My Ugly Journey Through Africa’s Beauty Industry.
By Chika Uzor - Founder @GlamAfric
This time last year I was sat at the London offices of a Multinational Retail Client, amending yet another set of endless PowerPoint slides for a presentation. Bored out of my mind and tired of the Afro Beat music coming through my headphones, I switched to iTunes in search of my very first podcast, which turned out to be the original episode of a series by Gimlet Media called Start-Up.
On this episode, the host, Alex Blumberg, tried to pitch his podcast idea along the sidewalk of West Pico Boulevard, to one of Silicon Valley’s most successful VC’s, Chris Sacca. His attempt was cringe worthy at best and I laughed so hard, but at the same time, remained incredibly inspired by his efforts on that episode and through the series, so much that I am here, 12 Months later, releasing an MVP of my own, GlamAfric, a marketplace built to help transform Beauty & Wellness experiences for Africans at home and in diaspora.
This is hopefully the first in a series of posts detailing my journey towards creating a platform (Mobile & Web), which provides an easy and innovative way for clients to find & book beauty & wellness services. It will also empower professionals with tools to market themselves, manage their back-office, increase bookings and manage their businesses online.
My experiences so far have taught me that anyone who attempts “the Start-Up thang” because they think it’s fashionable, is in for a shock and if they persist, seriously need their heads re-examining. It is difficult, a huge gamble (9 out of 10 fail) and if done right, is guaranteed to cost you friendships, your social life and if care isn’t taken, your family as well.
- Resolving the anxieties that my wife, sisters, and other African women (home and abroad) face with a convenient way of finding the best and most trusted beauty & wellness professionals would hopefully gets me a lifetime of bonus points with the ladies in my life. This should also hopefully cover me for all the future valentines, birthdays, anniversaries that I most likely to miss…tell me that’s not important.
- On a more serious but equally important note, the state of unemployment in Africa is dire and the possibility of empowering passionate people in this industry with the tools required to build successful self-owned businesses is a win for them, the economy, GlamAfric and everyone concerned. It provides better options for clients, raises service standards, reduces unemployment and allows the professionals to focus on developing their talent.
What we could deliver….
- Africa’s Beauty & Wellness Industries employs millions of people and contributes billions to the economy but still operates largely through traditional methods. This means there is a lot of opportunity to improve efficiency for the professionals by empowering them with the tools required to grow their businesses, increase revenue and grow brand loyalty, whilst delivering huge benefits for clients using related products and services.
- Countries like Nigeria and South Africa have become incredibly crowded with amateurs, who purchase a set of makeup brushes, attend a two-day course and immediately start to market themselves as experienced Beauty Professionals. We hope to help the best and most qualified professionals stand out and easy for prospective clients to find and engage.
- Indigenous companies such as Zaron, House Of Tara and BMPro have come into their own, producing quality products for this largely ignored demographic but need incredible support from platforms like ours to compete with international Brands such as Maybelline, MAC and L’Oreal, who have large war chests and are only now prioritizing products for this demographic within their development strategies.
- Counterfeiting is another ugly problem hitting Africa’s budding product manufacturers and awareness campaigns such as the #StandWithTARA, have recently hit the headlines. We hope to be a channel for manufacturers and other regulatory establishments to reach and engage consumers directly.
- Through our GlamHub, We hope to work with bloggers, vloggers and content providers to curate and deliver the right content to clients and businesses to inspire, inform, educate and perhaps entertain.
One of my most worthwhile research trips took me to the Beauty Africa Event in Lagos, Nigeria where I got to engage directly with my core demographic over 3 days. Operating largely in woman’s world, I remember the shocked look I got walking into the “BIL” Booth to introduce myself to Ezinne Alfa, who is one of Nigeria’s foremost Beauty Bloggers, and the host of a panel I was involved in. We had never met but she was clearly expecting a woman in my place. I guess it doesn’t help that my name is unisex.
I also got to meet some of the panel, which included big names in Nigeria’s Beauty Industry such as Banke Meshida Lawal, Louisa Kinoshi, Lola OJ, Doranne Beauty, Valerie Obaze, Seyi Ayinla, and came away from the event with a deeper knowledge of issues plaguing the industry and a higher level of clarity on how GlamAfric could help.
The long road ahead…
On the face of it, GlamAfric simply aims to improve the marketplace by using technology to rethink old business models in the Beauty & Wellness sector, thereby enabling clients and professionals engage with each other online in an efficient manner. However, the journey till date has been painful but yet, an incredible learning experience for me. I have made all the common mistakes most 1st time founders make, (no exception), but it has only been through God’s grace, sheer tenacity from the team and a supportive family that the first iteration of this product is being released to the market later this week.
It’s only our MVP and like Reid Hoffman once said, “If you are not embarrassed by the first version of your product, you’ve launched too late.” It’s nowhere near our vision and I am sure we’ll have lots of embarrassing moments, but I can only promise that we’ll continue to iterate and work with our community to improve on the current offering.
Win or lose, I hope to be coming out this experience with a deeper understanding of online marketplaces, entrepreneurship, a continued desire to succeed and my marriage still intact.
Official Launch Date (after a few false starts) is now set for the 30th Jan (Website) and 28th Feb (Mobile Apps), but professionals who want to register and secure their unique websites early can jump on now on www.glamafric.com. Hit me up on firstname.lastname@example.org or on twitter @chikatuzor and I’ll be sure to respond to any questions or feedback, thanks.
GlamAfric is the online destination for beauty & wellness customers and professionals. Professionals can display their work, connect with new and existing customers and grow their business with the support of our GlamHouse back-office. Customers can easily discover new professionals, book services online and get style inspiration. At GlamAfric we want to make booking beauty and wellness appointments simple, fast & 24/7. Whether it’s finding new beauty & wellness professionals or booking with your favourite one, scheduling appointments just got easier.