GNB Exclusive Interview: Homeless and squatted with a friend after BBN – IFU Ennada

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In keeping with our core tradition of showcasing some of Nigeria’s brightest talents to the world and telling their stories in way they’ve never been presented, the GNB Magazine crew caught up with the ever amazing and vibrant CEO of Nigeria’s leading Hair and Skincare brand, Beautifu Enada, Ms. Ifu Enada. Read as she takes us on a comprehensive ride through her world of business and life generally.

WATCH OUT FOR HER WORKABLE TIPS ON GETTING YOUR SKIN GAME UP THERE (FOR A SKINCARE ENTHUSIASTS). DEFINITELY A WHOLE LOT TO UNPACK, HERE, LET’S TAKE A RIDE TOGETHER!

TAKE US ON A BRIEF IFU ENNADA JOURNEY
(LIFE & BUSINESS)
IFU: I’m popularly known as IFU Ennada but my real name is Iheme Faith Uloma. ‘Ifu’ my initials, while ‘Ennada’ is Adane spelt backwards. I was born in the early nineties, grew up in Lagos for a bit, then, at some point, my family moved to the village as living in Lagos became very hard, no thanks to hardship.

It was at the village I lost my younger brother, who died in my presence. I was only ten, while he was four. Sequel to this unwholesome development, I returned to Lagos. On reaching Lagos, I continued schooling and eventually gained admission to the Olabisi Onabanjo University to study Computer Science.
Later on, it dawned on that I wasn’t cut out for a career as a Computer Scientist as my passion lied in creating things. I wanted to solve problems but at the time, I didn’t have sufficient funds to pursue this goal. However, when I turned nineteen, I got a job as a TV presenter and I learnt on the job how to produce reports for events. I was basically in charge of producing TV shows both for TV and brands.
Along the line, life happened.

I got into a situation which bordered on sexual harassment which ultimately culminated in the loss of my first job as a TV presenter. Leaving this disappointment behind, I ultimately ventured into acting as my life seemed to be in alignment with TV. The acting phase of my career began with a successful auditioning for a TV series called Emerald that aired on African Magic Family. I was selected to play a lead role but still I knew I wanted to do something in business. I enjoyed acting, singing or dancing, but they were not as financially rewarding as I would have wanted. To ”cut the crap,” I was grossly. I had a situation where people knew me (because they saw me on TV and all that), but yet unpopular. Strings of awards and nominations that followed, yet I yearned for more.

THE BIG BROTHER PHASE
In 2017, I auditioned 2017 for the big brother Nigeria show for the first time, having no prior exposure to the show I got into and unfortunately, got evicted after six weeks but not without pulling some springs of my own as I knew I was destined to launch a business beyond this phase. Before going into big brother, I had terrible hair issues. I was losing my edges owing to terrible hair styles that I did and was seeking ways to recover. To my dismay, no product in the market proved potent enough and that was when I began experimenting with a host of concoctions to recover my hair’s health.

Eventually I would go on to professionally learn how to manufacture hair and skin care products upon leaving the big brother house.
I leveraged the big brother platform to market my ”brand” having preconceived the launch of my hair care line while in the house. If you saw me in the house, I was always on my natural hair, I don’t think I ever had a wig on.

So people knew me as that girl with healthy natural hair, but that was a marketing strategy for me. Beyond the big brother phase of my life, I officially launched my hair care line on July 27th 2018. At the time I was actually quite homeless because I had expended lots of money trying to secure votes that would keep me in the big brother house, a move that obviously failed. This made me go broke as I was left with meagre money on me.

This was an extra push to start my business, while squatting with a friend. Not many people knew this. My business grew really fast because people had seen my hair and greatly desired it. I was also able to connect with them on the level of “I know what your problem is because I have been there before.” The fact that my brand spoke to the pain points of people helped it grow, immensely.

In the first few months, I decided that I was going to outsource production because I wanted to focus solely on marketing and that went on for a while until I was struck by a series of unfortunate events. Looking back now, I would call them blessings in disguise, but that was how Beautifu Enada started with the hair care line. Over a year ago, in 2020, I delved into skincare because it’s something I’ve also wanted to do.

I’ve always desired to help women appreciate their skins, especially as there is this misconception that people who naturally have light skins are more attractive compared to dark skinned people.

