The challenges facing many women in Africa of how to manage and care for their natural hair is one that entrepreneur Farida Yahya is all too familiar with. It was the inspiration for the launch of her business Lumo Naturals, which today creates a range of specialist hair products that both cleanse and treat the hair gently. Today, the brand is winning scores of fans who are looking for a natural solution for their natural hair.
LoA found out more about this brand on the move from founder Farida Yahya.
What does your company do?
Lumo Naturals is an award-winning haircare solutions brand. With over 6 years in operation and a team of professional hair consultants and stylists, we offer a wide range of hair services and products. We provide quality hair services, along with top lines of our well formulated natural hair products. What sets Lumo Naturals apart from the competition is our commitment to providing all of these services and products in one convenient location. Currently our salon is strategically situated on one of the busiest streets in Abuja. It is a high-profile area, with easy access from all parts of town. We launched our second Natural hair salon which is also located in Abuja. We currently supply 10 hair salons in 3 major cities across Nigeria with Dadol by Lumo Naturals products.
“With my over nine years of experience in biochemistry and a diverse range of complementary skill sets, I have been able to create an extensive offering of affordable natural hair care products designed to benefit naturalistas.”
What inspired you to start your company?
As a naturalista myself, growing up I saw my mother try to tame my hair with tons of relaxers. My mother tried various products and used tons of strategies but none ever worked. And just like other natural hair owners, I had problems with my hair ranging from breakage to dry hair, breaking the piggy bank to get premium products to maintain my hair, as well as shrinkage. Additionally, I would spend so much time watching tons of videos on YouTube and natural hair blogs looking for tips and inspirations. In 2008, I had to resort to making DIY products for my hair because there were no big shops that sold natural hair care products in my location. My experiments worked and people began to buy them.
However, it wasn't until 2012 that Lumo Naturals was birthed. We started with the production of the first set of our natural hair care products - hair butter. As a consumer, I knew what it felt like to maintain natural hair. With my over nine years of experience in biochemistry and a diverse range of complementary skill sets, I have been able to create an extensive offering of affordable natural hair care products designed to benefit naturalistas.
In 2013, Lumo Naturals Salon was established to allow our customers to enjoy personalized, flexible and affordable hair care solutions from our highly-trained natural hair care experts, as well as create a platform where I could honestly engage and educate natural hair owners.
Why should anyone use your service or product?
We fill a unique niche in the beauty space. Our product line includes everything from hair cleansers to hair treatments and hair scrums, with a focus on multi-functional products. Additionally, all our products showcase clean, locally sourced ingredients that are cruelty-free, animal-free, and free of harmful irritants and additions such as parabens, benzene, and formaldehyde.
We also source directly from women-led cooperatives in three states across the North, and through our partnerships with these networks, we pledge 20% of our annual budget to creating a safe spaces program, which supports the girls in these underserved communities by providing them with basic numeracy and literacy classes, sexual and reproductive health education, soft skills, and start-up loans.
Tell us a little about your team
My team is very diverse and 100% women. I believe strongly in empowering women from disadvantaged communities by supporting them to realize their dream of going back to school, lift their families out of poverty, and set up their own businesses when they are ready to leave the company.
Building and leading a diverse team can prove to be the real test of leadership. As someone who has been the odd one out many times, I know this feeling all too well, and it has made me very sensitive to it. As I set out to build a team for Lumo Naturals, I created a simple interview system that was very informal. I was keen on finding people who were looking for a home, and who like myself, had found that the world saw them as misfits. They were young women who had come out into the cold world in search of better, but found that the world threw more tests at them than they were prepared for. They are hair professionals with years of experience under their belts, and choosing Lumo Naturals as home has been a wonderful partnership.
“My team is very diverse and 100% women. I believe strongly in empowering women from disadvantaged communities by supporting them to realize their dream of going back to school, lift their families out of poverty, and set up their own businesses when they are ready to leave the company.”
Share a little about your entrepreneurial journey. And, do you come from an entrepreneurial background?
