Mums In Business Series: Meet Ngozy Ezeka-Attah, Creative Director JAGA BEAUTY STUDIO & MAKEUP ACADEMY

Wangai Akin

Motherhood In-Style would be doing a series of interviews with mothers who are successful in business. This is a run up to our Mums in Business Conference & Fair.

The Mums In Business Series is a highlight of women, just like you, who are excelling in business and raising kids.

They would be sharing their stories to encourage you to take that plunge in business and inspire you to take your business to the next level.

JAGA BEAUTY STUDIO & MAKEUP ACADEMY is a brand owned by Nigerian makeup and beauty entrepreneur Ngozi Ezeka-Attah. JAGA BEAUTY was borne out of a passion to make women rediscover and appreciate their beauty from the inside out. Ngozy is also a motivational speaker. She is happily married to Zachary Attah and they have a beautiful daughter.

In this tell-all interview with MIM, Ngozy Ezeka-Attah details her journey so far.

READ ALSO: It’s a Family Affair! Mums in Business Family Fun Fair & Conference | Holds Nov. 25th & 26th

THE INTERVIEW

MIM: How long have you been doing Jaga Beauty?

JAGA: Well, I started makeup since 2007. I worked for three years while I was doing makeup and then I resigned in 2010 to do make up full time.

MIM: What were you doing before you started Jaga Beauty?

JAGA: I worked in two places, Multi Choice Nigeria and Visaphone. I resigned from Visaphone on my birthday, so it was sort of a birthday gift for me. I wanted to face Make up fully and see what the future holds

MIM: What made you take the leap from office job into entrepreneurship?

JAGA: I was never really an office person and not that I would say I was a business person, it’s just that I wanted to do something I loved and something different. I wanted something that would take me round the world. Being that I was doing make up part time, I kind of discovered a passion that I enjoyed doing that was also bringing in money. I also got tired of my job, I felt uncomfortable and restricted doing the same thing every day and I wasn’t enjoying it. I just decided one day that I think it is time. Even when I dropped my resignation letter, I got a promotion and a salary increase, but I resigned.

MIM: How did your husband take your transition from a salary earner to a business owner, was he supportive?

JAGA: Yes he was. He was very supportive. Of course he was the first person I told, “This is what I want to do”. He saw me struggle with a back ache from the traffic to and fro the office, even though he knew I was doing well, he knew I wasn’t happy. He said whatever my decision was, he was going to stand by me and he has.

MIM: So make up was your first business idea?

JAGA: No. I used to take wall posters to from Lagos to sell in ABU Zaria, my alma mater. Some people are still owing me till date.

MIM: About JAGA beauty, where did that name come from?

JAGA: Everybody likes asking! Well, in 2007, after I trained with House of Tara, the next thing was to get a name for my business. I remember writing down a lot of names. My family members even helped and we came up with lots of beautiful names. I was in my parents’ house at Owerri on the 21st of November, we were praying and it just dropped in my spirit: Ecclesiastes 3:11 He makes all things beautiful in his time.
Which means there was once a stage where it wasn’t beautiful, then it transforms to the stage where it is beautiful. He just gave me the name,’ Jaga Jaga’ to beautiful, JAGA Beauty. It tells a story of transformation: From the egg, to the lava, to the puppa and then to the butterfly. It comes from the Nigerian lingua, ‘Jaga Jaga’ where something is scattered.

MIM: That’s nice. Did you have to source for funds from any financial institution or from family members to start the business? Did you start organically?

JAGA: I’d say I started organically but then, I also got support from my family members. They have been so supportive, even to this day. Not like I have never sourced for funds, of course I have. I remember going to certain bank and they told me my business had to be raking in millions monthly before they would give funds. So it’s organically.

READ ALSO: Mums In Business Series: Meet Ngozi Obasa, CEO, NTANTA Delicacies

MIM: Would you say that it’s a challenge for small scale businesses, when banks push them aside?

