“Your Skin Is A Priority” Meet Adi + Bolga Co-Founder Feranmi Ogundipe

If you meet Feranmi, you may wonder, “why does she love skincare so much? What is it about skincare that makes her tick?” Feranmi’s love for skincare stemmed from her personal battle with acne some years ago. During our conversation, she said, “I wasn’t one to have acne and at one point I had terrible acne and everyone was like “Feranmi, what is going on with your skin?”

I remember walking into pharmacies to ask for a solution and they couldn’t quite give me guidance. I remember going back and asking a new friend that I just met because I saw that she had some insight with skincare and she said, “I think you have combination skin and you should get a gel cleanser.”

I got the gel cleanser and just that small tip from her made my life so much easier. My co-founder and have had this type of experience so we said why don’t we just create something for skincare that will help people out?”

“Your skin is a priority”

Feranmi believes that skincare is a necessity for every person. That is one of the guiding ideas for the platform she and her co-founder are working tirelessly to create. However, she acknowledges that different reasons- a major one being money, keeps us from making our skincare a priority.

Adi + Bolga plans to help out with this by creating a budget-friendly system for buying skincare products. As Feranmi said, “we are trying to see if we can help people pay in instalments for some of the products because not everyone can afford to buy all of the products they need at once. This will really be for those who have serious problems with acne or other skincare conditions.”

Adi + Bolga is using technology to make it easier for black people to access skincare education, professionals, and products. On their website, you can take skincare tests and quizzes and this will be used in formulating a personalised skincare regimen for you.

Adi + Bolga is also the parent company of Bare the Community, an interactive online community for skincare lovers. On there, they share stunning skincare content and offer great advice and product recommendations for different skin types and conditions.

What you can learn from Feranmi’s business experience

  • Know your why: Your goal should be at the forefront of your mind. Be clear on your why. Know what you are in that space to do. This will guide the skills you decide to learn to run your business well. This will also guide the kind of strategies you put in place for your business.
  • Listen to your customers: Sometimes, people reach out to us for product recommendations and the product we may want to recommend is not within their budget or easily accessible in their location. This lets us know how best we can serve our audience. It may now lead to questions like, do we look for cheaper or more accessible products to recommend? Do we contact the brand to find out if they can make their product accessible to our audience?
  • Make your services clear: It is important to make your services clear and understandable to the people you are trying to serve. One of our main challenges is getting people to understand that our service is new. It is not common. We are introducing a new idea to the public and it is always a challenge getting them to understand what we do and why it is beneficial. Let’s say I develop a cream, that will be easy to sell because everybody understands what cream is and what cream should do. I can easily push that but a beauty tech platform is different. It is a very new idea so I need to make sure our services are clear.

You can join the Adi+Bolga community by following Bare the Community on Twitter and Instagram. For more juicy skincare tips sign up for their newsletters.

 

Anita Benson: The Anti-Skin Lightening Activist

Anita Oghenekome Benson is a Medical Doctor specializing in Dermatology. She is also a Public Health Specialist with a Masters in Public Health from the University of Sheffield.

Anita is a 2018 Mandela Washington Fellow and a Fellow of the Center for Global Business Studies at Howard University. She is an award-winning blogger and the founder of the Embrace Melanin Initiative, an NGO that focuses on eradicating colorism and harmful skin-lightening practices from Africa.

Anita is raising a generation of young Africans who embrace their melanin and are empowered, educated and self-aware.

The Embrace Melanin Initiative is quite a unique project, what led you to start it?

I was starting my final year as a Dermatology resident and I had to choose a topic for my thesis. I had always considered myself an anti-skin lightening activist because I had seen too many patients pay the price for their skin lightening practices.
Being a very dark skinned woman, I was constantly offered the option to lighten my skin by cosmetologists and well-meaning friends.

This motivated me to do a community survey to find out why people lightened their skin. I wanted to know what products they used and if they were aware of the side effects which included obesity, hypertension, diabetes, liver and kidney disease, skin cancer, premature aging, fragile skin, stretch marks, body odor, skin infections, and discolored skin.
A young woman is content with her skin color until the first time someone points out that it is 'too dark', 'dirty', 'less attractive than fair skin' - Anita Benson Click To Tweet
In a few months, I had interacted with more than 400 people and I realized that the magnitude of the problem and the level of ignorance surrounding the possible complications of skin lightening was way beyond the scope of my thesis.

