Quality organic care for your health and beauty cannot be over emphasized. Many times we notice that people are not usually aware of the dangers they are exposed to from using too much of toxic chemicals.
This is why we would like you to meet Rachel Asakome from Nigeria, the Founder of Beautifully Nappy & Organic Life Plus. If you found our previous interview on Modern Antique enlightening? You will definitely be glad you read this interview also.
This exclusive interview is brought to you on Checkout Africa in a partnership that has been forged between Bellafricana and Checkout Africa to further promote the uniqueness of Africa. Let’s meet Rachel…
Q & A
- Please introduce yourself and your background.
My name is Esione Rachel Asakome. I live in Lagos and I am from Edo state, Nigeria. I was born in the United Kingdom, but I was whisked back to Nigeria by my parents very early on. I studied in Nigeria from nursery through to secondary school, after which I did my A Levels in the U.K and went on to study Accounting and Financial Management in Loughborough University.
Thereafter, I came back to Nigeria to complete my NYSC, afterwards, I went back to Grenoble, France, Grenoble Graduate School to study International Business. I moved back to Nigeria completely in May 2014, roughly about 7 months later, Beautifully Nappy was started.
- Please tell us about your work.
Beautifully Nappy, is a store dedicated to the acquisition of organic, natural and vegan friendly beauty products all across Africa. However, I do include select African American hair products. We do not stock a large amount of brands, because each brand we stock has to be tried and tested, to make sure they are indeed as effective as they claim.
The ingredients of the brands we stock have to appraised and the ethical promises of the companies we work with have to thoroughly reviewed as well. We are also launching our line of African beauty secrets from oils to herbs and powders under the brand name OrganicLifeplus.
- How did Beautifully Nappy start?
Well, Beautifully Nappy really just happened. My health journey began when I was about 19 years old, my natural hair journey followed shortly. My growing obsession with all things healthy and natural lead to friends and family encouraging me to start a blog.
Honestly I think they encouraged a blog so I would stop talking to them about natural hair and finally talk to the world about it. So I began documenting my natural hair journey, I got a surprising amount of emails and questions from Nigerians on natural hair and where they could get products, so I did a test run.
I put a post with a list of natural oils, hair products and their prices up on my blog about two weeks to my return from France, I got a shocking response from interested parties who paid for the products I listed. I mainly listed products from my favourite natural hair and skin care brand, Sheabutter Cottage. I returned to Nigeria, I delivered the products I had acquired, but I didn’t do anything about starting a business, at that point I was just trying to help.
It was after living in Nigeria for a few months, and trying and failing to purchase authentic tea tree oil that wasn’t through the roof expensive, that I decided that there was a need for me to share my life style commercially. I started immediately by stocking products from a brand I have used for 4 years, a lot of the products I stock are an extension of my own life practices. I quickly went from being all about natural hair, to being about hair and skin care.
- Where does your motivation for body/skin care come from?
After my hair fell of and my scalp suffered burns from relaxers, I returned to natural and started the Beautifully Nappy blog. The Beautifully Nappy blog, started as a means to showcase the beauty of African/ kinky curly hair textures, that was what led to the founding of my company. However, my decision to stock only natural, and organic beauty products stem from my own experiences with cosmetics.
I struggled with sensitive, acne prone skin, and throughout my life, harsh chemical skin care products only served to aggravate my situation. I discovered several chemical ingredients, despite their claims at healing where highly toxic to both our skin and general well being.
The skin is the largest organ in the body, anything we apply on it seeps into our blood stream, its surprising how many people are not aware of this and as a result are not very mindful of their choice of skin care.
My older sister, already a medical doctor and a naturopath, introduced the entire family to healthy eating as well, so I was just about ready to ditch the chemicals. I first started eating healthier, then I progressed to organic products and my skin responded with delight! I found organic products to be gentler, more healing and had little to no adverse effects as opposed to their chemical alternatives.
This was true for both hair and skin products, while there are several expensive chemical skin products filled with toxics, their natural and organic alternatives where cheaper and more healing. Indeed, I said cheaper, because organic products are worth the price and great value for money. While chemical products no matter their price are never worth their side effects.
We don’t just get sick from the type of food we eat, thus, if you are using a toxic products, the toxic chemicals will affect your health and vice versa. There in lies my motivation, a desire to live a healthy life, all round, a desire to thrive optimally, everything I use on my skin both food and beauty products are geared towards living cleanly, healthily and optimally.
