Nigerian economy not friendly to SMEs – Ntiaidem

Glory Ntiaidem is the Founder/Chief Executive Officer of 9deys Organics, a natural hair, skin and lip brand. In this chat, she advises Africans against using chemical cosmetics, saying that they work fast but are harmful. Excerpts

What do you do at 9deys?

We help people grow their hair,treat alopecia, stop early stage balding, thinning, hairline shifting backwards and so on. The idea is to help people get back their self-confidence, understand the reasonforsome of these cases,while proffering solutions.

What is the story behind your brand?

The story is a self-implied experiment over the years. I realised I spent so much money buying artificial extensions, yet, I did not get as much compliments as when using my natural hair. People appreciated what they saw because the hair was healthy and stood out. There is no time I come out wearing my natural hair that I do not get compliments such as “Oh wow! What do you use on your hair?”, “Oh wow, what do you use on your skin?” Over the years, I had been referring them to other people. It dawned on me that I could do this thing, and my classmates advised me to do it since it would be my brand, instead of referring people to other brands.

During COVID-19, I was not doing anything, so I decided to cut my hair. I cut my long hair, which I had on for over seven years. It was a shocker to a lot of people, as they felt I was going through a midlife crisis or something of that nature. People kept asking why I cut my hair, but I needed to go through the process before giving it out.  Within three months, I began to get reviews and compliments. With the lockdown, I kept posting on my status and people could not believe that the hair I cut the other day had grown so well, healthy and nourished. They kept asking, “What products are you using and how do you use them?” I started from there to sell my then-unbranded product. The community started from friends and family, and when I began to receive positive reviews. I was convinced it was time to launch it into the market.

How has the product evolved since its inception three years ago?

It has been growing at a gradual but steady pace, stage by stage. We have evolved, as the result has been positively remarkable and overwhelming. I mean, that is the aspect of the business that keeps us going. We have been able to reach out to a few more people within a short period of time. Referrals from the few people have also helped to spread the good news and we are doing great. 

What milestones have your brand achieved in the past three years?

We have thrown stones at locations we did not expect to reach. We have been able to cut across international brands and markets, little or more through word of mouth, referrals and our client base. We have a lot of clients outside Nigeria, who are greatly impressed that this is coming from Nigeria. They have been pushing the black community in the United States and Europe. We have, indeed, been able to reach out to a lot of people.

How have you impacted the lives of your customers?

I did not know there were a lot of women going through hair-related problems until I started this business. I did not also know the importance of my brand until I heard people calling, thanking and praying for me. I have never done business before and somebody willingly gave me money just to show appreciation, extra money for a job done. Or somebody telling me that if not for your products and services, I would not have the confidence to come outside. It has been great and positive, helping women and men gain back self-confidence. This brand has been a source of motivation for me. When I do not feel like going to the office, thinking of these people keeps me going.

What challenge has 9deys Organics faced over the past three years and how did you overcome them?

We have faced the challenges of foreign exchange. In a small-scale business like this, a lot of challenges emerge from the point of purchase; today, you buy materials at a particular rate and the following day, it is 200 per cent higher than the price obtained the previous day. I cannot keep going back and forth, changing my rates. If I put it at N35 today and the following week, the price increases to N40, it does not speak well of the brand. It is affecting us as a brand, because we need to make profit. Despite me trying to reach out, I am also losing money at some point.

The economy is not friendly to small-scale businesses. We spend more than our profit. It is passion for the job and the smile it puts on faces that keeps us going.

What sets your brand apart from other hair treatment brands and what do you want to be known for?

We want to be known for being an effective hair doctor because that is how most of my clients address me. My clients use the expression, “Meet my hair doctor.” The major factor that sets us apart is our concern for solutions to the clients’ issues. Our priority is the customer’s satisfaction. We are not after the money, but the results. We are patient with our clients, and we embark on the journey together with them. Hair loss, sometimes, is not about hair breakage alone; it involves the emotional aspects and medication angle. Most of the other brands just want to sell their products. I connect with my clients by consultation, exploring factors that occurred before they started experiencing hair loss. We have realised that some people tend to experience hair loss due to childbirth, post-partum depression, medications and many other factors. It sets us apart.

We reach out to the clients emotionally, provide support and sell our brand, which is made from edibles, thereby preventing the clients from chemical-infused issues at any point. You are what you eat; so our product works physically from the external part while on your part, you eat healthy to spur growth from inside. What you eat works from within, while the product works from outside. So, that is another point that makes us different.

We also organise therapeutic sessions, which we call the head spa. The head spa is a session where you tend to relax yourself. Hair loss could come through stress or when your brain is overworked. When you go to a salon, instead of them to help you relax, they infuse more pain into your hair. But in our salon, we make you calm mentally, and feel relaxed; so that if you are under pressure, after a session with us, you will leave happy and relaxed. It is not just about selling products but also giving you that peace of mind and sanity while using the products.