I had just completed the mandatory youth service, and I found myself sitting at home, very bored with no job in sight. I started to think deeply about what I wanted to do with my life and how I could put my Biochemistry degree to use while I found my true passion and path to success. I had already worked for a year after University with the Dangote flour mills in Kano. But I felt the need to explore something deeper. My mum was quite entrepreneurial growing up, but she had joined the banking sector after her start-up failed. So, naturally there was some resistance to my idea of starting my own haircare business.
I have always loved the salon setting. I don’t know what triggered it or when it started, but apart from the usual anxiety attacks I experienced whenever I recall the multiple scalp burns that came with retouching my hair, I always looked forward to my salon visits. There was something about coming into a room/store with your head down and your confidence in ruins, and leaving with a wide smile and a spring in your step that I truly enjoyed witnessing.
Being a natural myself, I knew how difficult it was to get a natural hair salon that understood your hair needs. I went around visiting as many salons as I could find, doing my research and writing down exactly how much it would cost me to open a salon. It also didn’t help that “natural hair salon” was a foreign concept at the time. I knew the vision in my head wasn’t even about being fancy. It was just about better haircare practices and having seen the results on my own hair, I knew it was possible to repeat and get exactly the same results, no matter your age or tribe, and having my own salon was the best way I could think of to prove my theory.
I wanted to create a community that will allow women to exercise their right to choose what to do with their hair. Without expectations and standards that made you feel like if you didn't have long, straight hair like the models in the magazines, then you were not beautiful enough. This is why I set up Lumo Naturals, to be a place that embraces nature and celebrates its healing powers.
What are your future plans and aspirations for your company?
After years of growth and since demand has currently surpassed supply, we intend to set up a production chain which involves building our sub-brand (Dadol by Lumo Naturals). This would see our customers or new customers visit our website or mobile app and giving us information about their hair, so we could formulate products unique to their needs.
Additionally, we intend to launch a personal natural hair concierge on our website, Ask a Natural Hair Care Expert, which would be available to both customers and the public to get answers to any natural hair care questions.
Additionally, since our company was created on the premise that naturalistas have the right to enjoy premium products at affordable prices, we intend to ensure that our customers know what exactly is in the natural hair care products they regularly apply to their hair, a vital determinant of overall health. We’ll include a separate pamphlet with each product that details all of the highly-selective ingredients used. Rather than misrepresent any product with inflated claims, we aim to serve as a resource to truly inform our customers honestly and to ensure that they receive the best products available as a return on their investment. While marketing copy and branding can put on a good show, women want to see results, and we intend to be their number one destination for that.
“I wanted to create a community that will allow women to exercise their right to choose what to do with their hair…… This is why I set up Lumo Naturals, to be a place that embraces nature and celebrates its healing powers.”
What gives you the most satisfaction being an entrepreneur?
Running my own business has pushed me to grow. Being responsible for my team and customers has challenged me to learn about how money works, what is required from a leader, and why it is important to deliver quality service consistently.
I am happiest when I solve a client's hair challenge, and when I get feedback about our formulations. It gives me such a thrill to know that I am doing my quota to help make the world a better place, and reduce social inequalities.
What's the biggest piece of advice you can give to other women looking to start-up?
As a female founder, you should never feel pressured to "lead like the boys". There is nothing wrong in leading with empathy, and you should know that the world of entrepreneurship is tough, and so, don't demand things from the angle of a victim, instead work hard and smart enough to have those doors open for you. When you do succeed, look back and lift others, mentorship and support is crucial for female founders, if we want to go far, and build the mass we need to change things for good.
Contact or follow Lumo Naturals
Why LoA loves it….
Finding a gap to do what you love in the marketplace, whilst at the same time empowering other women to be part of your entrepreneurial journey, is a wonderful thing, and for Farida Yahya, that was her starting point in business. Today, she is the embodiment of the idea of women entrepreneurs making a difference, both in the businesses, products and services they create, and the lives of others they positively impact. Farida is building a high touch, high impact business and brand, and one that is definitely resonating with those who are choosing to buy her products and business ethos. — Melanie Hawken, founder and ceo of Lionesses of Africa