Ugochi John is the CEO and founder of a leading retail hair brand called Hair By Ugo. Her retail chain offers services to leading women all over the world. She has physical stores in Nigeria and Ghana she is able to reach the rest of the world using her active e-commerce platform.
She is also the CEO of The Hair Laundry, a brand committed to providing premium aftercare solutions that protect investments in hair pieces. With a drive for customer satisfaction, Ugo started the wig rental company to serve creatives and fashion enthusiasts who do not want to invest in buying wigs, she runs a YouTube channel called ‘Diary of a hair business owner’ and she is the lead consultant at Hair Business Academy, an online education platform which she set up to help enlighten people on the business of hair, the care and much more.
With 10 years of experience in business, Ugo has been able to build a formidable brand with stores in Lagos and Accra with records of huge importation from at least six countries, offering a minimum of 40 textures to customers. Hair by Ugo ships worldwide and offers free laundry services to her return clients. Her consumer policy allows refunds and exchange, and her wigs are reported to have a life expectancy of a minimum of 12 years.
She is a wife and mother to three amazing kids, one daughter and 2 sons.
Tell us about your early years in business
In my early years, I was everywhere. I went state to state selling my wigs and hair bundles like gala. I was focused on delivering quality hair and excellent service. I was always having fairs in Lagos, Abuja, Port-Harcourt and even Warri. My biggest influence has been the women who I serve. I don’t have a background in beauty or hair but my love for working with women has brought me this far. I started my business because there was a demand for good hair at affordable prices. There was more importantly, a demand for excellence in service delivery. So, truly, my biggest influence has been my desire to fill the gap in the hair business market while serving these amazing clients of mine.
What is the story of the birth of your business?
Hair by Ugo was born in 2013, I had a baby and wanted to try something new, but the era of bouncy curls had come. During my search, I accidentally found a vendor who sold these amazing hair products but was US based. She didn’t mind me becoming a distributor, so I started. I would say I started by accident because I knew nothing about hair. It was divine.
Why did you add the laundry to it and what have you observed in how women treat their hair, even the expensive ones?
The Hair Laundry was born out of need. My clients were demanding more from me in terms of what to do with their wigs after using them for 2 weeks at least. I have observed that as women, we invest so much in buying wigs and hair extensions but once we take it off, we hardly know what to do especially when the curls are gone, and the texture is no longer silky, or the lace is ripped. The price or quality does not determine if you need maintenance. Once you have an extension, it must be maintained by a professional and that was why we started The Hair Laundry to help women maintain their investments. These wigs can last as long as 12 years if we maintain them for you.
What in your estimation is the hair business industry in Nigeria worth?
In Nigeria, the revenue in the hair and hair care market is projected to reach US$1.16bn in 2023. It is anticipated that the market will experience an annual growth rate of 11.06% (CAGR 2023-2028). This is not my estimation I must say. This is information that I can back up. The truth is, there is a low barrier to entry and demand for hair and hair care supply is not about to decline. I am shocked at these numbers, but it is believable when you look at the number of vendors and the volumes, they churn out every day.
How has your marriage influenced your business, including the movement to Ghana?
I am that woman who wants to be around my partner no matter the circumstances. It was not up for debate if I would move to Ghana, but I worried about my business. My husband has supported me so much that a lot of people still do not know I don’t totally operate from Nigeria. I am in Nigeria once every 2 months and I spend as much as 10 days on some occasions. He holds the home front at those times, makes sure the kids get to school, checks with their school activities, sports and meetings. He also comes home early to ensure they go to bed. My kids are in bed by 8pm as a rule and daddy enforces it and has been of immense support to me.
Tell us about taking your business to 4 states in US without knowing anyone to help with promotion
This was a test of my faith. So, I always have holidays in summer, and I try to take wigs along whenever I travel and this had been mostly to the UK but this time, I said it was a sales tour and we did 4 states in America. Our online diaspora market is big, but I didn’t know what to expect in the various states.
