• Friday, June 21, 2024
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BusinessDay

In a woman’s world

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Bode Thomas Street in Surulere is notable for one thing – high fashion. Like the adjoining Adeniran Ogunsanya Street, for many years it has been known as a street where lofty fashion houses and stores abound in that part of the Lagos metropolis. All manner of outfits adorn either side of the long road – from fashion retailers, fast food outlets, communication outfits to wave-making salons and spa centres. The class of cars that speed past this hot January afternoon attests to the calibre of clientele that patronise these outfits.

One major thing that remains noticeable even for the first-time visitor to this area is the fact there are numerous signposts which announce one form of service/trade or the other. Signposts advertising manicure, pedicure and hairdressing are very common here, and quite amazing is the fact that most of them are owned and managed by men. These men dared to venture into a profession mostly dominated by women in Nigeria until some 15 years back. When they came up with the idea then, not a few people would have called them jokers, considering that it was not then a common profession among men.

Bobby John Eke, chief executive officer, Bobby Signature, could easily be regarded as the pioneer, the first man to turn hairdressing into full-fledged business where there is a switch in role between the two sexes – a business world where men easily style women’s hair without following the conventional pattern.

A graduate of Forestry, Research and Management, Bobby, as he is fondly called, is today an accomplished hairdresser with a large clientele base that cuts across ministers, governors’ wives, fashionistas, top models and students.

To underscore the fact that Bobby has really come of age is to recall Agbani Darego’s hairstyle at the 2001 Miss World beauty pageant? Bobby was the brain behind it. Today, Bobby easily wears the title the corrective beautician and head of technical crew of Bobby Signature, whose business is making women look beautiful. women beautiful, Bobby has quite a large number of styles attached to him. “My strongest point is to bring out the individual in the client and this has earned me a great reputation in the field over the years,” he says proudly, then adds, “For me, hairdressing is about style. The client’s facial features and personality should determine the kind of hairstyle she should wear.”

Another twist to the business of making women beautiful is that some practitioners now have their own line of makeup, weave-on and other hair accessories. For instance, Bobby has his own line of hair accessories while Abugo Ugwokegbe of DsalonDowntown has a line of hair creams, oils, among others.

“Gone are the days when some businesses are categorised as those dominated by women,” says Abugo. “Fashion is about doing something you love. I was encouraged to go into that world of business by my godmother and I am happy I followed her advice.”

From a modest beginning on January 14, 1992 as a barbing salon, DsalonDowntown has experienced a phenomenal growth such that it is now reputed as one of the leading salons in the Nigerian health and beauty industry offering a wide range of relaxing beauty treatments.

DsalonDowntown has over 250 employees including top-rated beauticians whose inspired and innovative hairstyles have created and sustained a strong, loyal and growing clientele base. In addition, it has a beauty training academy committed to developing and nurturing careers in the hair and beauty industry. “I started this out of sheer interest and I can confidently say it is a very lucrative business. Daily, all kinds of people walk in here to have their hair done and we also make money from selling all range of beauty products in addition to our own line,” explains Abugo.

The lucrative nature of the industry must have also lured Ugochukwu Igbokwe, chief executive officer, Make Me!, to the business, and since then he has never ceased to add stylist to his title. “I went into hairdressing because of the money. I started off as a barber in Aba and then came to Lagos to work as a barber. But I was not satisfied with what I was paid as a barber; the stylists earned more than I did. I felt cheated. As a result, I decided to go into hairdressing full time,” he reveals.

Ugochukwu says he met his expectation to make a lot of money from the first day he started the business. “I met my expectations,” he says with a smile. “Anyone who starts a business newly usually waits for customers to turn in but we never had that challenge.”

Make Me! Beauty Place started as a small business on Bode Thomas – the same street where the head office is situated – and as its clientele base grew, it moved to a bigger space. But Make Me! Beauty Place is not the usual run-of-the-mill salon which engages in just grooming a woman’s hair; it also offers a whole range of related services, all geared towards bringing out the best in hair make-up and thus, a woman’s beauty.

In less than five years after it first opened its doors to customers, the salon has been able to carve a niche for and establish itself as a force to be reckoned with in the industry within and outside the country.

The first time Ugochukwu touched a woman’s hair, he says, the feeling was the same as when he worked on a man’s hair. “I was too consumed by the interest I have in the job than the feeling attached to it. My interest has always been how to create new styles to make more money. The fact that hairdressing is considered a woman’s world is a question of perception and stereotypes.”

With as little as N3,000, he says, a woman can get a unique look. “Trust me, with as little as that, a woman I touch will blow up any red carpet. I will give you the same effect as someone who pays N100,000 or more. For someone to achieve the great look, you don’t need a great hair but a great stylist. A good stylist can give you a good look out of nothing. What a good stylist needs are his comb and scissors. My most celebrated styles are those I did with the cheapest hair products. You must be able to decide which hairstyle is good for a client,” he adds.

“We are not just into hair-grooming alone. We are basically into creating unique hairstyles for our clients, which are capable of making them stand out in a crowd wherever they may be. For instance, if a client comes to our salon and goes out later with a particular hairstyle, you can be sure some other women will walk up to her and ask where her hair was made.”

On his assessment of fashion and beauty in Nigeria, Bobby says the beauty industry in the country has come to stay, as it has become an uppermost priority in every woman’s life. According to him, the beauty industry is a multimillion naira one that can generate great revenue for the country if great attention is paid to it. “Women love to look good and they can spend any amount of money on it. Our daily take-home attests to this. We need more people to develop the industry. The scope needs to be enlarged,” he says.

According to Bobby, “Hairdressing never came across to me as a gender issue, but a sheer work of art.” His artistic nature combined with the drive to make things beautiful inspired him into being a hairdresser With nearly two decades of making