Personally, what has been the most rewarding aspect of running the business?

The rewarding aspect is attending to a customer and putting a smile on the customer’s face. Sometimes, people ask why they have to pay for the service. I usually convince them not to worry till I am done and they end up convinced on why they should pay handsomely for my services. It is the confidence that comes with you knowing that the service you render yields high level of customer satisfaction. I have never had a bad report, such as “Your product did not work.” Not at all. If the client follows the procedure, sticks to the brand, to the routine, do what is needed to be done, the excellent result and joy is our reward. The achievement of the desired result is what keeps us going. Your result is our review. If you were not getting the right results, you would not tell somebody else about us. So, I do not need an award or a placard to show me the reward for excellence. Your review, desired result and happiness show that we are doing well.

How do you stay motivated and inspired to continue driving the success of 9deys Organics?

Looking at where I am coming from, where I am going to, and the lives this brand has impacted, knowing that people need to know and experience this brand, I cannot be discouraged. Sometimes, when I go to the market and return feeling very depressed due to the fluctuating market price, I remember that there are women out there going to take steroid injections and ending up with scars on their heads while trying to treat a small hair condition that could have been done with a cream, I get motivated. I am not saying steroids or any other brand is bad, but they are notable for using chemicals, which could be harmful to health because they feel it is the shortest route to growing healthier hair.

Our brand is safe and available; hence, the need to push it out there, and create awareness for people to know about a healthier solution to their hair issues. The realisation that I have to ensure people know there is a brand that does not require surgery or injection gives me sleepless nights. I have successfully treated clients that had scars on their scalp due to hair loss. I motivate myself to stop that from happening to people because life moves in a cycle; it may come back to haunt the people close to you. To treat dandruff, somebody was advised to use injection, instead of simply using shampoo or exfoliant. When I sit back to think that these things could stop without spending so much money, I get motivated. 

What is your plan for the brand?

I plan to have more product varieties for the brand. I started with lip gloss. Funny enough, a lot of people do not know that I started the organic lip gloss journey before the hair and skin. So, ahead of it, I want people to stop using those pink lip chemicals and focus on the gloss aspect. I want people to know us, for my brand to be in every household.

How can customers participate in the July 17 celebration of your brand and what special offers should they expect?

July 17 is my birthday, but the anniversary sales will be on July 28, 2024. I believe a lot of people would be available to participate. I thought of pushing it to Sunday, July 28, to enable people to participate and celebrate with me. I will launch another product on that day, and give out gifts. We will give out samples of the new product and discounts. So, when you buy any product that day, for the next three months, you will have, at least, two free sessions, which is way beyond 30 to 70 per cent discount.

What message do you have for your customers and the general public as you mark this significant milestone?

The message I have for people out there is to stay away from chemicals. Chemicals make one age fast. You look 20 years older because chemicals are very tricky. They give you the result under seven days, and seven years later, you cannot repair the damage done. My advice is, be it skin or hair, stay away from chemicals. Trust the gradual process of natural products. Nothing good comes easy. It does not happen overnight. If you are watching your weight, you do not lose weight in one day because you did not gain that weight in one day. It is the same energy you apply to your skin care and hair care routine. Do not let anyone deceive you. Natural products are affordable, considering the rates I put on my products out there. Yes, there are a lot of products that have been chemically infused with lots of preservatives that could last 10years, but you are dealing with a small-scale business thatproduces short-term results. You are lucky enough to have access to it, especially people living in Nigeria, unlike those based abroad, who could be told to pay millions to ship local products over there. Overseas, they use more products that are chemically-used than natural ones. So, do not abuse the small-scale business, just because it is easily accessible. When you go out there, you will appreciate what you have here. Be consistent; do not follow what other people are doing, but do what works for your body and hair type.

Always support 9deys Organics. We are here to stay, and your result is our reward.

Where do you see your brand in the next five years?

It is a brand that gives you satisfaction and is easily accessible anywhere. It came about three years ago. Wherever you go, you see it. I want it to be a brand that people will reckon with. The arm we have is not just for men and women; it is also for babies. When you have your baby, there is 9deys hair care for you. You know,babies usually have ringworm, those round patches on their scalp. So, I want mybrand to be out there, making a positive impact, while supporting other brands too. We promote, support and encourage people to use it. I want it to be out there. That is my dream. I am building a brand that will be recognised outside the country, outside my reach. We are also sponsoring black community markets outside.

Locally, we are sponsoring young talents. So, it is not just going to stop here. It is a big dream for me. 

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