This unwholesome disposition pressures women to habitually rely on expensive bleaching creams which actually end up destroying their skins. I was once a victim of bleaching. I didn’t make a conscious effort to bleach, I just wanted something natural that would make my skin glow because I’ve always loved having a really fresh skin. So a friend sold me this supposed organic cream that I was using at the time and I developed cystic acne caused by the steroids in the cream. My face was really bad, my situation was terrible that I also had really dark knuckles and deep stretch marks.
I wasted so much money trying to get my skin back which didn’t work until I decided to professionally learn how to manufacture these things myself. I took several professional courses, started making products myself. I subsequently applied the skills and knowledge garnered from this courses to fix my skin.

I, thereafter, made the resolve to make the solution commercially available to other people in my shoes or just basically people who are looking to get beautiful skin without bleaching their skin. This was what birthed Beautifu skin in 2020. These are, basically, all I have been into for a while now. I also have a line that caters to the pre-stretched hair extensions market. So those are my businesses for now and that is the story behind them. I’ve always been one who loves to create, loves providing solutions to people’s problems and adding value to lives. These basically define Ifu Enada.

YOUR BRAND, BEAUTIFU ENNADA, HAS BECOME A HOUSEHOLD NAME IN THE HAIR AND SKIN CARE INDUSTRY IN NIGERIA, WHAT FACTORS HAVE SET YOU APART FROM THE LOT?
IFU: One major factor that has set me apart is my ability to connect to people on the level that makes sense to them, like I know your problem because I have been through it. So it’s not just being a professional at making skin or hair care products or knowing huge marketing words that can hype my products, it’s about connecting to people where it’s hurting them, making them understand that you understand their problem and you can help them solve them and giving them solutions that actually work.

I think that is something that has really helped me. I have also enjoyed great referrals on account of the efficacy of my products, when a commodity works for somebody, they want to refer it to their friends or their sisters. I have mothers who would buy a ton of my products and send to their daughters in the UK or the US. Same as husbands who would buy for not just their wives, but their sisters too I would say it’s my brand’s story, making people understand that this is something I’ve been through. I genuinely understand your pain and I can help you and also actually providing solutions that work.

WHAT ESSENTIAL CHARACTER TRAITS HAVE HELPED CREATE THE ATMOSPHERE FOR YOUR GOALS TO FLOURISH AND AT WHAT POINT WOULD YOU SAY THESE TRAITS DEVELOPED IN YOU?

IFU: First of all, I think the love for being a creator, giving life to things is one of them and I would also say the tenacity built from all of the challenges faced as a child. I wanted to be successful because success wasn’t something that was at my beck and call. It was something that seemed very far off and, for the most part, I would say, for as long as I can remember, I’ve always known that I was cut out to be a creator innately.

Therefore, if, today, I wasn’t making skin or hair care products, I’d probably be doing something creative, even when I was a TV producer (which would naturally be my other option). I was essentially putting things together, bringing things to life for the entertainment of whoever was watching. I had it in me and this cushioned the coming to life of the other part, talking about the need to be successful is something, which grew in me inevitable and partly because of my humble beginning. I was born into poverty and it’s not my parents’ fault because they obviously tried and were hard workers, but I wanted my story to be different. I wanted to inspire people. So, when I discovered these things, I armed myself with them, built on them and I got better.

HOW WERE YOU ABLE TO RAISE FUNDS FOR YOUR BUSINESS?
IFU: Like I said at the beginning, I knew I wanted to do something in beauty. I’m not sure I mentioned the fact I had to leverage on the opportunity, big brother presented, to market myself, largely due to the paucity of funds. So, by the time I got off the show, I had some funds (albeit, I was not the overall winner). And, despite me expending a lump sum to push for a stay back in the house, I still had something left.

So it was the tiny bit of the money I had left that I just basically used to start my business. And, even when I announced that I was coming out with a hair care line first, because I launched my hair care line under the Beautifu Enada before the skincare, I actually didn’t have the money for mass production. I, therefore, created a preorder period which was successful because people bought- but at a discounted price.

