Nigerian born Ibidun Eni Fagbemi-Balogun aka Eni Lise Balogun, mother of three girls, who describes herself as “shy and straight up blunt” has always had a fascination with the beauty business. Eni’s father owned a cosmetic business in Nigeria, Groom Away Gray (men’s hair grooming business) and as a child, Eni who was her “daddy’s pet” observed him closely, traveled with him as he juggled two countries and continents (USA & Nigeria) and knew she would someday mirror his footsteps.
While in Nigeria, Eni attended Christland and Gideon International Children School grade/primary schools. For high (secondary) school, she attended Adebayo Mokuolu College,A.G.G.S, among many. In 1995, she moved to the USA to join the rest of her family, her entire family lives in the States.
While in the States, Eni juggled her beauty passions hair styling (her first real passion) and working for makeup beauty brands like Fashion Fair, M.A.C and Bare Escentuals with school. She completed school and on one of her many visits to Nigeria, it became clear it was time for her to return to launch Lise Beauty Range because as she explains, “ I wanted to add change to the makeup industry in Nigeria because when I came down on Vacation in 2005 there wasnt really an UUMMPHH!”
Change she has added with her company Lise Beauty Range. Enjoy our interview with Eni where we cover the beauty business, trends and how you can also set up your own fashion beauty business.
LADYBRILLENigeria.com: Eni I am excited about this interview with you. I feel confident that our readers will walk away truly enlightened about Nigeria’s beauty industry because from everything I can see and tell, you are one of the few with a clear command of your craft which is refreshing.
Eni: I’m glad to share my thoughts and I hope it does help.
LADYBRILLENigeria.com: First how are you doing? How was your day?
Eni: It was great! A few good news, and with Ladybrille it’s always good news.
LADYBRILLENigeria.com: When we look at the West, we can trace the history of cosmetics as far back as 100 B.C. in Cleopatra’s time. Let’s make a comparison. When do you think the Nigerian Woman’s love for cosmetics began?
Eni: I think it’s been quite a while back really, but now it’s looking very professionally applied and the fact that Nigerian women are getting oriented about the importance of makeup is a plus.
LADYBRILLENigeria.com: Makeup wasn’t always accessible to the average woman. People like
Max Factor helped make makeup accessible and to some degree there is a shared similarity with accessibility in Nigeria. I still remember growing up in Nigeria and hearing particularly the older women in Lagos frown on the young “sisi ekos” who chose to wear makeup. The presumption was they were “ashawos” (loose women/prostitutes) we’ve come a long way, haven’t we? (Laughs)
Eni: (Laughs) . . .sure it’s been a journey but I’d say its worth it. I think then it was more of a culture thing, that you have to be an irresponsible lady to wear makeup, so if you’re bold enough to go for
it you must be a lady with no attitude or respect which usually qualifies them as the word (ashawo). (Laughs)
LADYBRILLENigeria.com: What would you say is the general attitude towards makeup at this point in Nigeria?
Eni: Now if you’re (not) fine tuned with the latest makeup trends you’re not IN! Basically Nigerian women have embraced makeup, the application process and the Glam that comes with the package.
LADYBRILLENigeria.com: Here we are, almost ready to usher in 2010, yet in a country of over 140million people we can maybe count three or four small and at best medium size beauty companies (Toni Payne, Lise Beauty, Banke Meshida Lawal, Tara-Fela Durotoye) serving the Nigerian woman. It almost seems like a crime. Across the globe cosmetics and specifically makeup is big business. Why do you think Nigerians are lagging in making this a lucrative business?
Eni: We are not lagging at all. It just takes a lot of guts to convince Nigerians to go for a product. But the fact that we try and are still recognized for it, is a big step. I know someday like some 20 years from now we’ll have over hundreds of makeup brands and at least they will learn from our success and failures and become better in the industry. But for now, easy does it. Nigerians will appreciate the makeup industry we have now and yet to bloom, it’s just that the makeup artistry industry just got people’s attention just less than 10yrs ago and in the states we can say more like a hundred. Though now I’ll say brides respect our crafts more because they appreciate the artistry services we create on their special day.
