With an extensive background in recruiting, training, and human capital management, and propelled by the vision of creating an indigenous, world-class brand, Joycee Awojodu founded the ORÍKÌ, group. She talks about how she started the ORÍKÌ luxury grooming brand, the rise of African entrepreneurs and why it’s important to create a niche. Be inspired!
You are the MD/CEO of the ORIKI Group; tell us a little bit about yourself Joycee?
I founded the concept and idea of ORÍKÌ group a few years ago while coupling my increasing interest in the abundance of untapped natural and human resources on the Continent, my love for entrepreneurship and my passion to make an impact. I am an economist by degree and also studied business management so it was inevitable that I would end up building a business though I spent the past nine years working in the power sector in New York and Abuja. I most recently worked as the Technical Assistant on Research, Analysis and Informatics (Performance Monitoring) to the Honourable Minister of Power and besides ORÍKÌ, I am a Managing Partner for PowerCareers – A leading recruiting & training solution for the colossal human capacity gap in Nigeria’s energy sector. I am a World Economic Forum Global Shaper, a nominee of The Future Awards Prize in Public Service, 2013, selected into the African Leadership Network, and a Tony Elumelu Entrepreneurship Program Fellow.
Fantastic! Now, to your company, what exactly is the business all about?
ORÍKÌ is a luxury personal grooming brand that fuses natural ingredients & scientific research to create extraordinary personal care products. We create effective and luxurious beauty and grooming products utilizing raw materials and all natural resources discovered around the world with 70% of our ingredients sourced from the Continent of Africa. At the heart of the ORÍKÌ product range is botanically based, scientifically certified potent natural ingredients with the right mix of essential extracts, vitamins, minerals and proteins. The range of 32 products is for the ORÍKÌ woman and man and covers the full spectrum of serums, moisturizers, body wash, exfoliants, cleansers, treatments, masks and more. The ORÍKÌ Group headquarters is also home to the ORÍKÌ Spa, Men’s Grooming Parlour and Halo Hair Clinic by ORÍKÌ.
What does ORIKI mean? And why did you choose that name in particular for your company?
I carefully considered a name that would best reflect the inspired fusion of the brand, blending natural & organic ingredients & scientific research to create extraordinary skin care, hair care and body products that are superior.
The word ‘ORÍKÌ’ [Or.eek.e] has a rich ancient history in the Yoruba language. Although the brand is not tribalist in any regard, I was keen on having a brand name with African roots as I envisioned the ORÍKÌ brand gaining market share with global reach. The literal translation is “Your Crown/Your Origin” and an ORÍKÌ name is meant to inspire and bring out the best in an individual.
Just as ORÍKÌ is a cultural expression akin to the Continent of Africa, ORÍKÌ is a gateway between the best of nature and knowledge and a bridge from farm to factory and botany to beauty. Similar to the complex, sumptuous history of ORÍKÌ and its meaning; our formulas have been cultivated from a diverse portfolio of ancient botanicals and modern technology. We love our name, not only for its rich history, but also because it’s simply beautiful, akin to our collection of natural and organic personal grooming products.
How did you start out, and what were you doing before you chose to become an entrepreneur?
I have always been passionate about entrepreneurship; from a young age I acquired the nickname Ms. CEO because of my interest to constantly explore various opportunities and monetize them. Beyond that I am convinced that one of the major contributors to propelling the growth of Africa and narrating Africa’s success story is the rise of entrepreneurs. Prior to focusing on the development of ORÍKÌ Group full time, I was working in the public sector as power sector consultant on the Honourable Minister of Power’s Team. As I mentioned earlier, although I have always been an entrepreneur, my career was always in the power sector leveraging my background in energy economics.
Was it easy? I mean, making the decision to become an entrepreneur?
I would answer that question in two parts – YES it was easy to decide to build the ORÍKÌ brand full time because I strongly believe in pursuing your passion and God-given destiny but deciding the perfect timing was difficult for me. I spent a lot of time thinking about when would be the ideal time to make the move and at the end of the day I decided that the more that I stressed about the “right time,” the more I would waste time in developing this dream of mine.
“Inspired by Nature. Crowned with Opulence” that’s the tagline for your business, how does this drive your vision?