This enabled me access the level of traction my product was getting at that time. It also helped me raise money which I then turned over into the business to meet up with demand. In a nutshell, big brother was huge for me in terms of provision of start up capital I started with. It also presented the required popularity crest I rode on to initial business success.
The fact that people already knew me from the house made it easier for them to trust me. Also, the marketing idea of creating a preorder period to test run the acceptability level of my product, which saved me from commiting funds into a “dead” project, worked for me.

WHAT IS THAT PRESSING GOAL YOU HOPE TO ACHIEVE WITH YOUR BRAND THAT KEEPS YOU AWAKE AT NIGHT?
IFU: I want to be as big as possible. I know that’s probably every brand’s aim, but I want to be as big as possible not just in Nigeria but a household name in Africa. Beyond Africa, we have brands that are really dominating and have been out there for a long time. Thus, my strategy is to take as many lands as possible in Africa and be as big as possible, reach as many people as possible.

One of the challenges I have noticed is people in other parts of Africa, who desire my products, often get discouraged when the reality of the cost of shipping steers them in the face. We have realized that the shipping cost, and not the actual cost of the products, is what scares them off. In essence, being as big as possible also includes having chains of stores or franchises or just outlets across all these different beauty hubs in Africa where my products are accessible. It is also to ensure our products reach more women and helping them appreciate their skin even as they achieve their hair and skin care goals with my products. This is something I know I’m going to achieve someday. It sounds herculian, but it’s very doable.

WHAT KEEPS YOU INSPIRED AND MOTIVATED TO DO MORE IN BUSINESS AND LIFE GENERALLY?
IFU: The fear of failure. I’m motivated by failure, the need to help people and I know that to be able to help people, I need to be successful. I don’t want to fail because I know where I’m coming from. A lot of people look up to me, a lot more depend on me to unimaginable extents. Therefore, the fear of failure keeps me up at night. I want to be successful. Again, the fact that I am naturally benevolent, not just to my immediate family or friends, but to strangers who might be hungry or just need something small to get them back on their feet, is another factor. When I think about the almost impossible situation millions of indigent people out there are, today, I am genuinely moved to help them. In other words, when I think about success, these are some of the factors that drive me.

TELL US ABOUT ONE MOMENT OF YOUR LIFE YOU CONSIDER EXTREMELY TOUGH AND HOW YOU CIRCUMVENTED IT
IFU: In business, I would say it was when the COVID-19 pandemic hit the world. As I mentioned earlier, at some point in my business, I started outsourcing production for my hair care products because I wanted to focus solely on marketing. But, when COVID happened and ports were shut down, people were basically trapped in their countries. This prevented me from shipping my products down there and, for over six months, I couldn’t sell my products. Aside this, the sharp rise in the value of the US dollar against the naira was another factor. These things really affected my business and it was so bad that I started losing hair.
Imagine you own a hair care brand but you’re losing hair, but it was stress-induced alopecia that I suffered. That was what made me determined to bring back production to Nigeria which I have successfully pulled off. It has also helped me create more jobs for people Because, now, instead of paying people abroad to do that for me, I am doing it here and teaching people, employing more people in the process. My business almost literally closed but we’re here and God is always good.

IF YOU COULD HAVE YOUR WAY, WHAT POLICIES WOULD YOU LOVE THE GOVERNMENT TO PUT IN PLACE, IN ORDER TO HELP PRODUCTION-CENTERED BUSINESSES THRIVE BETTER- ESPECIALLY THE ONES WHICH DIRECTLY DEAL IN BEAUTY PRODUCTS?

IFU: I’m not sure if this is a policy, but it’s just like a general thought or request. I would like them to make the economy stable and business-friendly. Currently, the cost of production has gone off the roofs, especially for people who have to import some of the ingredients they use for production. To this end, if the ease of doing business index can be improved, which includes making the cost of production a lot cheaper as well as improving the standard of living, Nigeria will truly truly be better, because there are talents here As it is, a host of businesses are closing because they can’t keep up anymore. Everything is just uptight and difficult right now. But, if the economy could be made more stable and profitable, then businesses will thrive and life would make more sense to a lot of people.

Are there opportunities or areas in the beauty sector you think people aren’t tapping into yet?
IFU: Hmmm! If I tell them now, then I’m giving them one step ahead. But, seriously, beauty is beyond topical products like what you put on your skin or your hair. There’s a whole lot more to it, some of which I’m currently exploring. So, for anybody who is in the beauty industry, you just have to think outside of the box, even as you are solution-driven. That’s how you make money in this line of trade.

