Ife Salam is a young entrepreneur who is so passionate about skincare. She puts God first in everything she does and believes that she could achieve whatsoever she sets her mind to do. Ife is a pretty lady who is well read. She has studied both in Nigeria and overseas and recently became a member of the Chartered Institute of Personnel Management (CIPM). She has a Master’s degree in International Business Management, at the Middlesex University, London, (where she gathered her business acumen). She has a BSc in Economics from the Covenant University, Ogun State, Nigeria, and also took 2 courses, Judgement and Decision making and Navigating Through Organisational Complexities from the prestigious Harvard University.
Having gone through every step to become a chartered personnel manager at CIPM, Ife has a good advantage of understanding human skills. Her impeccable sense of judgement and decision making can be traced to the trainings she was exposed to at Harvard University. With such an intimidating CV, Ife decided not to pursue a white collar job but decided to pursue her passion and become a problem solver for many Nigerians.
CITY PEOPLE’S DAMILARE SALAMI met with her at her Lekki office last week and she spoke about her skincare business. Below are excerpts.
You have such a very huge and intimidating CV, what are you doing in Skincare business when you can get high paying jobs out there?
The thing is you have to follow your passion. I feel like no knowledge is lost and no business is too small or too big for any knowledge. This is just one branch of the business; we plan on expanding so we are still going to have more branches across Nigeria. The skills I have, the knowledge and all the academic qualifications are what I’m using to run the business and they are what is making it grow and become successful.
You recently opened a Skincare mega store in Lagos, what’s the product all about?
Kiehl’s Nigeria is a skin care brand. It’s an international organisation and we are actually selling the products in Nigeria now. So Kiehl’s Nigeria is a skincare brand that produces for men, women and even babies; because our products are made from naturally derived ingredients and we use that to maintain your natural skin complexion and texture. We do not go beyond the natural skin complexion so we don’t have any bleaching ingredient in our products. Even when you have discoloured skin, our products will tone it back to its original position. So Kiehl just helps to maintain the normal black skin you have.
Is that why you look this beautiful?
Laughs... of course, I don’t even use makeup, I hardly do, if I use makeup, I just want to; so that’s what we’re trying to achieve, making people have their glow with their natural skin.
Kiehl’s was established in 1851, why is it just coming to Nigeria now?
The thing is, we may not be able to question that, the brand originated in France but has its headquarters in New York and we cannot answer questions as to why it was not in Nigeria earlier then when, it came. The reality is that it was brought in by a Nigerian. The brand obviously has its goals and aspirations per year. It’s not in all African countries but it’s in South Africa and Nigeria. It is only left to you as an individual to bring whatsoever brand you want into your country.
How long have you been in the skincare business?
The thing is, I have been in so many businesses, I’m a business person by heart and by nature, so I wouldn’t say specifically this skincare business, but I would say that I have the tenacity to do everything that I really want to do and as regards to skincare, Kiehl’s itself has been in business since 1851 and I have been a skincare enthusiast for over 15 years now. I’ve personally been using Kiehl’s for over 10 years, and everyone who knows me knows me with Kiehl’s. I’m almost like a brand ambassador. (Laughs) so basically even before this, Kiehl’s is a brand that works. I had very bad blemishes and I had a very bad skin in terms of pimples, discoloration and all of that. I’ve tried so many brands; you know I’m not supposed to mention anyone so that I do not spoil any brand while trying to promote this one. Trust me; I tried a lot of brands, expensive brands and even normal ones. But this is the only brand I would say worked for me. Meanwhile, getting Kiehl’s personally for me was a hassle, because obviously, it’s not a Nigerian brand, so I have to always travel to get it all the time. And you know, skincare products are not things you can always send people because of travel luggage rules. So, that’s where the passion started from because I knew a lot of people were facing the same difficulties too.
When did Kiehl’s Nigeria start?
The product started selling online last year November and just a few days ago, we opened a store where people can come in and shop for their cream.
Between November and now, what can you say about the acceptance of Kielh’s in Nigeria?
