Bessie Duke-Odu: The Flair Hair Academy was born out of my refusal to rest on my oars

Bessie Duke-Odu
Africa has come of age and needs to get industrialized hence sharing my expertise through the Academy Click To Tweet

Bessie Duke-Odu is the Proprietress and Lead Posticheur at Flair Hair Academy (Nigeria’s foremost Human Hair Academy). With a degree in Microbiology, she started off merchandising human hair and hair accessories and in 2010. The Bessie consciously decided to delve further into the research, manufacturing procedures and processes of human hair.

She is Korean-trained by the renowned John Korea Hair School in South Korea. Bessie has also acquired degrees from various institutions in Germany, the United States, China and the United Kingdom.

Bessie Duke-Odu is also a World Bank Scholar, an alumna of the prestigious Enterprise Development Centre (PAN-ATLANTIC UNIVERSITY), a professional member of the Complementary Therapist Association (UK) and is listed in the Embody Magazine UK as a qualified service provider.

Can you tell us what most people don’t know about you?

Hmm…that’s a broad one. Over the top of my head, I’d say my tenacity. I rarely give up on things or people. I’d rather buy furniture from IKEA where I can lay the manual out flat, assemble the bolts and every other fitting accessory and work my way to the finished look.

You have a degree in Microbiology, why did you go into merchandising human hair and hair accessories?

Now, that sounds like two extremes but I guess I naturally flowed to my inherent side. As early as when I was 8-9 years old, I could weave hair and I picked that up by just watching.

At the time when I started merchandising, running the hair and accessories enterprise gave me the ample time to tend my new baby and adjust to motherhood without the pressures of a paid 9-5 whilst still being economically viable.

What lead you to start Flair Hair Academy?

Flair Hair Academy was born out of my refusal to rest on my oars, challenging status quo as it were. Essentially with the knowledge acquired over time, floating a range of wholly made in Nigeria hairline would’ve been exclusive to me. But Africa has come of age and needs to get industrialized hence sharing my expertise through the Academy.

What’s one thing about your industry that you didn’t expect before getting into it?

As the progenitor in this, it has its first mover advantages as well as disadvantages. Acquiring knowledge has been hugely capital intensive. Nonetheless, every accomplishment begins with the decision to try as successful self-actualization lies just outside your comfort zone.

Every accomplishment begins with the decision to try - Bessie Duke-Odu Click To Tweet

You’ve been trained in South Korea, China, Germany, and the United States, can you tell us a bit about that and why you decided to choose these countries?

Absolutely, I realize that knowledge is power but it takes my enthusiasm to keep pulling that switch. From my research, I discovered that Korea played a huge role during the early years of world industrialization especially after wig making moved to the East.

All the named countries have what is unique to them and I am glad to give enrollees a good mix. As an ardent learner, I never restrict my self-development to capital or anything else. I would rather trade in my phone or other paraphernalia to learn a new skill than to walk around with all of that unskilled.

I also recognize that going to YouTube to feed off all sorts is an option but I made a conscious and informed decision to research and invest; knowing that a small amount of knowledge can mislead people into thinking that they are more expert than they really are.

I'd trade in my phone to learn a new skill than to walk around with all of that unskilled Click To Tweet

What kinds of services do you offer?

Our bailiwick is in training, handing down well-researched hair manufacturing skills to people who value their development. We train people on how to set up mini hair factories, improve existing salon services, upscale human hair businesses from just buying and selling to production capacity thus reducing to the barest minimum importation on finished hair goods into the country/continent. We also offer contract manufacturing to hair vendors.

Our courses include

  • Machine Wefting,
  • Wig Making,
  • Human Hair Texturing,
  • Hackling,
  • Wig posting,
  • Preparation of raw hair,
  • Handtied Wefting,
  • Human Hair Processing and
  • Human Hair dyeing.

We have an upcoming Wig Making Workshop this July and enrollees will learn the history of Postiche, how to ventilate a closure, frontal, full wigs, create templates, lace repairs and so on, all from scratch.