LADYBRILLENigeria.com: In the West, we still have a problem with brands that cater to women of color. I feel Nigeria is in a great position to create Made in Nigeria cosmetic products that can be marketed worldwide to women of color. Why aren’t we there? Is it a problem with our laboratories, electricity or our general attitudes towards the beauty business? Why are we not having Nigeria’s Estee Lauders or MAC?
Eni: In Nigeria anything is possible as long as we’re given ELECTRICITY but till then, nobody wants their profits or bonuses going to Fuel supply because really makeup can’t stand heat!
LADYBRILLENigeria.com: We can’t talk makeup without talking skincare. Can you address the ongoing problem of skin bleaching among our women and some of our men? Have you had to deal with this in your line of work, yet?
Eni: So many times, it’s something we weren’t taught in makeup schools but you get to discover yourself, but then if you learnt special effects, it’s an addition you’ll be glad you learnt. I just believe if
you don’t love yourself on the inside, you can’t love that person on the outside. But again then if it makes you feel better, do whatever you want to gain that confidence.
LADYBRILLENigeria.com: Let’s get back to makeup for a minute. I noticed some Nigerian personalities, yourself included, are sort of mirroring the West in that makeup brands are by known celebrity names/personality driven: Estee Lauder, Mary Kay Ash, Bobbi Brown and so forth. Do you think that is a good think for Nigeria’s beauty industry? If so, why?
Eni: It really is good if you want the best packaging and response from your customers. [E]veryone wants MAC. If it not MAC they don’t wanna use (your products). But the Nigerian weather is extremely humid for products that aren’t manufactured for a 101 degree weather. It’s gonna be similar but the thing is, we request for what we want here.
LADYBRILLENigeria.com: I know you’ve been conducting makeup seminars in Abuja and Lagos, how are you positioning your brand to be like Avon, MAC or I-MAN since really the market is open for a savvy business minded artist like yourself who knows her stuff to take over?
Eni: Take over. . . You flatter me! Its just passing my knowledge to aspiring artist and teaching the real artistry trade, tips, techniques of what being an artist is and getting the right training and being a Professionally Certified and trained artist. One of the reason I’ve trained over 150 makeup artist all by
myself and still going on strong is because I just love what I do. So, from there I decided to start the makeup artist association called ”PROFESSIONAL & CERTIFIED MAKEUP ARTISTS OF NIGERIA” P.C.M.A.N. We’ve had an overwhelming response so far due to creating a body and a good support system for makeup artist so we can be recognized and be heard.
LADYBRILLENigeria.com: A real issue and really alarming health concern is the use of expired cosmetic products by many of our women. Could you tell us, if you know, the current regulations regarding cosmetics in Nigeria?
Eni: The only regulation I know is that you can get a NAFDAC approval for imported cosmetic products here. But see some people prefer to cut cost by buying expired products all in the name of discounts and end up ruining their skin. I’ve seen a lot of expired makeup, fake brand name makeup .I just pray hard for the people that know about it but choose to ignore it. That’s one of the topics we are addressing next at our next P.C.M.A.N meeting to boycott companies that retail expired products.
LADYBRILLENigeria.com: What measures, if any, has the government put in place to help combat the influx of expired cosmetic products into the country?
Eni: I know they’ve been trying because I watch the news and I see seized products and so on, but for some reason there’s always a leak somewhere and it gets out in the market.
LADYBRILLENigeria.com: Is there anyway to scrutinize retailers selling these expired products?
Eni: So many WAYS, but they need to follow international standards of scrutinizing issues like these. But you know what it’s a big fish to fry. It’s gonna take lot s of honest and determined people to take
LADYBRILLENigeria.com: So let’s really get into your beauty business because as you know, we are very much about the business of fashion. Walk us through your journey. You decide to relocate back to Naija to start your business, Lise Beauty. What were the first steps you took in establishing Lise Beauty when you got to Naija?
