Originally trained at Obafemi Awolowo University, Ile Ife, Nigeria as a physiotherapist, the foray of Morolake Ogunbeku-Bello into business was needless to say, a daunting task.
Marrying her background in the medical profession with growing up in Nigeria, Morolake was well positioned to acknowledge the importance of Ori (African shea butter), a viable product used extensively in Nigeria. But she went further, after various works of research and training, to reinvent this product. She calls her brand the Ori-Ewa Shea butter
In this exclusive interview, she talks about her journey so far and why every home should have Ori-Ewa shea. Her story is inspiring as much as it is challenging. Happy reading.
Tell us briefly about your brand, Ori-Ewa shea butter.
Ori-Ewa shea is an indispensable companion and every home must have one. This is because from our head (hair) to the toes (foot), shea butter is very useful. Apart from preventing hair breakage and promoting hair growth, it’s effect on joint pain and inflammation is magical.
In addition, here are a few of its other benefits/uses: Good for rough/dry skin, skin rashes, and a peeling skin It helps to heal small skin wounds, sunburn; It can also remove blemishes and wrinkles.
On the whole, Ori-Ewa shea makes the skin healthy, and can even prevent stretch marks during pregnancy.
How did you start the Ori-Ewa brand?
The business idea came when I was looking for something to do outside the medical field where I was originally trained. I have always wanted to be an exporter. So the search began and then I came across non-oil products and shea butter happens to be one of them.
I did an extensive research on how to start, by training and joining an international association on shea butter.
I also joined a cooperative here in Nigeria to know more about the product and for proper training because shea butter is more than what we see on the street and most especially when you’re looking at the export side of the business.
After this, I went for the international conference of Global Shea Alliance (GSA) in the Benin Republic and several other conferences organized by USAID, NEXTT, NEPC etc.
Indeed, the startup capital is not quite much, but the cost of training, as well as conferences, is quite high. Although some are free, becoming a member of the cooperative and international body is not.
What inspired you to start it?
Like I said earlier, I got into the business because I was looking for a source of extra income and export happened to be my target. I needed to start small.
I was counseled to start selling locally before getting international offers and buyers. That was how I started shea butter formulations and packaging; packing them in small plastic containers based on the training I have had.
What and what obstacles stood in your way when you started and how did you overcome them?
As for me, I don’t see obstacles. Rather, I see them as challenges and those things I need to work on. However, a major issue remains the quality and pricing; most people compare the price of Ori-Ewa shea butter to the shea butter they sell on the streets as well as in the local markets.
Little do they know that the local ones are usually exposed to direct sunlight and dust making them dirty, thereby lowering their quality. Having said that, it’s important to emphasize that Ori-Ewa Shea is pure, clean and packed under good hygienic conditions.
The Quality of our shea butter is top notch. Ori-Ewa Shea is unique just because the quality is not what you can find in any market in Nigeria today. It is Grade A, with an export quality that has all the healing properties intact.
When it comes to our brand, quality takes the front seat. And that’s the major reason why our customers keep coming back.
Compared to when you started, how large is your market right now and how do you hope to scale it?
To the glory of God, I started in a very small way with 1kg, then 5kg, then 7kg and so on. At the moment I have buyers in different parts of the country and with God’s help, I have some of my products in the USA already, Texas to be precise.
Right now, I’m seriously on the lookout for partnerships with international companies that make use of shea butter.
Looking back, what are those two key qualities you think any budding entrepreneur must have?
The two key words are; One, take that step (as in START). Two, DON’T GIVE UP (once you’ve taken that bold step, the next bolder step doesn’t quit, don’t stop, don’t give up, just keep moving).
The reason is that life is all about risk taking and it’s better to fail as a brave woman and not as a coward who hasn’t tried anything. People would say “she actually tried even though she failed; she didn’t give up“.
Remember the popular saying, quitters never win and winners never quit. Even the Bible says it that no one has put his hands on the plow and look back is fit for the kingdom of God. Just keep going, don’t stop.
In addition to taking the bold step and being resilient, what other qualities do you think a budding entrepreneur must have? Share your thoughts here
Patience Nkosi, makeup artist and founder of PashyN, affectionately known as Pashy, is a small town girl with an unstoppable passion for transforming and enhancing how women look and feel through makeup.
Pashy is obsessed with making woman look extraordinary by eliminating self-consciousness in young women one brush stroke at a time. She believes that if you look good, ultimately, you do better.