We help them develop their value proposition and build a sustainable business model canvas. At Flair Hair Acamedy, we have had enrollees from Cameroon, Kenya and within Nigeria. Practically anyone (novice or hair guru) can go through our training and learn the ropes effectively.

What do you think makes Flair Hair Academy different from others?

Simply put, our resolve for greatness and constantly outdoing ourselves.

What movie did you watch recently that stood out to you?

Aww…. Definitely “Me Before You”. I teared up and got very emotional. It is a must watch. Look for it!

Sponsored post

Kiba Bam: I am fulfilling my passion of empowering young people to unleash their potential

kiba bame she leads africa
Kiba Bam: When l started l had limited technology and resources but l was a woman on a mission. Click To Tweet

The size of Africa’s hair market is just mind- blowing. The demand for human hair is increasing by the day and  from this we have seen the increase in the supply of this contemporary ‘ladies’ essential’. We have with us CEO of HAIREXPRESS Premium, Kiba Bam sharing her entrepreneurial experience.

Born and bred in Cape Town, South Africa, Kiba’s heart of entrepreneurship was kindled at the age of 9 when she was working in her parent’s shop. This exposure forced her to think on her feet and be mature enough to handle the business’ finances.

The young lady then moved to Johannesburg to study Clothing Management and from then she was in the retail industry for 9 years. From learning the dynamics of the industry Kiba had sparks of interest to tap into the undiscovered potential in beauty retail. This led to the birthing of  her human hair distributing retailer and custom wig making company.

When did you “charter” HAIREXPRESS?

HAIREXPRESS premium opened for its first day of business in August 2015. I started the business by myself in my parents’ house, working from my bedroom. The business retails human hair bundles, custom makes wigs and is a distributor to salons.

When I started I had very limited technology and resources but I was a woman on a mission. Results and progress is all I cared about. I started the company because this was a dream God gave to me. l believe I started at the right time because everything was just flowing and HAIREXPRESS came together.

Initially, I never had funds to start the business but as I said things just worked out for good. I got pregnant and the company l was working for in Joburg started retrenching staff. I was due to give birth to my daughter and decided it would be done in Cape Town where my family is.

In the midst of my maternity leave I got a call to say l was getting laid off. Funny enough there was no panic in my spirit because consciously I did not intend to go back to Johannesburg. This call then meant I would get a retrenchment package of R50k, it came and l  invested part of this money into buying my first stock. The rest is history as they say.

What successful ideas have you implemented to boost your business?

Re-working my marketing plan was the best thing I could have done for the brand. As we know without customers there is no business. We went for a total brand revamp. Before I explain what we did, I want to share why we did it.

The reason was we identified our niche target market and we also studied our competitors closely and capitalized on their weaknesses. It’s not enough to have just good hair. We created a lifestyle around the brand. We wanted our clients to desire to be identified with the brand, for it to be a personal thing for them. To love the hair and the woman behind the brand.

Since we have taken this leap clients have been rolling in and we are being noticed by a few media houses for interviews which is great. So publicity tick, customers tick.

Re-working my marketing plan was the best thing I could have done for the brand Click To Tweet

Based on your experience, is it better to cut staff or use less expensive products to reduce salon costs?

The best is to possibly reduce the hours of staff but not cut on staff as your people are an asset to the business. The pleasant thing about our business is that the staff rent for space from our premises so it’s a win-win situation. Bringing in labour when it’s most needed and having contractual staff instead of permanent staff.

I don’t have the opportunity to use less expensive products because I sell and distribute a premium product. My brand is everything. My integrity is all I have in the industry and I can allow bad publicity over bad quality. It’s not the HAIREXPRESS premium way.

kiba bam hairexpress

How do you think your start-up story will motivate other African women out there to start their own business?

It will motivate them because I honestly started something from nothing. We have a very clever God! All He requires from you is willingness. I was willing and hungry to be the CEO of my own multi-national. I’m not there yet but I started and now I’m working my plan.