- Do you currently make your products or have plans to?
Currently, I do not make my own products, I source from trusted brands. However, as mentioned above, I have begun to source raw materials directly from source countries where I can, for my own line of organic products called Organiclifeplus, which specializes in African oils, herbs, powders etc. I also intend, to roll out a line of hair products under the Beautifully Nappy name, these are still in the testing phase. Unfortunately, I cannot reveal the ingredients in these lovely products until they are ready!!
- What areas of concern do you see the most in this industry (beauty)?
Regulation and labelling. Well I think this is more specific in Nigeria and quite frankly the U.S (as the FDA does not require the listing of certain ingredients, even though they might compromise the integrity of the product).
The beauty industry in Nigeria is highly unregulated, and unfortunately end users are not very informed. This I fear might lead to future health risks, you have bleaching cream companies masquerading as organic or natural, and individuals purchasing their products believing them to be healthy.
You also have labelling issues, I find many Nigerian beauty companies do not list out all their ingredients, or some don’t list at all. This is highly dangerous, especially in the event that an end user is allergic to an ingredient etc.
That being said, certifications like NAFDAC are also not easy to achieve for well meaning small companies who want to get approved. The procedure is made very tedious and expensive.
- Would you refer to yourself as a body/skin care specialist?
No I wouldn’t, I wouldn’t because I don’t yet have all my qualifications under wraps. I do a lot of research and often use myself and family as guinea pigs to tests the various product claims.
I would say that I am very knowledgeable about how products work, and what’s dangerous for your hair, health and skin. Also, it helps that my older sister is both a medical doctor and a certified natural naturopathic doctor, so I always have her as a cheat in terms of debunking “green washing” (a term for when products claim to be natural or organic and they are not”), and giving me advice on holistic beauty. However, I am learning everyday and I would be getting certifications to back me up.
- What are the challenges you face in business?
The greatest challenge is convincing people to ditch the chemicals and go organic or at least natural. Humans are creatures of habit, its never easy to pull them away from what they already know. Another problem is striking a balance between high quality products and fair pricing, especially in this situation of rising exchange rates.
- What are your goals for the future, both work wise and life?
Okay lets see, my long term goals are to have my brand in stores in Wholefoods in the U.S and Planet Organic in the U.K! Wouldn’t that be amazing? A Nigerian brand in organic stores like that, at that point our goods would be truly exportable. I don’t know if I am expressing this point properly.
Basically, my long term goals are to have my brand trusted all over the world. Aside from my own brand, I would also like to own an organic super store in Nigeria, which is why I started out stocking various brands and not just making my own oils. I believe customers should have choice.
I intend to finish up my ACCA exams and complete a Masters in Financial Economics, because finance was my first love before my organic life style change. I would also want to get certifications as a cosmetologist.
- What would people be surprised to learn about you?
I am really shy; I don’t like speaking in front of large crowds. I am really chatty and most people don’t believe me when I say I am shy, but I don’t fare well with public speaking. I also don’t like taking pictures, I never know how to pose.
- For someone who wishes to take up this kind of career, what kind of advice would you give them? Also, if you could give one piece of advice to youths who want to start their own company, what would it be?
For anyone who wants join the natural beauty industry, I would say be true to yourself. It can be frustrating at times trying to get customers to understand why they have to pay more for your products than others, but as long as you know you are truly providing the best at a fair price, then stick to it, your quality will show in your work. For youths who want to start their own business, I would say just do it, don’t think about all the reasons why it wont work. If you don’t jump your parachute will never open.
- Anything else you think we should know about beautifully Nappy?
Well, I have a blog where I give free tips for natural hair and skin care www.beautifullynappy.com, you can also contact me from that site. My Instagram pages for my companies Beautifully Nappy and Organic Life plus are @beautifullynapy and @organiclifeplus respectively. So join me on there and grow with me.
Check out some of Beautifully Nappy’s products below;
Thanks alot Rachel for the beautiful response, we are always proud to see young people growing a business.
We hope to join you in your journey as a successful business owner.
Here’s a link to Beautiful Nappy’s page as a verified lister on Bellafricana: http://bellafricana.com/listing/lagos-nigeria-beautifully-nappy/