17 November 2012

Nigeria: How Childhood Hobby Turned Out a Business Venture'

While her mates were busy buying off hair products and looking beautiful, this mother of two lacked the very condiment to spice up like her peers. But her love for hair, despite lacking it drove her to try versatile styles, which in the nearest future, would lead her to own her own hair manufacturing factory in Nigeria. Ada Igboanugo writes

A lawyer by profession, Ms Bukola Babajide didn't exactly imagine her life turning out this way. Starting out like every normal kid with an ambition, Babajide got her first degree in law from a Nigerian university and later went further for a post graduate and masters in London. School life for Ms. Bukola was apparently fun considering she spent most of her time with her friends and loved ones although there was one thing that bothered her. "I don't have hair. I mean not exactly not having one, I'm one of the people that don't have hair and my hair is so soft that it doesn't need relaxing."

Straightening it most times did the trick, she revealed. Giving up and accepting her fate, she instead chose to make the best of it by exploring and discovering the various usage of weaves and wigs. She made longer and more stylish hairdos, all to the envy of her friends who had it all, and so much that It was certain she would be a merchant, "When people hear that I manufacture hair now, they have this knowing expression saying if I hadn't done this it would have been very unusual."

She fell so deep with weaves that even as a young lady, when her mother goes on trips, she would insist her mother gets her weaves instead of clothes that any girl would opt for. She started being recognised for her love for weaves with her natural hair in little or no sight; predictions of the future became almost inevitable.

Overtime, when she became old enough, she started shopping for the weaves herself. But not knowing the perks of it being a novice, she fell easily as a prey to fake weave merchants. She decided then to let it go after many trials and failures. She finished school in Lagos and made way to the United Kingdom for greener pastures. It was then and there she decided she would not come back to Nigeria to put on the switches on job searching. That's when she reignited her love for weave-making and her decision to start making hers came flashing: "I told myself that if I'm coming to Nigeria and I don't want to thread on the job search terrain.

So I did a lot of research on the manufacturing sector. Communicating with various people in the sector and seeking advice from veterans that helped put me in perspective, as well as helping me with the discovery of the mission and the vision for the company and with time I was able to make it, though hard at first but I made a breakthrough"

For her, 2007 was a breakthrough "my first consignment came out that year." She first started from London and Paris before shifting back to Nigeria, "because of the fact that I can guarantee the quality of my product due to the fact that I don't encourage counterfeit or fake products. I suffered from fake products, so I made it mandatory that it's not fake. Even my synthetic products are as almost original as they come. I make sure that the raw materials are of good quality and original for the product that I have. "

Accessibility isn't rocket science. Getting to purchase and use this product isn't as exclusive or hard to reach either. Its circulation has gone as far as salons and stores for one's buying convenience. Major salons in Lagos have started making use of just this product for the simple but vital reason of quality. But it's not only in Lagos one can have access to it, "Normally I have agent all over Lagos, but we also have agents in Osun State as well, we also have in Ibadan, Oyo state. Normally people go to the agent, the agent get the product from us and they have their own client that they sell to, we have saloons and shops about that sell our product as well.

"It comes in different varieties, depending on the range. Gold is the premium package. It is the mixture of the 100 percent human hair chocolate range. Its price range depending on the length as well, "the short one is about 3500 Naira and the longest is sold for 8000 and 12,500. There's also the velvet chocolate, which is the 50-50 types. It consist of 50 percent human hair and 50synthetic yet original like as well. Then the third, which is the most affordable, is the synthetic and which can be described as your average human hair in the market today. It also comes in different types, be it curly, wavy or straight. "

So far, customer's response to the product is overwhelming, "More than I expected", she says. It mostly comes from recommendation. References, "Yes to the people that know them because it cuts out the bureaucracy that comes with the other sales. I sell wholesale price and quality material. I get calls for my product from far and wide. I had a customer who actually went through my page on Facebook, took my number and called from Port Harcourt saying she was interested and actually wanted the product"

There is a package for everyone. Affordable, enough to flee from the deceits of hair vendors who go about selling original hair products in pretense as she revealed, "half of what is sold at Balogun market is fake. By the time you use the so-called Brazilian hair that is sold, it turns spongy after some months."

The affordability of the product is probably its niche. The fact that you can get a quality hair product and Nigerian as well from someone who understands the average Nigerian's hair is relieving. But what is more relieving is the fact that Bukola intends to launch her own wafting machine in Nigeria. "I've been manufacturing in Malaysia, though like I initially said, I buy my own raw material but I assemble In Europe. But now I'm bringing it to Lagos. Now you get the chance to re-weft your slacking weave, this is inevitable for all weave types, including the natural hair, at an affordable rate also. This machine will also wash and treat your weave. "

Though with an intention of empowering women, shifting from your regular merchant to one which proves to be better can be a bit of a drag at times and needs a lot of convincing to divert ones attention for good, but Bukola says, in as much as she would like her business to prosper, she's not "breaking anyone's back or ruin someone else's business. I'm just trying to shed some light on what is valuable and what's not and what's what investing in. A lot of people come with the impression of having brought weaves from Dubai, but Dubai doesn't produce hair. So it can't be original or quality. It's obviously fake or mixed. "

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