JAGA: Yes, because that particular bank cajoled us to open an account with them, and told us that if we opened an account as a small business and in 6 months we were making sales, they would support us. When I went back, the story was different, they said they could only give us a credit card with a certain limit. That wouldn’t even have covered anything I wanted to establish at the business. So, basically, it’s been the business turning over, family members having to support.

MIM: How have you handled competition?, because the beauty industry is very competitive. There are so many brands out there, how were you able to stand out in the competition?

JAGA: When I started there wasn’t much competition really, then you could tell how good a make-up artist was from seeing her work physically. There was no Instagram, Photoshop or filters. It was easy to be identified as a good make-up artist from your work, so we got our jobs from referrals because people saw our work. However, as it has progressed, I was able to keep re-inventing myself and finding a niche for myself. For instance, I realized that training was something I was good at, it came easily to me. So, I decided to focus on training. Not to say that everybody isn’t training now, you just have to keep thinking of something different to do. So, basically, I would say that I have relied on the wisdom and guidance of God to just help us through and we can only dream of bigger and greater things to come, despite the competition.

MIM: What style of marketing do you use? Social media, word of mouth or flyers?

JAGA: We have done everything if you ask me. I’ll say Social media has played a very positive role and when I say social media I don’t just mean Instagram, Facebook included. We have a Facebook business page. The funny thing was, back in 2013, when we didn’t have much to do, one of the things we invested in was social media presence. With the help of a social media manager, we ensured that JAGA beauty was present on google maps, google plus, we were on blogs, Instagram, LinkedIn, Facebook, Twitter and we had a website. Our presence was always being updated. Till date, if you google make up schools in Lagos, JAGA beauty would be one of the top 3, because we kept pushing. Social media has really helped us and word of mouth as well. Any business relying on word of mouth these days, the person has a very long way to go.
We’ve also printed out flyers, I remember when we shared out flyers at eateries: we got one or two students who came to sign up. So, I’m going to say that we have tried it all.

MIM: How do you keep your customers coming back?

JAGA: Well, I’d say customer service. Everyone who works at JAGA beauty knows how important customer service is to me. Maybe it’s because I also worked in the customer service department where I was before. Shortly before I left Visaphone, I worked at the back office where we were handling customer retention. We had to call customers who had stopped using our services, I’d hear their grievances and all. So, it helped and contributed to the way I treated that aspect of my business. We ensure that we give them our best, there is only so much you can do.
Then again, there are a lot of make-up artists around, clients have a lot of options, so you just have to ensure they are getting the best service.

READ ALSO: MIB Fair & Conference | Meet the Speakers: Tara Fela-Durotoye, Founder House of Tara International

I remember one client, we may have lost her but she taught me something very important. She was supposed to come and register for training with us when were at shitta, she was travelling abroad and needed 3 days to learn how to tie her gele and do her make up so she can handle everything herself when she travelled. I was finishing up with another client when she called to say she was coming, I told her, “I’d be with you in a few minutes, but however you’d meet someone I had assigned, that would attend to you”. Prior to her coming, I had told them that once this person comes, give her a form to register and gave them the drill. Clients like to feel welcome, like they have come to a place where things were working. Unfortunately, she came, but everybody else was busy so they neglected her and she left. This was just few minutes before I came. I called her, asking where she was and she said she was sorry that she had left. She said that she would rather she was treated properly even if she wasn’t given what she asked for. She said she would pick customer service over product or service. She said she loved me as a person, but she didn’t feel appreciated by my staff. I never heard from her again, but she taught me a big lesson. I think that has helped my client base. When we moved, I had people who would come to the mainland from the island to have their make-up done and go back to the island for their event.

Then again, our prices. We always make sure we keep it in the middle, considering our environment. If we have to move to the island, of course we would raise our prices. I know quite a lot of people are charging more around me, but I also know what I have gained by maintaining my prices.

MIM: So, you are very flexible to what people around you want?

JAGA: Yes, let me just say we are in the middle.

MIM: In the make-up industry, there would always be that one client that would say, “This was not good, this is embarrassing”. Is there any one that stood out and what did you learn, apart from this one you just shared?

JAGA: When I started I had this bride in Warri, the lesson I learnt from that experience was to be confident.

