The first time I was encouraged to write an article detailing how I started and built my beauty company; I laughed it off saying, “I am a Make Up Artist, not a writer please. Let me just stay in my own lane”. Under all that gibberish about me not being a writer; there was also that feeling I had (still have) that I am yet to ‘arrive.’ Listed as one of Forbes 30 under 30 for 2018, as well as winning The Future Awards Prize for Beauty, does serve as reminders that I have come a long way. But I believe that I have only scratched the top of the success that lies ahead of me. I say to myself “tell me to write an article in the next ten years; and I would have a lot to write about!” The conversation came up again over drinks with some of my best friends and I remember one of them saying “Anita, this is a unique opportunity to tell your own story, in your own words; without any misrepresentations that can sometimes happen with an interview”. Our other friend nodded in agreement and chipped “besides, you don’t know how many people would be inspired by reading your article”. I couldn’t shake off their words from my head; so I decided instead to do it afraid; rather than not do it at all.
That phrase “do it afraid” as made popular by Omilola Oshikoya, has been my guiding principle for the last seven years. I did it afraid when I left my family and the life I knew in Dublin, Ireland and moved back to Nigeria to build my business. Prior to that, I had started my business on small scale-using Hi5, MySpace and Facebook to advertise my work. I also ran a talent management outfit called Gold Strings Inc. as a result for my love for music; I had thought I would make a living by managing artistes (how life happens, right?). It wasn’t until I got my first booking that paid me 10 euros back then, that I realized I could turn my hobby into a business. I laugh now as I remember how excited I was about that first booking. I couldn’t believe someone was going to pay to have me touch her face. What a lot of people do not know is that I am completely self- taught. One of my mottos is “Learn and Execute”. I learnt online from the best in the industry and practiced on myself, my younger sister, my mother, friends and pretty much, anyone who submitted their face to me to use as a practice board.
Some people have said that I had some form of competitive advantage returning to Nigeria to start my business because in their opinion; the ‘returnee’ syndrome always gives an unfair advantage to those of us who were brought up abroad. I laugh when I read or hear such comments as those people have absolutely no idea is how hard I worked to apply myself, the number of free trial make ups I did, the low paying gigs I accepted and how I dropped my business card everywhere I went. This is why I always say to budding MUAs; take any job you can and go with your best attitude, work your way up using any experience you can get, even if it doesn’t pay. Eventually it would pay off and you would put a monetary sum to your value and people will fall over each other to pay for your services. Thanks to the Internet and social media presence, the makeup and beauty industry has skyrocketed beyond anyone’s imagination. Use the digital and social media platforms to grow your following and advertise your work. The more you expose your work and people see what you have to offer, the more you’ll grow. I returned to Nigeria and started operations in 2013 but it wasn’t until 2015 that I got a studio. I harnessed fully the power of social media and used it to build my brand. Almost a year later, I had to rent a bigger space because the first studio was too small to host the classes we were offering.
The Turning Point For Anita Brows Beauty
Initially I ran my business the way any starter entrepreneur does; but with growth came the need to travel more, as I started getting bookings from all over the world. Unfortunately, anytime I had to be away for a long time, business back home suffered. I hated having to tell my clients I was out of the country and unavailable therefore I decided to hire more hands to help grow the brand. It was at this point that Anita Brows Beauty outgrew Anita Adetoye. It took well over eight months to identif and train the first set of Anita Brow Artists; as I had to un-train, train and retrain until I was comfortable sending them to attend to clients. Now, I have over thirteen staff on my payroll and I say this with all sense of humility. The key to growing a business is to think beyond you.
Your business cannot grow beyond a certain level if you are selfish and not ready to let go of the reins. The first step is to think of your clients; the people you have chosen to serve. It broke my heart every time I had to reject a booking because I was in Ibiza, London or South Africa. I knew I had to be there for my clients anytime they called; and the only way to do that was to multiply my talents. Teaching people how to work like you; that unique Anita Brows signature wasn’t easy because each individual has their unique style; learning to let go of the reins was also a test of whether I was ready for business or not. I look back now and I am so glad I made that decision to become an entrepreneur and beauty artist.
Mental note to self and entrepreneurs: you should only hire when the business has grown to a point when you are turning away clients as a result of fully booked schedules and you can afford to hire and pay staff well enough to maintain the brand you have worked so hard to build
The key word is “YET”. Be smart enough to know when you can handle it on your own and when you need extra hands. Alternatively; you can also get people on contract; which means they are not on steady salary but only get paid when there is a job and you contract them for it. For example, this weekend you have only two or three bookings, which you can handle. But next weekend, you get a booking for ten models and you know you can only hold your brushes well for five; you can contract the other five to someone else and pay a fair percentage of what you charged the client.
