Jennifer Lisa Uloko, is the founder/ CEO of Yanga Beauty. She studied Business Administration at Igbinedion University, Okada. Jennifer is an indigene of Haha, in Benue State of Nigeria.
Yanga Beauty specializes in beauty products, makeup, makeup instruments, and skin care products.
When did you develop interest in beauty merchandising?
I have always had a flair for beauty products; everything from makeup to makeup instruments and skin care products. It has always been my passion. There is so much one can do with the right makeup to boost self-confidence. Gone are the days when women left the house with just white face powder on. People now want to look good. That is what gives me joy; helping people to look good. Besides, I am also a certified makeup artist.
At what point in your life did you decide to be an entrepreneur?
I had always known that I would end up an entrepreneur. While in the university, I sold jewellery and accessories to my friends and classmates. I would shop at Balogun Market, Lagos, during the holidays and take the materials back to school to sell. I was usually happy when I made profit. It got to a point that I was no longer asking my parents for pocket money because I had an income. I could buy my textbooks. It was fun and exciting selling jewellery, making profit, investing a part of it and saving some.
After I graduated from Igbinedion University, I was posted to ExxonMobil for my service year in 2011. I was a customer service representative in the catering department. At the end of my service year, I was retained in the company but I did not get any joy working at my job. I just wasn’t enthusiastic about my job. Instead, I found myself giving makeup tips to my colleagues and making recommendations on the kind of beauty products they could use. After a while, I decided to resign my appointment and I launched an online retail store where women could purchase different brands of beauty products and get consultation. At the time I resigned, I had worked for only a year.
Did your parents support your decision?
My father had always encouraged me to be self-employed; he runs his own businesses too. He would advise me to work at a job that makes me happy. He wanted something that would make me wake up with a smile instead of feeling grumpy. It wasn’t at all difficult for him to accept my decision.
It was hard though for my mother. She felt I had a lot of things going for me. I had a Second Class Upper in Business Administration and worked for a good company. She herself worked in the banking industry and so saw nothing wrong with me sending out my resume or keeping my job.
I kept insisting though that I did not want to work for anyone. She saw reasons with me after a while and even supported me with N50,000 when I eventually started out. Now, she has seen the creativity that I put into my business and how I work hard to keep the company going. She is my mentor and inspiration.
My friends tried to discourage me. They told me to work for a decade, save money before resigning. I could then use my savings to do whatever I wanted. The truth is that I am facing several challenges now. However, they are a good experience; nobody can take that away. I have no regrets.
Was it difficult to raise funds as a retailer?
Not really; I had a lot saved from selling jewellery and accessories in school. I started saving at 18. I poured my savings into my business. Then, my mum gave me some money; she had opened a savings account for me while I was younger and she handed the money over to me when she saw I needed it. I could only buy six products with what she gave me; beauty products are expensive. And unfortunately, those materials that I bought were all fake.
How did you know?
It was a foreign brand that I use myself and I had bought some for my personal use while on trip abroad. By the time I took the products and compared with what I had, there were glaring differences in the way the brand name was written. Some other things were also not properly spelt. It was really a disappointing experience because it meant I could not sell what I had bought and my money was wasted.
What advice do you have for youths aspiring to be entrepreneurs?
Knowledge is important; if you want to go into retail and you don’t know the product you are buying, you will definitely buy fake. One of the ways to go about it is to familiarise yourself with the brand you want to buy in the open market. Check out the product online and see how it is. Don’t just buy from anywhere. It is important to buy from those who source from the manufacturers.
You have to put everything about your prospective company or business in place before resigning from paid employment. It is really important. Before I resigned, I had already registered my company with the Corporate Affairs Commission and got everything ready to take off.
Then persevere in managing your employees; you will be tried and tested. They will come late to work with different excuses but in the end you have to speak to them in a respectful way; no shouting or insults. One of our values is that we respect each other. It helps to keep the sanity. There is a polite way to correct people. I let them know that it is not just about the profit; we have to retain clients, get new ones and always put them first.
Put God first; because He is at the centre of everything. You also need to research well on what you want to focus on and employ people that either think like you or think better than you. Don’t cut corners; be true to yourself. If you are buying a product, buy from the manufacturers. Don’t buy a fake product and try to sell it off as the original thing.
Work hard, believe in yourself. Nobody can push you like you can; not even your mentors. Let no one’s opinion define you. You have to know that whatever that you do, that in striving harder, going forward, everything would work out for good. Research more into what you are going to do and how you will do it. The sky will be your limit.
Visit Yanga Beauty Studio
Studio: 4 Fatai Idowu Arobieke Street | Lekki Phase 1 | Lagos-Nigeria
Phone: +234 (0) 815 107 0000