After completing her BSc in Computer Science, Pashy found that her true calling was in makeup. SLA contributor Jeanette Nkwana talked all things beauty, business, and PashyN with her.
Have you always wanted to go into the beauty industry?
It is true when they say that certain situations only happen because they are all part of the process of leading you to your true path.
Being in the beauty industry was never really my plan. I somewhat “stumbled” upon an opportunity which led me to my destiny, a founder of a beauty brand & makeup artist at PashyN.
What challenges did you face going into a market (that you have previously worked in) as an entrepreneur?
Starting a company isn’t as easy as it may seem. One needs to do thorough research and have a good plan before they execute. One major challenge I came across amongst many others was acquiring startup capital, a setback which delayed my progress.
Who do you look up to in the industry and how do you identify with him/her?
I’m such a groupie of so many of international makeup artists. I follow them on Instagram, some have worked with famous international celebrities. Makeup artists like Jack Emory, Alexandra Annele, Sonja Deluxe to name but a few inspire me.
I draw my inspiration from them and try to incorporate that in my own craft. Literally, I’d spend hours and hours on YouTube checking out their stuff. They pretty amazing.
What is the biggest misconception people have about what you do and how do you address it?
Society has placed us with the burden of enormous expectations of what beauty seemingly is or should be. The popular phrase, “true beauty lies in the eyes of the beholder” speaks to me in volumes. To my understanding, this implies that beauty is NOT standard. It moves, transforms and differs from person to person. Therefore no woman needs to be validated by society norms.
Makeup is not a way to hide a woman’s beauty but rather to enhance the beauty that already lies in her. Many women that had never had a single touch of makeup applied on their faces today wear makeup simply because I had taught and made them understand this phrase.
You are now an official ambassador for Elizabeth Arden, how did this come about?
My first ever job was in retail where I found myself working as a cosmetics generic. Five months in the field, I worked for one of the world’s leading prestigious brands, Elizabeth Arden.
Today I am proud to say, in a period of just over a year, I became an award winning Elizabeth Arden Brand Ambassador. This was after long hours of hard work and determination. I set goals and I achieved them, being a go-getter worked in my favour.
In our field of work, we are given sales targets which we are expected to meet on a monthly basis. Targets set according to how the counter would’ve performed in the previous year ultimately rounding off to a yearly target. In my first year of being with Elizabeth Arden, my sales performance skyrocketed and I had grown the counter just over and above 60% from the previous year. My performance led me to where I currently am, an Elizabeth Arden Ambassador.
What did you do to become a makeup artist?
I’ve been trained under Elizabeth Arden as a beauty advisor with the right skills set for a clear understanding of skincare and makeup.
However, most of the advanced makeup I practice was self-taught. I believe one can never stop learning therefore, I do dream of someday enrolling in an international makeup institution where I can further my skills.
What is the most fulfilling aspect of what you do?
Too often we find that we women tend to have a low self-esteem. This may be due to events from their past or present that make us forget to look after the one thing that speaks volumes when we walk through the door, our canvas, the face.
A person buys your face before they buy you. It is the reaction a woman shows when she finally get to realises how beautiful she is through my art that’s most fulfilling when it comes to my work. Knowing that I’ve changed one’s perspective about themselves and giving them a dose of confidence in their looks makes my heart complete. It drives me to reach my absolute potential with each client.
If you had a time machine and could travel back in time, what would you do differently and what would you do the same?
If I had a time machine and could travel back I’d probably believe in and trust myself a little more. I’d use my God-given talents to my advantage as opposed to shying away from them.
My teen years were probably the best times of my life and I wouldn’t exchange that for anything, I would relive that time of my life any day.
What can we expect from PashyN three years from now?
Expect the unexpected. Our ultimate goal at PashyN is to be amongst one of the best leading brands, and with time we can only believe that shall come to pass.
Three years, I believe, gives us enough time to build a solid foundation and prepare to take off into greatness.
What three qualities/skills do all makeup artists need to be successful?
Firstly one needs to have the passion for this art in order to succeed, that way it is not seen as a job but rather play time. Secondly, one needs to be very artistic and thoughtful. This simply means that they need to be able to envision a certain look before they can demonstrate it or bring to life.
Thirdly, one needs to portray a certain personality in order for them to be able to relate with clients. It’ll be your job to make them feel comfortable because the last thing a client needs is someone who they are not compatible with.
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