. I feel like if more of these programs are initiated, women will actually take their place in the world. It might surprise you to learn that Nigeria is one of the countries with the highest number of women entrepreneurs in the world. According to Bureau of Statistics, 41 per cent. Imagine what we can do with just a little support. We need access to finance and skills when it comes to creating the right business that is sustainable. What we have is women businesses that is mostly reactionary. Most women in business are just there because they want to support their families. They do not have any business skill neither do they know what it means to have good a business plan or how to really do business. I think if these issues are addressed, businesswomen will change the economy to a large extent with their contributions.
The idea of working with someone in the beginning is so that you gather enough skills to start your own business…
I want to believe that I have impacted the lives of those who work with me. Most of them are either single mothers or people from so low backgrounds they have had to drop out of school to support themselves. Once they join my employ, my first question to them is usually where they would want to be in the next five years. And they are always shocked at the question. I make it clear to them that they can’t work for me forever because if they do work for me forever, then I’d have failed as a teacher and a leader. The idea of working with someone in the beginning is so that you gather enough skills to start your own business. So I want to believe that LUMO Natural has in its own little way, contributed to national development by employing these people. We have actually raised a lot of households from poverty and increased their financial status so that they can in turn fund their children’s education.
As you look for a job, look out also for a skill to learn…
I think what is most important is for one to discover that thing that is in line with your natural skills. Poverty is a fact that we cannot denied. A fact that drives everyone to look for something to do to satisfy their hunger. But my advice is that, as you look for a job, look out also for a skill to learn. One that will fit you into the kind of job you want to do because if you love your job it becomes easier and natural. And whatever the challenges that pop up at your job, it would be easy to handle because that is what you love doing. Also, don’t wait to be employed by the government. The reality is that the size of government is just two per cent in most countries of the world. So government cannot really provide all the jobs. Be willing to go out there and try for yourself because if I for instance, did not do that, I would not have been able to actually employ people. I feel people should start thinking in the line of being employers of labor and not just employees of labor.
.Networking is very key to business…
Develop yourself because self-development is very important. I find people doing businesses but they don’t know what to do which is okay when you are just starting. But at least ask questions, find mentors, people that are in your network and know about it. Networking is very key to business because there people who can actually connect you to what you are looking for to enhance your business.
Stand out by thinking outside the box…
Another thing you should do to boost your business is to create. Be willing to create on a regular basis. You can’t just keep doing the same thing the same way, you have to stand out by thinking outside the box. You have to put yourself in your customers’ shoes; that is the only way you can solve their problems. It’s not all about making money. You can’t just give them anything and expect them to patronize you.
Without a support system that works, I don’t think I will be where I am today…
The reality is that there is actually no perfect balance. You have to sacrifice one for the other most of the time. You actually have to look at yourself and decide which is most important to you. For me, family is most important. Without a support system that works, I don’t think I will be where I am today. So I look at it that I have to give both sides its own dues. When I wake up in the morning I ask myself, what do I do for my family? Then I align those things and I make sure that there are people that to help me. Plus I have a very supportive family.
YAHYA IN SHORT
Farida Yahya is the CEO of LUMO Naturals Hair Salon.
The astute entrepreneur is a graduate of bio-chemistry from the University of Maiduguri.
Her hair salon helps carriers of natural kinky hair, within and outside Abuja, manage and keep their hair healthy.
She is from Adamawa State in North-east Nigeria.
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