My strategy is in motion. I want to motivate other woman and say money should not stop you from starting because I didn’t have money. I got retrenched at my old office job. Things worked out, they always do. Endure the beginning stages. They are painful but well worth seeing the growth and change.

Money didn't stop Kiba Bam from launching HAIREXPRESS premium @kibabam Click To Tweet

Women need to forget about the noise and focus on their purpose in life. Being the It girl, best dressed, wife to a rich guy is not an achievement. If that’s what you want then great, own it but what I know is we all have dreams given to us by God. Take a leap and just try and try everyday to move closer to the dream. Women need to understand that they are natural born leaders. We are naturally organized and think things through. We always have a plan A- Z. That already is the mind of an entrepreneur.

What is the best thing about being an entrepreneur?

Being able to transfer your knowledge to other young entrepreneurs and colleagues in the entrepreneurial space. This is a long road that needs focus and determination. The best thing about the journey for me is to see the strategy coming together. I started alone and now I have a very savvy smart business manager who is part of the team.

The business is growing and people are inquisitive about the brand. We are so grateful. It’s also so rewarding to see people buy into the idea and business of HAIREXPRESS. Clients referring other clients, people recognizing the brand and being clear of what we do. Of course the financial reward in the long run will be the utmost best reward.

Where do you want Hair express to be by the end of the year and how do you plan on getting there?

By the end of the year our loan will be approved (March 2017) and we will move into our headquarters (May 2017).

At our HQ, the front of house will be the hair salon with hair dressers, nail technicians and make up artists renting space from us. The back of shop will be the wholesale and distribution center for our salon clients where they will be able to restock for their salons.

kiba bam hairexpress 2Apart from human hair industry being monopolized by the Chinese, what other challenges do you face?

Having constant availability for my clients with stock is a major issue. The turn around time for stock is 10-14 working days per order. I have every intention of changing that, my clients want hair and when they want it they want it now with no delay. So the wholesale and DC will eliminate that problem immediately.

The other problem l faced was separating myself from the competition taking a step back and studying what’s “really” happening in the market and acting on the information collected. Women love convenience and don’t like to change their suppliers. If you are not consistent in your ways with clients they will go elsewhere, and that has been a major challenge.

Women love convenience and they don't want a change of suppliers @kibabam Click To Tweet

Apart from being CEO of HAIREXPRESS what else do you do?

My purpose and vision as an individual which also translates into my business is to change lives. Also, I mentor young people industry professionals to unleash their inner potential. I mentor young professionals through personal one on one meetings and group empowerment sessions.

I am fulfilling my passion of empowering young people to unleash their potential also through public speaking engagements at schools and events.

Fun question! What would you do if you didn’t have to work?

I literally would go shopping everyday for myself and my daughter . Everyday in South Africa and once a month on 5th Ave, Harrods and Selfridges. In the past couple of years, the budget has been tight because my money is being invested in my business 🤣🤣🤣🤣🤣. So I would go shopping  EVERYDAY till I get bored of it.

Then would go do my nails and facials every other week. Have a personal Pilates trainer come to my mansion. Then off I go once every two weeks to do body sculpting non invasive surgeries on my stomach and hip area 🤣🤣🤣🤣.

I’ll also go for a boob job (breastfeeding is real out here lol) and do lunch with whomever is available from among my friends. And before I forget travel travel travel. Build a house in Camps Bay, Franschoek, Hyde park and Braynston, buy an apartment at the Marina V&A Waterfront (to live in), go apartment shopping in NYC, Paris and London.

Oh and of course I’ll be driven everywhere in my Rolls Royce. So basically, I’ll look super hot with perfect skin and be body goals for many. I’ll be super on trend everyday and live my dream life. I’ll also speak every other day, give me a golden mic and fill up a stadium and speak to inspire others.

If you’d like to share your story with She Leads Africa, let us know more about you and your story here