“As a business woman, as a person generally you just have to be confident.”

If someone is selling akara on the road, and there is someone close to her selling food in a big building, I believe that the person selling akara should be confident enough to know that is her space, she should dominate it and make the best of it. I didn’t have that confidence when we started, I lacked it so much that when I do a good job, I didn’t see it.
You know the funny thing, people sense it when you aren’t confident and it draws them away from you.

So, I had this bride, I was supposed to do her make up for her wedding. I did the traditional make-up and everybody loved it, I think I exhausted my cards that day, everybody wanted my card. The night I did the engagement make up, her sister wasn’t present. When I was doing the white wedding, her sister had something to say: “I think you should do this, I think you should add this or that”. The bride was a very calm and beautiful bride, she didn’t have a mirror and she didn’t say anything, till today I appreciate her. I allowed the sister take charge. At the end of the day, for the first time in my life, even till date, the bride looked in the mirror and started crying, “this is terrible, my brows are too big”. It taught me a great lesson that day, till date I teach my students.

“You have to be confident in what you are doing. You are a professional in your own right.”

A doctor would not let anyone interfere with his work, he is a professional, so be confident in whatever you do..

MIM: How do you manage your family and work balance?

JAGA: There’s no balance if you ask me, except what you create yourself and what you become comfortable with. I’ve gotten past going for events and asking successful women “Oh how do you balance it out”, because the truth is, there would always be a day when you put your head down, and cry to God asking how you can manage it all. At the end of the day, God gives us strength to pull through. I just ensure that no matter what I do, I always have time for my husband and my daughter and also for home. There are some days that I’m out for long hours. My daughter’s school bus comes to pick her in the morning, but I go out of my way to pick her in the afternoons, just to show that I’m there. I see the joy on her face when I do that. I just try to make sure that I make time available because there is never a balance. Things keep tugging at you, the house is tugging at you, your work, your employees and all of that. God just gives the sanity that is needed to operate at every level at every certain time, and that sanity is all that matters. Once you’re sane and you’re happy. One thing might look like its suffering, but just keep going. Ensure you write the things you need to do down. When I feel like I’m clogged, like I’m getting confused, that’s what I do. Be okay if you don’t achieve everything in one day, be happy with yourself. Try and enjoy every moment, if not, it gets really crazy.

MIM: Has there been any moment where you said, “I am where I’m meant to be, I’m grateful I took that plunge”

JAGA: Yes. Let me share with you. Recently, I’ve been thinking. Basically, because I have some other projects to handle, I’ve been thinking of shutting this place down temporarily, so I can actually fly.

READ ALSO: MIB Fair & Conference | Meet the Speakers: Adenike Ogunlesi, Founder Ruff ‘n’ Tumble

MIM: I know you have speaking engagements.

JAGA: Exactly! I was thinking to myself, if I shut this place down, even if it’s just for a short period of time, won’t I be a failure, wont people think “Oh she shut the place down because she’s not doing well”. Then I thought of the students who have trained with us and have opened their studios and are even training people, earning a source of income. We have trained over hundreds of women, from workshops, our academy and moving around. I think about it like, if I did not do this, yes there would have been other options but God gave me the privilege that they came to JAGA beauty and till today, majority of them are still in contact with me, they even call me for advice. I remember a particular lady who resigned from her job at a bank when she got married because her husband was complaining, she came to JAGA beauty and she is exceedingly doing well. That alone, gives me joy.

I’m so happy when I see people I have trained, training people and employing people. When I thought about all of that, I corrected myself and said, I didn’t make a mistake. I am not a failure.
Thinking of that aspect alone convinces me that I’m actually doing something I love. Do you know the funny thing, I remember in 2007 when I got the name JAGA beauty, I actually wrote a four pages mission and vision statement. Looking back 10 years ago, these things I’m about to do now, I wrote them down. I wrote it there that JAGA beauty was not going to be all about make-up. I never really considered myself as just a makeup artist. In fact, when I have to introduce myself as just a makeup artist, I feel uncomfortable because that’s not what JAGA beauty is all about. Looking back and the things I’m about to do, it’s just amazing. The most important thing is, God just has to be involved.