It’s already an established brand so the acceptance has been great and I wouldn't say people just accepted it as soon as they saw it, we had to do our own promotions too. We had to convince some other people to give it a trial and they've come back for more, but we also have some clients who have been using the products in the past but also had difficulties like I did to get the products here in Nigeria; so they are quite pleased.
You just mentioned now that Kiehl’s is expensive, considering the economic situation in Nigeria, how do you intend to compete with other brands?
When I mentioned expensive, I don’t mean high overboard, I mean our products vary for every class of people. We have products of 10,000 – 15,000, we have products of 20,000-25,000, and we have 40,000, within that range. I’m talking from an average Nigerian’s point of view. It could be expensive for a few people but anyone who spends on Kiehl’s always comes back for more. I’m not trying to brag, it’s just the truth. You know that when you buy this product, you have a guarantee that you are buying a product that’s going to work. So a lot of people actually don’t mind splurging on themselves to spend because some people buy bags and shoes worth 150,000 naira and more so you spending 15,000, 20,000 or even 40,000 on your skin is not too much; it depends on how you look at it. We have middle class people too who can afford it and we have skincare products that are more expensive than Kiehl’s. So, I would say we are in the middle. We are not cheap but we are not high overboard that many people cannot afford; we are just there in the middle where anyone can afford. We have clients who actually save up and some of them will say, I will come next month when I get my salary so we have salary earners who we cater for, business professionals and passersby. It depends on what the client really wants; we have small sizes, medium sizes and big sizes of products. If you don’t want to go for the big sizes, you can actually start with a 10,500 worth of product and you find your way up.
What products do you have and what problems do they solve?
We have a lot of products. We have a wide range of products. Our products range from your face care, body care hair care and lip care, everything on your body really, our products solve. If you have damaged hair we solve that, face issues, we solve that, discolorations, pimples, dry skin, oily skin, etc. We have oil-free products, for dry skin, we have products that hydrate your skin, we have products that clear your skin if you have dark spot or discoloration, we have body products that tone your skin appropriately to its original complexion and make it more even, we also have products for damaged or very dry lips. We have products that can help you resolve any skin issue that you have. We also have beard oil for the beard gang, we have antiperspirant roll on for men, we have body creams, we have body soap, I cannot mention all the products in this interview, trust me, you need to come into the store to see the variety of products we have.
How do you intend to make the brand known nationwide?
Emm... honestly, that’s internal information you know. (laughs). Well, we are in Lekki right now but we have clients from Abuja, from Port Harcourt, from Warri, Delta, so many places. We always deliver nationwide. So the fact that we are in Lekki does not mean you cannot buy from us. We have an online presence, we are on Instagram @Kiehls_Nigeria, we can also be reached on 07045701460, our email address is Email: firstname.lastname@example.org and Lagos office is situated at Viva Mall, 5 Emma Abimbola Cole Street. Lekki Phase 1. People follow us on Instagram, people call us, they order and we deliver their goods promptly across Nigeria. We still sent out deliveries this morning as well. It’s always an everyday thing when we send out deliveries across Nigeria. So, as we are in Lekki, we are not limited to Lekki. We are actually catering to all the people across the country. Notwithstanding, the physical presence of the store is going to keep expanding from Lagos to other states. We have other states in mind and we are going to be relaying that information as time goes on and we’ll obviously call you back (laughs) when we open other branches as well.
You did a sales promo, what was it all about?
Yeah, we did a sales promo for our store opening where we gave 20% discount on all our products but we are back to normal prices now. But obviously, we will keep having promos from time to time.
What differentiates Kiehl’s from other skincare brands in Nigeria
All our products are scientifically tested and they are made with naturally derived ingredients. We use fruits like orange, cucumber, pineapple, normal fruits that you are able to eat. In terms of scientific testing, we are 100 per cent sure that every ingredient has its accurate percentage in each of the products. We make sure that we do not have an excess of any ingredient in any product. Our products are very gentle on the skin no matter how many ingredients are contained in one.