Blondie Okpuzor is an online shopaholic, a lover of truly decadent food, a travel junkie and a skincare addict. She is the founder and CEO of BathKandy Co. International, a company she founded 4 years ago as a result of her personal struggles with allergies and other skin issues. She is a workaholic who spends most of her time volunteering, building her spiritual life and spending time with friends and family.
She shares how she started her business with Woman.NG.
FROM HAVING AN IDEA TO STARTING YOUR BUSINESS, SHARE YOUR JOURNEY WITH US
A series of unfortunate events led me to BathKandy. I moved back to Nigeria in 2011 with a plan to do my NYSC, work for one year to gain local work experience and then start up my hair and makeup studio. All that happened except not in the way I planned…I moved back, skin started reacting very badly to the change in environment, water and slowly but surely, even foods I was used to eating were off limits to me. I needed to find a solution fast because I couldn’t even take a shower without breaking out in hives and spending at least 30 minutes scratching my body raw.
So I started experimenting with local oils I would find in my kitchen, Palm Oil, Shea Butter and I realized that they did help calm my allergies but obviously looked and smelled like struggle and heartbreak. So after much thought and experimentation, I decided to model my products after the foods I couldn’t eat anymore. That’s in a nutshell how BathKandy started.
We started making Christmas giftboxes for friends and family and after that, we realized that we needed a permanent location where people could see, feel and experience the brand first hand and the rest they say is history.
WHY DO YOU LOVE WHAT YOU DO? THERE ARE SO MANY OTHER BUSINESSES YOU COULD HAVE EXPLORED, WHY THIS?
I love what I do because it allows me to share myself and my art with the world. I also get to help people. Women especially feel good about themselves and learn to love their skin. What’s not to love when you wake up doing what you love and utilizing an amazing gift you’ve been given to do something that you’re actually good at…this is the life!
AT WHAT POINT DID YOU KNOW BEYOND ALL DOUBT THAT THIS IS GOING TO WORK?
I don’t think you ever really know your business is going to work…what you do know for certain is that you’re going to do your best …better than your best to prove to everyone that this is worth it. When you’re given a gift, it’s your duty to multiply that gift as you will be held accountable for what you’ve made of the gifts and talents you’ve been given. For me, there is no other way, and my mantra is “failure is not an option” so the only other option is to succeed so I work like my life depended on it.
HOW DID YOU RAISE THE CAPITAL TO START YOUR BUSINESS, ESPECIALLY WITH THE HIGH COST OF RUNNING BUSINESSES IN NIGERIA?
I started my business with personal and family funds and to date, we have not raised any outside capital. The business is solely run and funded on internally generated revenue.
BRILLIANT IDEAS DON’T ALWAYS MEAN GREAT SALES, HOW HAS IT BEEN MARKETING YOUR SERVICES?
Having a great product will not make people buy from you. You need to make people see the value proposition of what you’re offering and only then will they buy into your service offering. Creating your products with the customer in mind and letting the customer needs be foremost in your mind when creating a product will always make it easier to market because you will simply be offering your customers the solution to their problems. Marketing my products has been easy because they are very aesthetically pleasing…however, getting them to purchase and keep coming back took a learning curve…we’re grateful for the growth and the lessons we’ve learnt along the way..
AS A SMALL BUSINESS OWNER YOU CAN’T DO EVERYTHING, WHAT HAS BEEN YOUR EXPERIENCE HIRING STAFF AND BUILDING YOUR TEAM?
Well you can do everything…but it certainly isn’t the wisest decision and it will most certainly stifle your growth as a business.
YOUR GREATEST SKILL/STRENGTHS THAT HAVE BEEN PARTICULARLY BEEN OF HELP IN STARTING AND RUNNING YOUR BUSINESS?
Tenacity and my attention to detail. I’m one of those people who, when I decide to do something, I do it…no excuses, I do whatever it takes and find a way to get the job done. This, I find has been a valuable strength in my journey to entrepreneurship.
DID YOU HAVE TO GET A FORMAL TRAINING OR QUALIFICATION TO BE ABLE TO DO THIS?
I did get formal training however, most of what you see today is self-taught and as a result of extensive and often expensive research and just a passion to the best and to put out the best possible products.
YOU HAVE BEEN RUNNING YOUR BUSINESS FOR SOME TIME NOW, WHAT DO YOU KNOW NOW THAT YOU WISHED YOU HAD KNOWN BEFORE YOU STARTED?
I wish I knew how much physical, mental and spiritual willpower it took to run a business. People think entrepreneurship is your ticket out of hard work and to early retirement, but in actual fact, entrepreneurs work round the clock. It is extremely tasking but the results are so worth it.
ANY LIFE EXPERIENCE THAT HAS PARTICULARLY PREPARED YOU DIRECTLY OR INDIRECTLY FOR WHAT YOU DO NOW?
I can’t pinpoint a specific life experience but I do recall that as a child, I had an overactive imagination and I loved to read and create stories and things. I can definitely see this come to play in my present life.
CHANGE CAN BRING OUT A PART OF US WE NEVER KNEW EXISTED, WHAT NEW THINGS HAVE YOU DISCOVERED ABOUT YOURSELF IN THE COURSE OF STARTING AND RUNNING YOUR BUSINESS?
Hmmm…this is an interesting one. One of the most valuable lessons I’ve learnt…or rather I’m learning is patience. Patience with yourself, patience with your expectations, patience with your employees and customers…even patience with the process and your growth! As entrepreneurs, we put in so much work, and naturally, we expect to see the results of our labor quickly but most times, it takes years for this to materialize. I have learned to trust the process, grow at my own pace, and compete with my former self (yesterday’s version of myself)…this puts less pressure and helps me be more appreciative of my own journey.
THE GREATEST BUSINESS ADVICE YOU HAVE EVER RECEIVED AND BY WHO?
Never do business with any person who has nothing to lose. I don’t remember who told me but this piece of advice is pure gold!
WHAT DO YOU THINK ARE THE MOST ESSENTIAL SKILLS FOR WOMEN ENTREPRENEURS ESPECIALLY IN NIGERIA?
Negotiation and the ability to disassociate your emotions from business. As women, we are generally emotional beings and that is a good thing but, in business, some decisions should be taken from a strategic and purely factual place. Our super power as women is to know which emotion is needed in different situations.