Chinelo Ikeme, 36, is a married mum of four. The former banker who has been married for 12 years holds a degree in Banking and Finance from the University of Lagos and is the CEO, MyHair Ltd., financial director, Moore Enterprises Nig. Ltd. and director, Fleetwood Global Trade Services.
In this chat with MIM, Chinelo opens up on quitting her banking job in 2012 to officially launch a hair business she started in 2010, juggling the home front with her very busy work schedule, some of the milestones she has accomplished so far, and more.
Why hair business? What inspired it?
“I have always had a passion for everything hair. I learned how to make hair at the early age of 8 by watching our house-help back then. Soon, I was good enough to help her make my siblings’ hair. My next fascination was the tiny Fulani weaving. By the time I got to secondary school, I was the seniors’ favourite because I could make their hair.
In university, my fascination moved to human hair extensions. My mum wore human hair extensions back then and I was totally intrigued by their durability compared to what I could afford to buy then as an undergraduate. This passion grew. Then, I started working and kept trying different types of wannabe human hair sold everywhere but I was not satisfied with their quality until I met this Indian man who sold genuine human hair. He convinced me to sell his hair to my colleagues because they constantly admired the ones I wore and wanted same. So, I started selling to them, combining it with my demanding banking job. I eventually resigned in 2012 to face the hair business squarely and the rest is history.”
How much capital did you start with?
“I started in 2010 with N30,500.”
You could have continued doing the business by the side. What made you decide to quit your job?
“I actually tried doing both concurrently at first but realized that at the end of the day, something must suffer for the other to thrive and blossom. I continued to bid my time in the bank until I got a lot of customers. My husband also supported my decision fully. If he did not support and encourage me to resign, I wouldn’t have. He has supported me in many ways than I can possibly count and I thank God every day for a wonderful man like him.
It was tough at the beginning; from having bad hair suppliers to customers owing a lot but I was determined to weather the challenges. I think my banking job prepared me for the challenges to a large extent. It was quite tedious and demanding; never ending targets and little or no gratitude at the end of the day. Notwithstanding, I learned a lot from the branch managers I worked with. I definitely can’t take for granted the values I imbibed; integrity, self-motivation, subordination, targeting, strategy, structure, and so on. Although we learnt all these in school, its practice in a large and renowned organization is a different ball game. Those values have aided me in establishing and managing my business.
Besides, when you start a business in your youth, you can channel all your youthful energy and vibe into it. It’s easy for your clients to follow you and associate with you. The longer you wait before starting your own business, the less energy you will have for it. Also, the more you delay starting your intended business, the more saturated that line of business becomes. Never assume you’re the only one with a particular idea in your head.”
So, how much have you grown?
“Presently MyHair Ltd. has 2 stores; one on the Island and the other on the mainland. We have developed several business units under our main brand which includes custom wig making, hair restoration and treatment, as well as a 1-stop store with a hair salon and makeup section.
We do Glam Event Hair Styling for TV and print media shoots, runway and editorials and offer consultation services for everything hair as well.”
How do you juggle all these with being a wife and mother of four?
“I have a team of dedicated and trusted domestic and corporate staff that work tirelessly. I believe no end should suffer. So, I try my best to recruit the best hands, train them and they give back their best. Treat your staff well and they will serve you well.
I’ll advise busy mums to always get the help they need. No woman is super human. Try and delegate when necessary but never delegate important decisions. In the midst of all the rush, work stress and traffic madness, we still need to keep our homes under our control as we pray tirelessly so God can keep us and our loved ones away from all the horrid stories we hear in the news every day.”
What would you say to aspiring and budding mumpreneurs?
“It’s not an easy road to trail. You must believe in yourself and in the business you want to do. Tough times will definitely come but you must overcome to stay ahead. Your home should be your topmost priority. So in everything you do, never let the home front suffer and pray ceaselessly.”