Starting a business can be daunting. EHIME ALEX, in this piece, trails Linda Ogbonna as she split the process into LindaBellHair enterprise
Contributing to economic growth, the Small and Medium-sized Enterprises are becoming the backbone of major economies. However, not many SMEs survive the first five years. According to research, over 50 per cent of SMEs fail in their first year of operation while over 95 per cent in their first five years. But Linda Ogbonna ventured into the hair care business, focusing on bringing elegance to the table. “It does not take a muscle to be elegant,” she said.
Hair is so much more than just a look. Intensely personal but totally public, hair has become a lucrative business, so much that the demand for hair extension in the Nigeria is skyrocketing every day. No matter how nicely a woman dresses, if her hair is not tidy or styled, she would seem not ready to show off or catch good attention. This is because her hair contributes a lot to her beauty, complements her gait, completes her dressing, raises her confidence and symbolically represents her glory, pride and joy.
An online hair and accessories store, LindaBellHair, boasts everything a woman needs to look graceful.
An ex-banker, with a degree in Biotechnology, Ogbonna was a star participant on entrepreneurial training sponsored by the Central Bank of Nigeria. She could be called an entrepreneur and hair machinery/consultant, who is dedicated to making the world colourful by ensuring that every woman, who has been in contact with LindaBellHair, remains luscious, evergreen and beautiful.
“I make women smile,” is her catchphrase.
The SME sector
With significantly growth potential, SMEs are seen as a very important part of every economy. Compared to other emerging markets, Nigeria has historically shown lack of commitment to building a strong SME sector.
Broadly defined, the SMEs are businesses with turnover of less than N100m yearly and/ or less than 300 employees. According to studies by the International Finance Corporation, approximately 96 per cent of Nigerian businesses are SMEs.
Also, a recent ‘SMEDAN/NBS MSME Survey’ indicates that Nigeria’s SMEs contribute nearly 50 per cent of the country’s Gross Domestic Product and account for over 80 per cent of employment in the country. Be that as it may, internal factors exert a strong influence on the survival of any business relative to external factors.
Demand for beauty products
In 2017, the hair care market in Nigeria was valued at about N116.4bn. According to the market and consumer data by Statista, the market declined in 2020 as the Coronavirus Disease and recession saw consumers’ purchasing power dwindle. While the economy is expected to recover from the shock, beauty and personal care is set to begin to see greater demand from 2021, even as 2022 looks more optimistic due to increasing consumer sentiment. Accordingly, the young and urban consumers are expected to increase in importance as a major target for brands in the hair care sector.
The size of the global hair care market is expected to rise from $94.92bn in 2021 to $105.14bn by 2025. While Africa’s hair market is worth $6bn a year and growing quite rapidly, the market is worth an estimated $3bn in Nigeria. Expectedly, its value is likely to rise with an increasing number of working women with disposable income as well as sophisticated youth searching for new ways to care for and present themselves. Although dominated mostly by Asian companies, who supply synthetic and real human hair, the booming hair industry is beginning to see local players slowly catching up in recent times, as wigs and weaves become the biggest money-spinners.
Truth is the Nigerian beauty and personal care market is experiencing rapid and dynamic growth, providing lucrative opportunities for beauty businesses from around the region and beyond, especially for Lagos, the commercial hub of the country with about 24.6 million people and GDP of about $84bn. More so, due to the expected population growth and an impressive positive performance by beauty and personal care products, Nigeria, according to Kosmetica World, has become a destination of choice for investment by international companies that aim to seize the opportunities presented by the beauty and personal care markets.
A struggling star
Just like every new business, LindaBellHair had its dilemma, from product maintenance to finding new clients, retaining clients and sourcing hair units/extensions.
“I had issues with sales. I was moving from the physical store to an online shop and didn’t know how to get my target users,” she said.
Set up in January 2021, just after the pandemic lockdown was eased, LindaBellHair offers services, including hair extensions/units, laundry, styling, colouring, wigging, closures and frontals instalment, wig revamp and sale of human and raw hair units.
“LindaBellHair is your one-stop online hair and accessories store. We’ve got everything you need to look graceful,” says Ogbonna.
She remembered how, during and after her youth service year, she kept nudging herself towards hairstyling to physical stores for acquisition. “I found it interesting, though demanding. As a hard worker, it was an easy shot for me.”
According to her, LindaBellHair is open to serve all women of any race.
The business had started when she learnt how to make, care and style hairs. This exposed her to people, who asked her for hair bundles, wigs and extensions, which brought the hair business into limelight.
She said, “We’re dependable, honest and prompt, and have flexible payment plans. We take orders all over the continent with prompt delivery. No barriers.”
According to Ogbonna, who has a finger in every pie, LindaBellHair is for fashion-conscious women, who want to look their best at all times. “I have had several business experiences before the birth of LindabellHair and it has been a long jolly ride, of course, with its hurdles.”
During her university days, Ogbonna had tried running a fashion business. “I had got my wares at a very affordable store in Lagos markets, then packaged them in a transparent bag for easy identification and to avoid stains. I had to take the clothes to different hostels, just to make sales and I supported myself with the proceeds from the clothing line. The experience helped with budgeting, productivity and unique skills that benefited my other businesses.”
Room for improvement
Entrepreneurship is a continuous process and there is always room for improvement. Ogbonna acknowledges that disappointment is inevitable in business and how one chooses to cope is often a defining moment in one’s life.
“However, the hair world is risky and only the strong survive. I will tell you one of my terrible times as a hair guru. I am in this state right now, but I am hopeful,” she said.
Sourcing hair donors can take almost forever. LindaBellHair’s sources are mostly overseas, with a foreign agent whose role is to ensure that she gets the best quality and safe delivery of her products.
Her words, “My clients are bent on having it within a stipulated period. Most times, it takes months for our extensions to finally arrive. This waiting period is like stepping on a land mine because you have to pressurise your foreign partners and, at the same time, get pressured by your clients, who are waiting for their orders. I had to pacify, exceedingly, my customers. I don’t want to lose them to my rivals.”
Pricing is a key determinant of success in Nigeria and a major challenge for businesses in the country. Ogbonna sees business as facing two critical factors of low purchasing power and the availability of often more inexpensive alternate choices from other suppliers.
The entrepreneur stated, “Note that the Nigerian Federal Government charges a five per cent Value-Added Tax (which is expected to reach 7.50 per cent by the end of 2021), while states also impose an additional five per cent VAT. As a result of currency control measures implemented some years ago, we were forced to raise prices significantly (in some instances up to 30 per cent) due to higher exchange rates at the parallel market.”
While hoping that the government will fix the challenges of infrastructure and related issues affecting businesses and make entrepreneurship less exhausting, she says there are local professional services like the logistics companies and credible financial institutions that can be of significant benefit to hair vendors in Nigeria. However, the incessant increase in bills and duty charge fees by the government takes a toll on the final consumer.
In enterprise, the goal is to keep striving till you strike gold. “You rise every time you fall. There is light at the end of the tunnel. Just take it one step at a time. We are taking hair orders now,” Ogbonna stressed.
Get real time update about this post categories directly on your device, subscribe now.