MIM: We hope we would be involved when you start the next phase of your business?

JAGA: Definitely! I would even share some things with you.

MIM: Who inspires you?

JAGA: Oh my God, I have great women that I inspire me. In my industry, Tara of course, that’s the reason I even went to House of Tara. She’s an amazing woman, she’s a woman that I have seen evolve. Sometimes when I have to shift, I kind of see my life already lived by her, so who else do I look up too but her?

Mo Abudu inspires me, she’s just an amazing person. I see so much strength and power in her. Recently, she attended a school on filming. Yeah, she had started filming, but she had to go back to school again, and I looked at all the people she took pictures with and they all looked so young. She has achieved a lot so why can’t she relax? But she is still pushing and she is achieving so much. I remember when Ebony Life tv started, it was like a joke. There camera quality was horrible, you didn’t even want to watch it. I actually heard people say “Give her 2 years” this would not last, people expected her to fail. But look at her today? They are getting better; her movie production is taking her round the world. She started with a talk show in a small space and had people clapping, so she motivates me daily. Never despise the days of small beginnings.

Mrs Alakija also inspires me. Being a woman that is achieving something that looked impossible in Africa. I heard recently that she became the richest woman in Africa again, she’s dusted Oprah.

MIM: Have you ever met her,(Folorunsho Alakija)? Have you ever made her up?

JAGA: Yes, I have met her. I have made her up. We’ve exchanged e-mails, surprisingly she replies my mails. I just believe that meeting her wasn’t a coincidence, so I’m still waiting for what it would unfold.

Then my mum, in fact she tops the list. My mum is a pastor, she’s a writer. She’s also a speaker and a motivational speaker. She has a program she holds at different universities, “Will you marry me?”. It’s a program for youths and singles, preparing them for marriage. She also has preaching engagements. She’s one strong woman, I see myself in her a lot of times, she’s very fashionable, more fashionable than I am even.

READ ALSO: Aspiring Mumpreneurs: 9 Crucial Tips on Starting Your Own Business

Ngozy Ezeka-Attah & her husband, Zachary Attah

MIM: What has been the role of luck or favor in your success. Is success through merit, hard work or do you believe there is a stroke of luck or favor attached to success?

JAGA: It’s a combination of all of them if you ask me. When you are working with God, I won’t even say it’s your hard work. This is what I believe, God puts me out there, he puts anyone out there. I haven’t gotten to half of the level I’m supposed to be at, I haven’t even scratched the surface. Just like the bible says in Jeremiah 29: 11 “He’s plans for you are of good”. Just like your dad, if possible he would want you to be the president of Nigeria, how much more God? It is favor and grace of the highest order, honestly.
For instance, making up Mrs Alakija, there’s no reason why it should have been me. Some people would say, “ah it just happened”. For me, I don’t believe in coincidence,
nothing just happens,
I always believe it is pre-ordained by God, so it’s favor for me. In fact, I beat myself up because I feel I’m not working as hard as I should. If I have done the things I have done, then it’s not by my power, it’s definitely Gods favor.

MIM: Do you have any advice for mum-preneurs: any woman that is thinking of starting a business and is afraid or any woman that is in a business and has failed? What advice do you have for women in these categories?

