A personal mission to find a simplified skin care regime for women of African descent, led to entrepreneur Leslie Okoye launching her own line of holistic skincare products specifically created for women of colour. Today, her company, L’Okoye Cosmetics Inc. and her CookieSkin specialist skincare range, is providing a way for women to build confidence in their skin and to create flawless complexions.
LoA found out more about this unique company breaking new ground in the cosmetics industry in Africa.
What does your company do?
L'Okoye Cosmetics develops and distributes quality skin care products for women of colour. We sell and distribute worldwide to online and physical stores, supermarkets and spas. The company aims to redefine the meaning of beauty amongst men and women of African descent by making holistic skincare that doesn't perpetuate the idea that beauty is based on skin color. Instead through its quality skin care products, L'Okoye Cosmetics aims to empower, build confidence and increase self-love in women of color through its brands, campaigns and seminars.
"L'Okoye Cosmetics aims to redefine the meaning of beauty amongst men and women of African descent by making holistic skincare that doesn't perpetuate the idea that beauty is based on skin colour."
What inspired you to start your company?
I had been frustrated for years having to combine creams to achieve flawless skin. I also used to help make creams for my friends, I really just wanted to simplify skin care for the African woman. So, I decided to start my own line of holistic skin care products for women of color. I wanted to embody ‘freshness’ and ‘health’ into my products because I would always notice girls with the prettiest skin and to me great flawless skin makes any woman beautiful.
Why should anyone use your service or product?
I believe that no matter your origin or complexion you can and should have CookieSkin. To make this possible I've introduced a more holistic method of skincare for women of colour to age gracefully. At CookieSkin we believe in feeding your skin the best essential ingredients. CookieSkin® is a preventative and corrective skin care line made with superior active ingredients that nourishes the skin for an irresistible fresher, younger, radiant looking skin. The difference between problem skin and fresh, flawless, youthful skin is in the ingredients you use. Made with superior active ingredients, our formulas are proven to improve skin texture, tone and regeneration.
"I really just wanted to simplify skin care for the African woman, so I decided to start my own line of holistic skin care products for women of colour."
Tell us a little about your team
L'Okoye Cosmetics Inc is a small company consisting of seven employees including myself. Based in Lagos, Nigeria our team goes beyond selling and focuses on educating women on skincare and wellness. Every client we meet learns a thing or two about her skin, skincare routine, or about product ingredients. We believe that an educated consumer would make better decisions when deciding what's right for her skin, and making the right choices on products would help prevent a lot of skin damage we see daily amongst African women.
Share a little about your entrepreneurial journey. And, do you come from an entrepreneurial background?
I began my skin care line in January 2010. By December 2010, I had to change my entire business operations to meet consumer expectations. Initially, there were lot of complaints about packaging, easy of use and the formula, so I used the criticism to improve my product development. Ever since that time, business has been good, the brand is growing strongly, and CookieSkin is a competitive product in the market. While we are still a young start-up, there have been a lot of challenges, especially since we started operating in Nigeria. While the brand is strong, the inflation rates, importation taxes, and unforeseen difficulties such as fuel scarcity have been daunting. However, L'Okoye Cosmetics has been able to thrive due to differentiation, appropriate pricing, and a matrix like business model that's flexible. My parents worked 9-5 - however, a close uncle of mine whom I looked up to was a skincare manufacturer. I learned a lot from him and was inspired by him.
"We believe that an educated consumer would make better decisions when deciding what's right for her skin and making the right choices on products would help prevent a lot of skin damage we see daily amongst African women."
What are your future plans and aspirations for your company?
Global expansion! The mission is for the L’Okoye brands to become household names in every home of African descent worldwide. And while that is in effect, L’Okoye Cosmetics Inc. will redefine the meaning of ‘beauty’ amongst men and women of colour via skincare and information services. Besides creating new products, we've launched a free mobile app ‘FreshnFit’ to reach at least 100 million African men and women by 2020. The FreshNFit app makes finding and choosing the best healthy foods, skin care products, diet aids, health products and services in your area. It's guaranteed to motivate, educate and enable you make the right healthy choices in your daily life. 'FreshNFit' is available on all android phones via Google Play and can also be downloaded free from the website www.freshnfitworld.com.
What gives you the most satisfaction being an entrepreneur?
It's a very satisfying experience having the freedom to create ideas which communicate my vision and watch these ideas materialize to change people's mindset towards a better life experience.
Besides creating new products, we've launched a free mobile app ‘FreshnFit’ to reach at least 100 million African men and women by 2020. The FreshNFit app makes finding and choosing the best healthy foods, skin care products, diet aids, health products and services in your area.
What's the biggest piece of advice you can give to other women looking to start-up?
Follow due processes and take every business step and procedure as it concerns your industry seriously. As young entrepreneurs, start-ups or small businesses, we tend to take for granted the system and procedures that large organizations have gone through because we feel it does not apply to us yet. I was one of those people - I just wanted to start and saw all these due processes as unnecessary barriers to entry. However, every process I skipped came back to haunt my business later and also slowed business growth. Instead of focusing on business development, I was forced to adopt the systems and go through the procedures I ran away from initially in order to stay in business.
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Why LoA loves it….
Finding a niche in the marketplace for any entrepreneur and their products and services is key, and then differentiating the business from any other competitors provides future avenues for growth and development. In the case of Leslie Okoye, she found a niche and has worked hard to build her company and brand, despite all the challenges faced by any startup in the early years. Today, she is a woman with a vision and a mission, and is determined to build a sustainable brand and product range that can eventually go global. --- Melanie Hawken, founder and CEO of Lionesses of Africa