Equip, Educate, Empower
We read about it in business books and during seminars, groups and associations; your business cannot survive beyond a certain point if it is about you. Some experts like to say this is the reason we do not have a lot of trans- generational businesses in Africa; for decades in Africa, most businesses do not survive beyond the Founder. I would hate to see Anita Brows Beauty end when I am old and frail. My goal in life is not just to get rich. My goal is to make impact while making an income. It would always be about the lives we can enrich. It is the reason I hold my staff dear to my heart and conduct monthly assessment; both work-related and otherwise to ensure that they are growing and improving themselves. It is the reason we started our ‘Mini Live Demo Series’ where we teach specific make up skills for as low as N3,000. This means if you only have a problem lining your eyelids; you can learn how to do it professionally at such a small fee. There are some clients who just want to learn how to draw their brows properly, some just want a class on the appropriate ways to apply foundation; we offer these best-practice services at the cheapest rates you can find. The series have so far been hugely successful, all of them selling out under twenty-four hours.
This driving force to change the face of make-up and beauty, to leave an impact beyond my bank account was one of the reasons we were contracted to train over a thousand students across universities in Lagos state and its environs, in partnership with GTBank. Anyone who has seen me holding a class or demo session can tell that I am at my happiest when I am training people. A lot of entrepreneurs think it’s a gunshot in the foot when you share your skills and expertise with others but again; that’s probably a mentality that has held us back from giving our best. In the process of teaching, you are also learning and enforcing the skills you have. I am constantly learning and practicing on my own; sitting at the feet of those I consider as gurus. Beauty and make up is an industry that is always evolving; there is always a new product release, a new technique, or some fancy new way to do an old thing and you need to have the knowledge and expertise to stay relevant.
My life has continued to grow beyond my wildest imaginations and as I grow; I would continue to learn and to share.
Anita Brows Make Up Line
In 2018, we diversified our business to include make up production. This is why we call ourselves a beauty company and not just a make up business. All aspects of beauty fascinate me and I am happy to launch make up products dear to my heart. The idea for it was born many years ago when I was shopping in London for make up products and it took me hours to get products that would suit my Nigerian customers and other black clients. There are several shades and skin tones when you talk about the black skin; and not all of these are represented. But because we try to ensure that we are not just painting faces, but accentuating the natural beauty of our customers, we have often had to mix two or three different shades of a particular product before we getting the perfect fit.
We are working on launching products that represent the entire spectrum of the African Woman. Whatever your skin tone, you can consider yourself represented. This new venture is taking a lot of work, sweat, blood, investments etc. but as they say, nothing good comes easy. My mother always says ‘necessity is the mother of invention’ and I can confirm that is true. While reading the autobiography of leaders and entrepreneurs I admire, I realized that their businesses or the turning points in their careers came when they identified a specific need and channeled their energy into resolving it. If you are reading this and you have always yearned to go into business or you are in business but you seem stuck; take a moment and look around you. What is that need you can see, which you are positioned to solve? Providing a solution would not come easy; but can you do it? Do you have the raw materials, the right skills, and the right people in your corner (because you sometimes need to collaborate) to birth a solution that would make lives easier for people? Some entrepreneurs tend to have an entitlement mentality; but the truth is, nobody owes us anything. Just because you offer a service doesn’t mean people must patronize you. Money is value and we would only get back the monetary equivalent of whatever value we are able to provide.
To conclude, I would like to say to every aspiring make-up artists out there, never lose the love and passion that you started with. It is easy to get too carried away with the business side of things and forget to keep the enthusiasm that made you quit your 9-5, move from a different country, take a loan, kept you up at night. Let your passion years later be as strong as it was on the first day. Find a mentor if you need to; work as an assistant or even intern for them. You have no idea how easier it would be when you have someone showing you the ropes. And when you ‘arrive’, pay it forward. Show someone else the ropes. Let someone else call you ‘mentor’. And lastly, invest in a lot of flat shoes and sandals. The hours are long and tedious, you don’t want to hurt your back…and trust me; heels are not a good look when you are working. Let’s leave that work-hour ‘slayage’ for the corporate chicks.
Anita “Adetoye” Brows
Writer’s Note: I would love to know what you think about my article. It is after all, my first. Did I do well? Would you like for me to write more often? Are there topics you want me to write about? Kindly leave a comment or reach out to me on social media to let me know what you think (winks).