Thriving without knowing anyone demanded strategic networking and a relentless commitment to quality. I immersed myself in industry events, built relationships, and let the excellence of my products speak. The journey was challenging, but it showcased the global appeal of my brand. Adapting swiftly and delivering unparalleled service were non-negotiables, ultimately establishing my business as a formidable player in the US hair industry.
What avenues have you explored to expand your clientele and how has it paid off?
We have explored social media marketing and by this we mean the 9 yards. Facebook, Instagram, Google, and websites but again, we are very big on collaborations and batters with influencers. One thing that has kept us at the top of our business is participation in networking events. My business has not only sustained growth but also cultivated a loyal community of clients who appreciate the quality and uniqueness my brand brings to the table.
What does Christmas mean to you and how do you plan to spend it?
Christmas reminds me of my parents and my grandparents, and lots of gifts and food. Unfortunately, I won’t be spending it with any of my extended family as we are all in different parts of the world, but I would make it as memorable as I can, sending gifts and ensuring we make the best memories this year with my immediate family.
How important is it to be your own greatest promoter of your business?
I mentioned that when I started, I carried my business on my head like one hawking gala. Those were indeed my big break days. People take you seriously when you market shamelessly and confidently. Knowing that you know the value of the product or service you offer always endears people to you.
I must add that we have not been at our best in the last year when it comes to marketing but expect to see us everywhere come 2024. We are a city set on a heel. You all must see us and experience us.
Tell us about the academy and reason for its intended establishment
Wow! I have never spoken about my plans on the academy to anyone in the media but let me say this… The Hair Business Academy is here to offer comprehensive education to hair business start-ups. We have created modules and case studies that allow our participants see the possibility of owning a successful thriving hair business. Recognising the demand for expertise, I wanted to bridge the gap between passion and professionalism. The academy provides comprehensive training, instilling not just technical skills but also business acumen. I believe in impacting the next generation of Nigerian hair bosses, ensuring they enter the industry with knowledge, confidence, and a commitment to excellence.
How important is being in your own identity despite your partner’s successes?
Building The Hair by Ugo brand has been a journey, and it took me time to build, so walking into my brand is easy. I have carved my path while showcasing my expertise. My husband’s success as MD of a leading bank with branches in Ghana is acknowledged, but I chose to be known by my identity or through the distinct quality of my products and services. I leveraged my skills, creativity, and dedication to build a brand that stands on its own merit. It’s about confidently navigating the industry, earning respect through hard work, and ensuring my business shines independently, casting a unique and powerful light in the realm of Nigerian hair entrepreneurship.
What day are you never to forget and why?
I remember one of the days I went into a high-end salon in Victoria Island to look for clients and I met Deola Bali. She wanted to buy from me, but she wanted to know about hair. So, she asked me in a very nice way to tell her about my product. That was the first time someone just didn’t buy but wanted to know about how I source and what I know about the product I sell. It truly made me happy and sent me to research more.
What makes you the go-to hair businesswoman and what makes your brand tick?
I am the go-to hair businesswoman because my brand embodies excellence, innovation, and unwavering commitment to quality. What makes my business tick is our consistency, impeccable service, and staying ahead of industry trends.
A Hair By Ugo woman is someone who appreciates not just style but also the artistry and care behind it. She values quality, embraces confidence, and understands that her choice of hair is a reflection of her individuality and sophistication. It’s about empowering women to not only look great but feel exceptional with every strand of hair.
What advice do you have for anyone going into your line of business?
I would say know the work but also know that the decision lies with the customer so be attentive to customer needs. Build relationships with both the suppliers and clients, understand the quality you want to offer and please don’t sugarcoat the quality. If you have to sugarcoat your quality don’t sell it.
Is the human hair business safe for buyers? How is the health of customers protected?
People have a certain perception about human hair, but just like food is processed till it is safe for consumption. I will speak about my own brand. I can say that our human hair goes through rigorous sanitation before it’s put out at the showroom, and please it’s safe for everyone.
Omg!! Thank you for having me. I look forward to chatting with you again soon and to everyone who reads part of my story I hope you find some part of it inspiring, funny, or thought-provoking. Have a merry Christmas and see you in 2024.