Eni:I did test the waters for a bit, the response wasn’t bad .I secured my studio Ikoyi Lagos .At first people can be so loyal to international brands. But I don’t do much talking though once you see my products on me or once it’s tested on the client . . . It simply speaks for itself.
LADYBRILLENigeria.com: Are beauty businesses required to incorporate in Lagos like you would have done if you were in New York?
Eni: Yes I think any business basically that wants to run as a legitimate one should be Incorporated.
LADYBRILLENigeria.com: How did you get your first customers?
Eni: Way back when I started was friends and family. But now still friends family and client referrals, I mean tons of them. (laughs)
LADYBRILLENigeria.com: What were some of the biggest challenges you faced in getting your beauty business up and running?
Eni: I didnt have much friends here in Nigeria and getting around to meeting new ones was kinda out of my way. Getting the supplies and everything I need was hard getting someone to construct anything. So I had to ship most of my things from the States. But the electricity issues still makes my skin crawl because makeup and heat aren’t friends, especially foundations and glosses. So we have to run
the generator 24/7.
LADYBRILLENigeria.com: Hopefully our generation helps solve this crippling electricity problem. It affects every aspect of life. It’s ridiculous! Moving on . . .I noticed you have been giving seminars around the country. Why did you decide that was an important aspect to your business?
Eni: I love pleasing my customers. That’s me! We had overwhelming calls for our products and training outside Lagos we just had to grant their wish and not be selfish about it. If Lagos has Lise why can’t Abuja or Port-Harcourt? (laughs)
LADYBRILLENigeria.com: You are one of the few makeup artist and beauty entrepreneurs who actually knows what she is talking about. What next for Lise Beauty?
Eni: MORE NEXT AND LADYBRILLE WILL BE THE FIRST TO KNOW IT.
LADYBRILLENigeria.com: Sounds good! As more fashion/beauty entrepreneurs begin to enter the marketplace (Funke Adegbola of Ella Brown Couture, Elaine Edozien of ShoMya), what are your predictions for the future of Nigeria’s beauty business?
Eni: We’ve just started and you aint seen nothing yet, really I’m highly impressed!
LADYBRILLENigeria.com: We have had major multi-nationals enter Nigeria’s beauty market but they have all packed their bags and left. What are your predictions on multi-nationals and their conglomerates now that the Western fashion world seems to be launching numerous brands in the country?
Eni: I won’t say its easy. It takes a lot of NERVES to be in it. Thread it softly and just be basically affordable.
LADYBRILLENigeria.com: Okay. I am a young woman, I have heard about you, read about you on LadybrilleNigeria.com and I am beyond excited for an opportunity to work with you as one of your Independent Beauty Consultants, like Mary Kay or Avon. Explain to me what I need to do to make this a reality.
Eni: Firstly you have to have people skills. We’ll put you through it if you don’t have the training or idea on marketing. You have to be a trained makeup artist or we’ll train you.
LADYBRILLENigeria.com: What are the benefits of being a Lise Beauty Independent Beauty Consultant?
Eni: You get a crash course on makeup artistry at the Lise makeup school. We give rewards depending on the selected packages ie. Ipods, blenders, toasters, digital cameras, free makeup boxes, free Lise gift certificates and more . . .
LADYBRILLENigeria.com: Thank you Eni. It has been a pleasure having you. Thank you for sharing your insights with our audience and the world.
Eni: You’re very welcome.
~by Uduak Oduok
Founded in 2007, Ladybrille® Magazine is a California based pioneer digital publication demystifying the image of Africans in the west through contemporary African fashion and celebrating the brilliant woman in business and leadership, with an emphasis on the African woman in the diaspora. Our coverage includes stories on capital, access to markets, expertise, hiring and retention, sales, marketing, and promotions.