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Sunday, 9 November 2014

Toyin Towolawi - The Nigerian Lady Barber

Meet Toyin Towolawi, the 29 year old female entrepreneur who is a barber and beauty therapist. She is the MD/CEO of BMAT de Barber and BMAT Beauty Academy. The Banking and Finance graduate advises upcoming entrepreneurs to be the best version of themselves. Read excerpts of her interview with the Punch below, it will inspire you.

How did the idea come about?My father was a baker while my uncle was a professional barber who used manual clippers. They both had apprentices that worked for them. I enjoyed their independence and this informed my decision to be on my own. My father wanted me in school at all cost. Each time I came home for holiday, I ensured I learnt something from both of them – mostly on how to hold the clipper. At a point in time I told my dad not to send me money because I had more than enough to sustain myself. I was able to raise a lot of money through plaiting of hair of my colleagues and barbing the boys. Indeed, I lived big on campus.

I found it difficult to cope when I finished the National Youth Service Corps programme to work in a company because I had to wait till the month end before I could have money in my pocket. I could not cope with this; hence, I saved some money and with the help of my brother and my fiancé, I was able to raise my initial startup capital.

What are the challenges you are faced with doing business in Nigeria?The challenges I face doing business in Nigeria are numerous. They include capital and electricity. I have a beauty salon well furnished but not to the level I want. I am planning to expand, but I am constrained financially. The amount of fuel I use every day to power my equipment and gadgets at the salon is alarming: it is affecting my profit.

I was forced at a point in time to reduce my staff strength due to high running cost. Also, the place I wanted to use for my vocational school of barbing and beauty academy could not come to fruition because the rent was too high.

What are the most important lessons you have learnt as an entrepreneur?Dynamism is one thing that keeps coming to my mind. I have learnt to be dynamic in order to compete favourably with others by introducing free hair cut after three visits which you cannot find in the industry. Another is sustainability. 

Customers will continue business with people they know, like and trust especially if they are pleased with the product or services that they paid for. This gets intensified if it is a personal product or service like getting your hair cut – the better the experience, the quicker they become your loyal customers.

Innovation is also key. I keep good magazines like sports publications and men’s health in the waiting area. The introduction of support gadgets such as towel warmer and state of the art sterilisers (at least to keep at bay transmission of diseases) has been innovative. I have learnt to believe in people but never to depend on them. I have seen the need to be more focused and self-reliant.

What is the advice you have for people aspiring to be entrepreneurs?Be the best version of yourself. Never be who you are not just to gain acceptance of everybody. They should be ready to undergo training in the area of their interest. They should avoid cutting corners because a good name counts in business. They should never give up even though they face challenges because life is not a bed of roses. They should specialise and never try to be master of all. Be truthful and let your yes be yes. Above all, put God first

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