TEACH US A SIMPLE DIY (DO IT YOURSELF) MIXTURE EVERYBODY COULD TRY OUT FOR A HEALTHY SKIN
IFU: Okay, one method you can try out on your skin, if you have acne prone skin, suffer from sores, from cystic acne or you’re simply looking to have a more evenly toned complexion, is the tumeric facial. Tumeric is oil soluble, a type that is exceptionally amazing for the face. It doesn’t clog pores, but help to lubricate, protect, and, ultimately, prevent water loss from the skin. Basically, because it nourishes the skin, I would recommend making a paste of turmeric and aloe Vera if you can get your hands on them. By the way, I have a tested turmeric and aloe Vera face mask, so that can definitely work for you.
If you can make a paste of that with jojoba
oil, which is very exceptional for the skin, because it shares properties that are very close to that of the skin. Make a paste out of it and apply it on your face, leave it to dry, say for like twenty minutes and wash off thereafter. If you follow this method at least three to four times a week, in a month’s time, because it takes the skin an average of 28 days to renew itself, you would see that your complexion improve a whole lot. Also, if you’re suffering from sores as a result of acne, and similar conditions, you’d realize that there would be some healing that would have gone on there.

Here is another tip I would love to share, do not forget your sunscreen, it is easy for people to think that because they’re dark skinned they won’t get sun burns, but the truth is, studies have shown that the sun actually contributes to 70% of all cases premature aging. In certain situations, even if you are not always out under the sun, you could still get sun burns if sun rays manage to penetrates your house windows. Therefore, the use of sunscreens comes in highly recommended as It helps to slow down the early signs of aging.
What’s more? I would recommend that you perpetually stay hydrated, because when you are dehydrated, it would show on your skin and dehydration can also lead to premature aging. This is specifically for the ladies, even some men who bleach, as much as possible, please avoid bleaching products. There’s absolutely nothing beneficial about bleaching products. They are all dangerous.
If you’re looking to get a healthy skin, look for a good moisturizer that you’re not allergic to. The fact that something is natural or professionally made doesn’t mean you’re not going to be allergic to it. So, you have to look at the ingredients and stay away from products that do not clearly state their ingredients. Some products might not expressly have theirs on the container, but have it on their website.

Avail yourself, painstakingly, the opportunity of looking through the ingredients so as to prevent unwarranted allergic reaction. Make sure to look out for good moisturizers and incorporate all of these things into your routine, while also eating healthy. I’ve got you guys covered on the skin and hair, obviously you can tell.

LET’S DESCRIBE YOU
EASY GOING OR INTOLERANT?
IFU: It depends, really. What you give is what you get. I can be easy going and I can also be intolerant. It largely depends on the situation, I can be both.

DO YOU IGNORE OR REACT?
IFU: once again, it depends. It depends on the situation. Sometimes I’ll just ignore, some other times, I could be moved to react. It depends on what’s going on at the particular moment.

FOODIE OR NAY?
IFU: I’m definitely not a foodie. I just eat to survive and stay alive.

HOME OR OUTSIDE?
IFU: I like home. I like being in the comfort of my bedroom, working, doing all that stuff, but when I need to go out, I utmostly do. Simply call me an “ambivert”.

STYLISH OR DOWDY?
IFU: I’m definitely stylish.

A RELATIONSHIP AT A TIME OR OPEN TO MANY?
IFU: One relationship at a time is what I approve.

DEEP THINKER OR SHALLOW THINKER?
IFU: Definitely a deep thinker. I can overthink. I need deliverance (chuckles)

PUNCTUAL OR LATE?
IFU: Punctual, please! I’m always punctual because I don’t just want to be late. It’s better to arrive early than late.

WHAT IS YOUR MOMENT, EARLY MORNING OR LATE NIGHT?
IFU: Late nights. I’m a night person.

SCATTERED OR ARRANGED?
IFU: Definitely arranged.

ACTING OR DANCING?
IFU: I can do both really good.

COOL OR GANGSTAR?
IFU: It depends on my mood really. I can be cool and I can also be anything you want me to be. I can play both parts really well.

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