Kemi Lewis, a Natural Hair Expert and Founder of KL’s Natural Beauty Bar, reflects on her decade-long journey in Nigeria’s natural hair care industry. In an interview with BusinessDay’s Chioma Onuh, she discusses overcoming challenges, celebrating milestones, and expanding her beauty brand to three locations in Lagos. With a staff of 50 and over 10,000 clients, Lewis also highlights the growth of KLS Natural Hair Academy, which has transformed from an online platform into a government-accredited vocational center.
How did the journey of KL’s Natural Beauty Bar begin?
The journey began in 2012 when I returned to natural hair myself and realised there was a lack of natural hair salons and skilled stylists in Nigeria. I was keen on starting a business but wasn’t certain about the idea until a friend proposed a natural hair salon. That’s when the idea clicked, and in 2013, I officially launched KL’s Natural Beauty Bar.
What were the challenges you faced as a pioneer in the natural hair industry?
One of the main challenges was getting the staff to buy into the vision of a natural hair salon. Some people couldn’t understand why I wanted to focus solely on natural hair while others doubted leaving my law career for this venture. But I was convinced and focused on the vision to change the narrative that natural hair is beautiful and can be styled professionally.
Some people couldn’t understand why I wanted to focus solely on natural hair while others doubted leaving my law career for this venture.
Over the last 10 years, how have you seen the natural hair industry evolve?
The industry has come a long way in the last decade. Initially, we didn’t know much about styling natural hair, but now we’ve pioneered new styles and techniques. We’ve shown that natural hair can be styled beautifully and professionally. We’ve also empowered hundreds of people through our training programs and helped change the perception of natural hair.
Can you tell us about some special moments that made you truly believe in what you were doing?
One memorable moment was when an older client came to us with very damaged, relaxed hair and a balding patch in the center of her hair. Within 18 months, the patch had grown out, she had transitioned to natural hair, which was longer, fuller, and more lustrous than she had ever remembered it. She was grateful for her transformation and this reaffirmed that we were on the right path, making a difference in the lives of women with natural hair.
What are the three achievements you are most proud of?
Firstly, being a leader in creating natural hairstyles, especially our signature natural hair, ‘Updos’ and changing the perception of natural hair. Secondly, empowering over 500 people through our training programs, giving them skills and boosting their income. Lastly, expanding from a small salon to three locations, with a product line and a physical training academy.
Maintaining consistency in service quality across different locations can be challenging. How do you maintain the essence and core values of KL’s Natural Beauty Bar?
Our core values, including professionalism, warmth, integrity, innovation, customercentricity, excellence, and teamwork, are at the heart of everything we do. We ensure that every staff member understands and lives by these values, creating a unified and customer-centric experience.
How did you come up with the idea to train others and online courses?
After starting KL’s Natural Beauty Bar, I received requests to teach others how to style natural hair. I gradually expanded into salon management and partnered with brands to train their stylists. In 2018, the demand for online courses led me to create my first course, and from there, we expanded to empower people worldwide.
What are your plans for KL’s Natural Beauty Bar in the next 10 years?
Our main focus will be on empowering even more people through training, both inperson and online. We aim to teach and reach thousands, if not millions, across the globe. We also want to grow our product line and make our ayurvedic-based products available worldwide.
Any final words for your team and those who have supported you on this journey?
I want to express my immense gratitude to my team and everyone who has supported KL’s Natural Beauty Bar. It is teamwork that has made this dream work. We’ve achieved so much together, and I believe we will continue to grow and make a difference in the natural hair industry. It’s been a pleasure sharing my story and vision. I’m excited for the future and the positive impact we can make together.