Give us a Brief Introduction about yourself and your business?
My name is Joycee Awojoodu, I am the founder and CEO of ORIKI, a luxury personal grooming brand that is proudly African. Our vision and goal is to build a leading brand that competes in the international space with international standards and currently we have 32 products. The ethos of the business is that we are all natural, so we have primarily natural ingredients and source predominately from the continent of Africa. We use ingredients like Shea, Green Tea, Eucalptus amongst others.
Besides the product line, we offer different services, our spa treatments include body scrubs, massages, facial scrubs, all kinds of facials, body wraps and more. We also have full body threading and waxing at the Halo clinic. We call it clinic because we care about the health of your hair, treating it with natural ingredients like avocado, olive oil, honey or we can use our Oriki products. We also have a Men’s grooming area that offers full treatment for men, including hair coloring and shaving. I think that is what attracts men to the brand, because they love the haven that we have created for them.
Q: Why did you decide to go into men’s grooming?
Because there was a gap in the market. There’s a huge gap, their skin is tougher. They’re not doing facials or cleansing their pores. In other parts of the world, you find that the men are more in tune with caring about how their skin looks.
I thought, why not create products for them in a cool way. We situate the ORIKI products for men up front in the show room so they can just come in and pick their products. There’s something powerful about utilizing our own resources because the rest of the world exploits and harnesses our raw materials. In Africa we have shea, cocoa and you find all these big brands that come here but there’s no real brand here that is building something in a large scale.
Q: Are all the products made here?
So we just started rolling out and making more of them here. We have 6 products that are being made here, we have an operations manager here, the beauty of it is that because they are not chemically based, we’ve done all the testing. We know that there is no chemical reaction. The goal is to be able to make all of them here. But the question is, is Nigeria ready? The factories here don’t have the capabilities.
Q: How did you handle having this dream, and executing it?
I was very quiet about it for a while. When it clicked that I was going to build this business and build ORIKI, I was working as an SA to the minister of power, and to everyone that was such a glorious job but for me this is just one bus stop to this journey. When I did mention it to people, they were like “alright cool, beauty is recession proof, beauty is a great industry but it’s tough, can you really do it?
Telling people was beneficial because some of them became allies and motivators. But at the same time you have to drown out the noise, for example some people said “32 products is too much” and I’ll say “I know why I want to do 32 products because now I can say I am the first skincare brand here in Nigeria that has this comprehensive line.
Products are my passion, products are what I want to bring to the world but I know that people won’t come here if someone didn’t tell them, or if she didn’t see it on Instagram. The spa allowed us to have people actually try out the products. What we found out was that once they tried the products, we would have a 90% conversion range. If someone has a facial here, we were sure they would 90% buy the products. The spa helped us build a loyal base for our consumers.
Q: What has been some of your challenges this past year?
I’ve had a few, one of which is human resources. It’s a problem all around Nigeria, I am looking for people who believe and join the vision, I call it ORIKI family. In the beginning it was hard for me because I hated firing people, but I’ve learned that there’s no emotion in business, you have to do what works for the brand because as hard as you work, sadly an employee can spoil the experience for the customer. We have gotten to a place now where I’m proud of the team we have.
Word of mouth is very powerful, it is how we get people in here, and sadly it can be how we lose them. Another challenge has been infrastructure in Nigeria, it is a Spa, so the water has to be very clean. Getting that water has been a challenge and now I have to supply water to the spa twice a week, and it is basically like another salary. Same with electricity, so just infrastructure in general makes the cost of business in Nigeria very expensive.
Then thirdly, marketing, figuring out the stickiness of what really works, who is my target market, where do I find them and what brings them in here. We’ve found that word of mouth is really huge, and we just try to do more of what we can control. Social media has been very influential and powerful.
Q: With all the challenges, how did you overcome them?
Two Things; my faith in God, anytime I have a rough day or moment, I throw it up and say God you are the one that gave me this vision, please help me see it through. Second thing is reading, I read a lot of business books, Richard Branson, Steve jobs, etc. One thing I’ve learned is that everyone has had failures and bad times, and moments that they wanted to give up but they persisted and kept going. I would regret it more if I gave up.
There are times when you feel like enough is enough, but my dream is too BIG, the legacy I want to leave behind is too big for me to let his dream go.
Q: Where did the name Oriki come from:
I know I wanted an indigenous African name, so I started researching and found ORIKI. A name that means “inspiration” or “your crown”, it is a word that is used to bring out the best in someone in the Yoruba language and that is exactly what I want our customers to feel.
Q: What has been your highlight so far?
The publicity and testimonials have been amazing. It is so amazing when I go somewhere and people say “I’ve been to Oriki and I use Oriki moisturizer”, it makes me so happy, it means we’re doing something well.
Q: Where do you see yourself in the next five yrs?
I want Oriki to be in the US, UK and at least 5 countries in Africa. I want to see product kiosk, I want to see beauty bloggers raving about Oriki naturally on their own. That’s another thing we do, we don’t pay for positive reviews. It has to be organic and natural. I want to see the eCommerce booming, I want that to be a big part of the revenue. I also want to see more teams; lead operations manager, lead production manager, as well as operation assistants.
I also want to see a factory on the continent, I am also open to it not being in Nigeria.
Q: What advice would you give anyone that wants to follow in your shoes?
Write it down, create a plan. Luck is preparation meeting opportunity, I don’t believe in luck but I believe when you prepare yourself by creating a plan, things crystallize. Start small no matter how big your idea is, share your dreams in a network that makes sense. A business plan is essential, you need something to present to people, start fine tuning it, along with a business plan is a good marketing strategy.
Interview by Uchenna|Myhair&beauty