The Embrace Melanin Initiative was established to address this problem.

What would you say are the major reasons African women engage in this trend?

Colorism is the major reason African women engage in skin lightening practices. It is a silent problem that exists in our communities and is simply defined as the discrimination of a person because of her darker skin tone by members of her own race/tribe/community/family.

A young woman is content with her skin color until the first time someone points out that it is ‘too dark’, ‘dirty’, ‘less attractive than fair skin’. Or she begins to notice the affiliation of some males and the media for lighter skinned women.
Kicking colorism out of Africa is the only way skin-lightening practices will ever be truly eradicated - Anita Benson Click To Tweet
She may even face discrimination at her job or a reduction in marriage suitors. Whatever the case may be, this silent discrimination leads to poor self-esteem and an unshakeable belief that lighter skin is the answer to all of her problems regardless of the potential dangers of skin lightening practices.

Men are not left out and some women even bleach their children. Pregnant women have also been reported to take certain pills to lighten their babies in the womb which can lead to all sorts of potential complications.

What can we as well as the government do to reduce this problem? 

We can stop the discrimination. It happens in the marketplaces, in the home, in church, at social events, in the media, at work.

Africa has been freed from slavery for hundreds of years yet we still mentally attribute more beauty and importance to anything or person that looks more foreign than native African. We need our women to know that they are beautiful not in spite of their dark skin but because of their dark skin.

The government can provide tighter regulations on the sale of skin lightening agents in the open market and ensure that the ones that have been banned by NAFDAC are not still freely available for sale.

Another very important role the government can play is to ensure that the side effects of every skin lightening agent are boldly printed on the bottle so that consumers can make an informed decision.

Too many women are suffering due to their ignorance. One of my patients died of kidney disease a couple of years ago due to chronic use of mercury-containing skin lightening agents.

What would you say has been your key learning points on this journey?

These have been my key learning points:

1. You can’t change the practice till you change the perception about black skin.

2. Kicking colorism out of Africa is the only way skin-lightening practices will ever be truly eradicated.

3. There’s a need to change the narrative on what it means to be black which goes past our perception of our skin color to dissociating being black from words like corruption, self-hate, crime, ignorance, illiteracy, and mental slavery.

4. Do not judge a person till you have heard their story. So many women who chose to bleach did not feel like they had any other viable option at the time.
Colorism is the major reason African women engage in skin lightening practices - Anita Benson Click To Tweet

What are the possible business ideas/solutions that can arise from solving this problem?

African skin-friendly products. Not the ones that promise to tone the skin but those that make the dark skin shine and keep it healthy and protected from the UV rays of the sun.

The cosmetic industry is a billion dollar industry however right now the focus of the majority is on skin lightening agents and solving this problem will create a vacuum for healthy skin care products suitable for the African skin.

What is your advice to women seeking to advance their career while getting involved in personal passion projects?

 

Women are amazing multitaskers and what makes us really special is that there’s no limit to the number of caps we can wear as long as we are able to manage our time effectively.

The best way to juggle a career with personal projects is simply to maximize the number of hours you have each day. Every morning I write a to-do list and try to get through each one before the end of the day.

Whatever your passion is, let it connect with your purpose - Anita Benson Click To Tweet

So many hours are spent doing things that are either distraction with high urgency or activities with little or no value. A to-do list will guide you toward achieving important deadlines with high urgency and give enough time for long-term development and strategizing.

You are allowed to slip from time to time and just do nothing because that’s what makes us human. Take it as an opportunity to get re-energized and come back better, stronger and more motivated!

Final words for our motherland moguls?

Nelson Mandela said, “It always seems impossible until it’s done.”

When I started this project, all I had was my passion to make a difference and my experience as a skin doctor. So many people tried to talk me out of it, even fellow colleagues because they felt it was a problem too great to tackle, too entrenched in our culture to ever be eradicated.

Whatever your passion is, let it connect with your purpose so that on the days when you feel down, you can draw from the inner strength that comes from actually making a difference in the world.

That inner strength will keep you moving till the sun comes out again.

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