Monday, 18 August 2014

You need perseverance to succeed — Bello

Saidat Bello

Saidat Bello, 25, tells IFEANYI ONUBA how her ability to solve her hair problem spurred her into becoming a cosmetologist

What did you study in school?

I have a first degree from Bayero University Kano. I graduated in 2012. I also have a diploma in Mass Communication from the same university. I’m currently the Chief Executive Officer of Sissie Natural.

Why did you decide to go into business?

I always wanted to be an entrepreneur right from when I was a teenager. When I was in the university I did a little buying and selling business. I joined a youth entrepreneurship organisation, attended seminars and conferences for youth entrepreneurship. During my National Youth Service Corps programme, I learnt a skill and after graduating I started Sissie Natural Company.

Why did you choose this line of business?

I had some hair problems and tried different products in the market, and they didn’t work the way I wanted.

During that time, I was becoming more health conscious and so I started reading about natural, chemical free alternatives. After all these studies, I started making my own hair cream, body scrub and shampoo and I must confess that these worked very well. My friends and family started asking me what I was using, and this spurred me into making hair care products for them and the products also worked for them.

Having satisfied them, I decided to study more about natural hair and skin care products and during this time; I discovered I did not only like what I was doing, I started having passion for it. And so I decided to turn it into a business.

What kind of skill did you learn during your NYSC period and how has it been beneficial to you?

I learnt how to sew clothes and I also make clothes for sale and for personal use. I also learnt cosmetology during that period which lasted about six months and this has helped me in starting and managing the business effectively.

What is the nature of the business that you are currently engaged in?

Sissie Natural is a natural organic hair and skin care products company. Our products are 100 per cent natural. We deal in the wholesale and retail of carrier oils, essential oils, handmade body soap, body scrub, hair and skin butters and cream.

I manufacture the hair cream myself and in doing this, I source most of the ingredients locally. After sourcing for the ingredients, I mix it together based on specifications and then sell.

I also co-manage a company with my sister called Mumtaz Bags and Accessories which deals in the wholesale and retail of bags, shoes, clothes, accessories, diamond, silver and gold jewelleries.

We ensure our customers get value for their money; high quality products at affordable prices.

How long have you been in this business?

I have been in business now for six months.

How do you manage your business?

As a sole entrepreneur I try to understand, manage and take responsibility for every aspect of the business. I ensure my customers get good high quality products.

In the beauty industry, quality is very important; it is what makes the customers to continue using the products.

As an economist I also ensure a good financial management of the business to guarantee profitability.

Who are your target clients and how do you get them?

Children, youths and adult. My clients range from babies to grown-ups – everybody that uses hair and skin cream is my target client. Also, of particular interest to me are those people who are interested in natural, organic and chemical-free products. I provide products suitable for the African skin and hair texture.

I also source my customers through advertisements using social media platforms such as
Instagram, online stores and forums.

Is the business capital intensive and how much did you start with?

The business is not capital intensive. I started with less than N50,000.

What advice do you have for fresh graduates that are desperately looking for jobs?

Not everyone can get a white collar job due to the high unemployment rate and not all graduates are suited for it. As a fresh graduate, you need to discover what you are good at; be it manufacturing, retailing, hand skills, rendering service and so on.

Identify someone who will serve as your mentor and get professional advice from them on how to develop your business plan and start up your business.

It is not all businesses that require large capital. You can start up a business with as low as N5,000 and as time goes on, you expand.

You also have to understand that not all businesses will succeed immediately. If you fail at the first attempt, go back to the drawing board, learn from your mistakes and re-strategise. That is how you can become a successful entrepreneur.

How can government encourage young people to embrace entrepreneurship?

Government can help young people embrace entrepreneurship by providing social amenities and infrastructure. Social amenities and infrastructure affect the cost of production and running of businesses.

It is the responsibility of government to create an enabling environment for businesses. Government should also help by providing interest free loans and free capital for entrepreneurs. More vocational skills acquisition centres should be made available to the public for free.

What are the challenges you face in this line of business?

As a new company, convincing prospective customers is a little bit challenging and some of the oils are not readily available in the Nigerian market.

Running a business in Nigeria is not an easy task. How have you been able to survive despite the challenges you face?

I get motivated and determined to succeed each time I have a client that is satisfied with my products. I tell and show them the quality of our products and give them free samples for them to test.

What other key investment principles will you recommend for young entrepreneurs like you?

Be focused, have goals and grow your business. As a young entrepreneur you have to work hard to ensure your company grows.

Carve out your niche, scan your society like a detective at every time to be able to adjust and strive to be the best in your environment.

Strive to understand your competitors and try as much as you can to mitigate risk. Never give up. Talent and education are not enough. Determination and perseverance are very important.

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