Our tag line summarizes our philosophy and motto. We believe that our customers deserve the best in a natural way. And we tailor our product range and the ORÍKÌ experience to ensure that our customers look sharp effortlessly in a speedy manner. We value easy, smart solutions from head to toe and therefore we focus on natural, organic and effective solutions
How long have you been in business, and what have been some of your milestones and challenges?
Our doors officially opened in July 2015 but the creation of the formulas for each and every ORÍKÌ product has been ongoing for over a year. Before manufacturing batches of the product range, I created each one by hand for testing. I am inspired by the ability to create and carve a niche for myself as an entrepreneur but I am often disappointed at the lack of resources available to assist new entrepreneurs. It would behoove Nigerian entrepreneurs if there was a go-to guide created to inform people who are starting out on the journey to know which agencies to file taxes with, which banks are most beneficial for small & medium sized businesses, various policies focused on doing business, the export and import requirements are etc. While there are challenges, they do not deter me or prevent my resolve to build ORÍKÌ.
Who are some of your role models in business?
I love reading case studies, I love reading about the journeys of women who overcame all obstacles to actualize their dreams. Some stories that have left a lasting impression on me are Mary Kay, Anita Roddick, Founder of the Body Shop, Oprah and many more. I could talk about inspiring role models all day.
Your products are made with organic and natural ingredients? How and where do your source for raw produce?
Yes, that is very important to the ORÍKÌ brand. Our products are free of unnecessary additives, parabens and sulfates, created from scratch in artisanal batches so we can closely monitor quality, we only utilize Fairly Traded ingredients, our Ingredients come from all over the world and we source approximately 70% of our ingredients from the Continent of Africa.
Who is the quintessential ORIKI customer?
The ORÍKÌ Woman and Man is not defined by age neither is he/she defined by her social status. They are defined by who they know they are. They are principled, passionate and convicted. He or she is vibrant and engaging and is particularly active in activities that give her a platform to express her passion for life. He or she doesn’t need much convincing when a product or new thing becomes a buzz although they may frequently search for the advice or support of others. The ORÍKÌ customer appreciates information and enjoys being educated about benefits.
You recently opened a Spa in Victoria Island, Lagos. Tell us about that?
Yes the building of the ORÍKÌ group brand has been an exciting one. The products were launched in July and within the Headquarters the Spa, Men’s grooming parlour and Halo Hair Clinic will have a grand opening in a few weeks. The ORÍKÌ Spa is an absolute sensory experience dedicated to pampering both body and soul in the most natural way possible. We offer an extensive array of Spa services to make your Spa experience complete. The luxurious botanically-based formulas of eminence are used exclusively for their potency and purity. Relax your mind, pamper your body and indulge in the ORÍKÌ experience.
What is the ORÍKÌ Foundation about, and how does it impact the lives of men and women in the local communities?
At ORÍKÌ, we aspire to make a difference. Our success is the success of every individual that touches the product across the value chain, and this keeps us motivated. Income from fairly traded raw materials and production of all natural products can provide a better life for families. We are inspired by the life transforming potential of creating an indigenous quality lifestyle brand. Through the ORÍKÌ Foundation, we strive to expand the meaningful income of farmers we work with by providing market routes for their products, keeping commercial value in Africa, where it is often lost. ORÍKÌ has found a way to help women take care of their families by providing economic empowerment through trade and the creation of the carefully deliberated array of products that harness the scientifically-proven power of nature.
Name 3 books you’ve read that you’d recommend?
Outliers by Malcolm Gladwell
The Tipping Point by Malcolm Gladwell
David and Goliath by Malcolm Gladwell
Can you tell that I love Malcolm Gladwell books? They leave you wanting to learn more, and wanting to create things bigger than you.
Haha! It’s absolutely clear that you love his books! So how do you relax and let off steam?
Yes I do! Lol! Reading! I absolutely love reading. I find it to be a chance to explore, acquire more knowledge and imagine. I either relax with a good book or good company and I’m in paradise.
Words of advice for upcoming female entrepreneurs?
Pursue your passions with fervour and don’t let fear cripple you. The power that propels you should be your dreams and not the fear of failure or the obstacles ahead. You were destined for greatness, so value yourself, invest in your life and actualize your dreams and never ever forget that faith is key!
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This post was first published on Ynaija.com