JAGA: For someone starting up, I’d say just do it, just do it. I mean, it’s better that you tried than not to have tried at all. For me, I still believe that if I had missed that point where I resigned, I’d still be in paid employment and I would have been miserable. I told you from the beginning that I have never been an office person, but condition would have to put you in an office. Just do it for someone just starting, Also, get the right knowledge you need for that business. Don’t be like me, ensure that you have savings. You know then, the dollar to the naira was like 120N, not now. You can’t afford to take that risk. Ensure you get the right education.
For a woman that is in a business and things aren’t looking up, first of all expand your horizon. When I say expand, you have to go out there, you can’t wait for things to come to you not in this world ever. Even the bible says that the violent taketh it by force. You have to go out there, look out in your industry or in business, what’s happening, try to fit yourself into it. Just like the woman who is just starting, you can never stop learning. Get the best knowledge in evert way that you can as it concerns your business. Don’t give up just yet, except that place is not just meant for you, if you’re double sure and you have prayed about it, then don’t give up just yet. Do all you can, connect, collaborate. Collaboration makes a lot of sense.
For the woman who has failed, business packed up: try as much as possible not to get yourself into depression, so surround yourself with the right people, people who can encourage you. If possible, look for somebody who you feel has walked the same path with you, who has failed and came back up again. Even if he person is online, read about the person, if the person is someone you can connect with, please do so because I don’t think anyone can succeed in life alone. Some of these women, their family members would be telling them “I told you so”, so look for someone who can encourage you and help you back up. If, possible dream again, if you have to start again. There is nothing wrong in starting again, it’s difficult, it’s very difficult but just go ahead and do it.

MIM: The power of networking, that question just came to me. You’re someone who I’ve followed for a while, and I’ve noticed your networking skills are really top notch. You don’t stay closed up in you shell, you put yourself out there, you have been able to connect with key women who have pushed you to this next level you are getting into. So, what is the power of networking?

JAGA: It’s an amazing tool, powerful force if I can put it that way. I believe even Jesus himself used to network, if not he won’t have those 12 disciples. He wouldn’t know Lazarus, he had friends and all of that. Its powerful, I believe it opens doors for you and because you find yourself in a place, even if the place looks like there is nothing there, you never know who is in the place and can open the next door for you. There is this saying I used to hear back then, “You’re 5 people away from meeting the president of Nigeria or whatever country”. For instance, I know somebody in my school, Koko Iyamu for instance, she works with the vice president’s wife. If I’m just in my shell, I’m not reaching out, I’m not doing anything. Is osibanjo’s wife going to come to my house? Is she going to find me? So, networking is important, collaboration is important. Sometimes you have to do things for free to get what you want.

READ ALSO: Stay At Home Mums: 5 Profitable Business Skills to Explore

Ngozy Ezeka-Attah, Creative Director JAGA Beauty Studio & Makeup Academy

A lot of those things you see me doing sometimes, I didn’t collect a dime for it, but they’ve been able to open better doors for me. A lot of times I meet people who are like “Oh you spoke here”. They don’t have to know it was for free, and then that’s how doors are open. I remember the last event that I did at Alausa where I spoke to a group of kids, it was somebody who told somebody that “Oh she speaks to young girls”, that was just by me putting myself out there on social media. That’s how I got to Chrisland and the other schools. Nobody can get anywhere by being indoors, so it’s a powerful tool. I’m not even the best networker at all, at all. Somebody like Toke Makinwa, its networking that got here where she is honestly. Then people used to make fun of her,” Toke Makinwa everywhere you go”, but now she doesn’t have to be everywhere, she’s making waves.

MIM: Any last words that just came to you, you’d like to drop for us at Motherhood-In-Style?

JAGA: Oh wow! Motherhood-In-Style, I’d say draw strength for anything you find available, every woman needs strength, no one can survive without it. Emotional strength, financial strength. Anyway, you need to draw strength because that is what keeps women going. Somebody said that this world cannot survive without women and that’s true. In as much as we are that important, we carry a lot of strength on our shoulders, they drain us every day. To tell you the truth, men don’t do half as much as we do. So, you need strength to survive, you can’t afford to break down. For the sake of your family, your children, for your sake. You can’t afford to not be happy. Try and be happy. Yes, there are down moments, but there is a difference between down moments and being depressed and God has helped me. Above all, seek God first. There is nothing like having God on your side.
I used to say to people, as long as God is still sitting on the throne, there is hope. Except the day someone calls us from heaven and says “God has fallen down o” But as long as God is still there, there is hope. You haven’t gotten to the end of the tunnel yet. Like Mathew Ashimolowo says, it’s not over until it’s over, so just keep going.

MIM: Thank you so much Mrs Ngozi Attah for giving us this time, it has been inspiring. Your personality, there’s just an aura of peace around you. Tranquility. A woman that knows what she wants.

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