With a B.Sc in Sociology and Anthropology, and an M.Sc degree in Public and International Affairs, a career in the beauty business is about the last thing one would have associated with Olubunmi Adewusi, founder and CEO of Lustre Beauty Place. In the last three years though, the former insurance and real estate guru, who is also an associate member of the Chartered Institute of Personnel Management (CIPM), has managed to make Lustre the one-stop-shop for all things beauty and physical wellness. In this interview, she discusses with ROTIMI IGE about her career choices, her thoughts about the concept of beauty and the realities of running a business during the COVID-19 pandemic.
HOW long have you had the idea for Lustre Beauty?
The idea began in 2011, but the vision was birthed in 2017. It took that long because I needed to be ready and wait for God’s appointed time.
When you say ‘ready’ are you talking financially, from a business point of view?
Financially, emotionally, mentally and psychologically. I needed to be ready to step aside from a nine-to-five job and put my efforts into my personal business. It was something that grew out of passion, and I felt that I needed enough time to put things in place. I also wouldn’t have been comfortable juggling it with somebody else’s job, while using the person’s time for my business.
You chose to go into the beauty business though there are much more profitable endeavours. Why?
Right from when I was young, I’d always loved to look good, smell good. Beauty is a total package. Beauty is not just your hair or the way you dress, there are so many other qualities that you have to attribute to beauty. The first person I learnt that from is my late mother. While growing up, I watched the way she dressed elegantly, the way she smelt and the way she comported herself… that was my first inspiration for getting into the beauty line. Another person that inspired me is one of my late aunts who had a salon. I would go there and look at the stuff she had in her place; I would ask questions and all that contributed to my knowledge. I realised it was inherent and something that I could venture into.
We started with our first branch on College Road (Ogba, Lagos) in October 2017. We have our second branch at Omole Phase 1, which we launched in June 2019.
Many leave paid employment to become entrepreneurs for a better income. Is that true for you?
I would say yes. But also, to be an entrepreneur, you have to be passionate about what you are doing. If the passion is not there, the tough times will affect you. For example, with the pandemic in the last few months, businesses have been closed and that’s downtime. But because you are passionate about what you are doing and what you love doing, you would always look at the positive side. There is a saying that ‘put your money where your mouth is’, that is what business is all about. You give it what it takes. If I were working for someone, I would give it my best. But when I’m working for myself, I’ll give it my best and all that it takes. That is the difference between working for someone and running your own business.
How profitable would you say the beauty business is?
The proceeds are not fantastic, honestly, but the truth is that what you love doing would always come through for you in a big way.
Did your family approve of your decision to quit a nine- to- five for your own business?
My husband knows I’m a go-getter and he supports whatever I choose to do. He has been my pillar and strength, and he knows that when I decide to do something, I must have thought it through. Even my children are more involved in the business than I. They are so interested in knowing the details of my day at work.
What’s the next move for Lustre? Do you plan to diversify?
Not at the moment. Of course, expansion is critical for us, but we have to ensure that each of our branches is rooted, grounded and sustainable.
What’s the biggest challenge of running a beauty business in Nigeria?
Employees. I have been rather blessed to have had a couple of employees that started with me and are still with me as I speak. But the truth is that we have had a lot that have fallen along the way. You must be strategic as a business owner; you must have a blueprint for your business; you must understand the business and you must be able to carry your staff along with the vision of the business. And because there are so many people in the same line of business, when people are not comfortable where they are working or they cannot align with your own vision, they would definitely want to step out. Basically, that has been the major challenge.
Another thing is that you have to be optimistic when you are starting up any business because others have been in that line before and you may have your fears and worries about patronage. I feel that your work will definitely speak for you.
How affordable is the Lustre brand?
Once you give your customers value, they will look for you and they will pay for your services. You must ensure that you are out to give the best value to your customers.
You have a spa, gym, makeup section, hair section, nail section and everything beauty. Who are your target clients?
We cater to men, women and children.
How do you create work-life balance as an entrepreneur?
We have operational times, and it’s the same when you’re in paid employment. You wouldn’t allow your business to encroach on your family life. We have resumption and closing hours, so it’s still like a regular nine- to-five. In anything you do, you have to be intentional. You must create time for your family.
These days, we see more women running successful businesses and there’s even a school of thought that stipulates that women are better entrepreneurs than men. Do you agree?
I totally agree. I never want to remove the God-factor in anything I do though. For God to have created a woman, looking at the man and saying it is not good for a man to be alone, he needs a helpmate, that says something. Of course, a man goes to work and what is at the back of his mind is that he needs to provide for his home. When he brings the provisions home, the woman has to run the affairs of the home, take care of the children and ensure that everything is working. Women are always on the move, and we have the capacity to do multiple things all at once.
COVID-19 changed about every sector in the world. How has your business coped in the scheme of things?
The first two weeks of the initial lockdown was like a time to rest for me. After two weeks, it dawned on me that this was the time to consolidate some things about my business. I started doing a lot of research and some online training at the Lagos Business School. That all changed my perception. Of course, I have so much to bring back to the table. I love to look at the positive side of things, and while we were all staying safe during the pandemic, I realised that change is the only constant thing. It is left to you to determine the kind of change you are looking for.
Three years down the line, any regrets?
What do you know now as an entrepreneur that you wish you had known before you ventured into business?
Location is important.
Your advice to other women and would-be entrepreneurs?
Follow your dreams.
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