Rukayyah Tolani Bashari, started her journey into traditional skin care out of the need to create a private space for Muslim women so they can express their beauty concerns without judgement or fear of any breech.
She is self trained, and has been in the beauty business since 2016.
Rukayyah’s Traditional spa, Modest Muslimah has been a host to over 2000 or more women since inception.
Because of her strong values, Rukayyah’s professionalism, attention to details and execution of service clearly stands her out and makes her brand always a go to for any woman at all who desires a calming pamper time out in a serene, safe, non-judgemental, hygienic space with professional staff using natural products and great traditional techniques in achieving their skin and body goals.
In this interview with Oyinlola Sale, Rukkayah Tolani Bashari, CEO of Modest Muslimah tells us how she started from zero to becoming a mentor for girls that have created start ups in the Traditional Spa Industry.
Now tell us about your journey into creating Modest Muslimah?
Modest muslimah started out like a joke, i came out from working with a commercial bank and i was looking for the next thing to do. I was looking at either doing my masters or starting a business. I had to strike a balance because of child bearing, so i decided to go into business.
This journey started when i realized muslim women don’t have a private pampering place, it was hard because people have this misconception about muslim women that they are restricted from doing several things. I just wanted to change that perception and let the world know that we also live normal lives.
So i had a vision to create a place were muslim women can relax and get the pampering they deserve.
This led me to start a henna room, but i realized that i need to spread my tentacles because at that time i realized there was no where like that in Lagos, where women can bond and relax.
So it grew from just a henna room to a Spa that caters to all the needs of women in terms of massage, facials, body polishing, nail care and hair styling.
I created an atmosphere for women to come and take care of themselves and feel secured and am happy to say we will be celebrating our 5th anniversary this year.
Actually my vision for creating modest muslimah was for muslim women to have that comfort and privacy but i realized it’s not only for muslim women, but all women want that assurance of self care and pampering in a very private and secluded area.
Is Traditional Spa more prominent in this part of the World and What makes it special?
Traditional Spa is prominent in this part of the World, especially in Northern Nigeria, whatever we do in Modest Muslimah is being emulated from Northern Nigeria, Northern Africa and the Middle East and that is where we get our ideas from, but let’s look at where we are now here in Lagos were people have embraced natural products and Organic Skincare products, because nobody wants to use chemicals anymore because it damages their skin.
The fact is Northern Nigeria are so rich in using natural products and traditional methods to enhance their skin, apart from the fact that people say they are fair in colour, the truth is they use natural products to maintain their skin, so I will say yes its prominent and yes we are going back to those days. This is because women are realizing that they can use natural products to enhance their beauty and not chemicals.
So, what did it take to set up Modest Muslimah Traditional Spa?
First of all, I would like to advice upcoming entrepreneurs, that they shouldn’t start up a business that they know nothing about. Starting up Modest Muslimah, I was from a No business background and I knew nothing about business but I just knew I had interest in it and that I was going to set it up.
Now, when I realized that no one was doing it, I decided to understand the scope of the business and I tried to draw up a busines plan and i understood my market, who I want to serve and how I want to serve them and understanding the products I want to use.
So, I traveled to the Northern Nigeria and carried out a research on natural products that are effective on skin.
So the first thing I did was to travel to the Northern Nigeria and I met a nice hausa man that put me through some natural products and that was how I Started.
When i got back to Lagos, I would try the products on my friends to see how effective it was.
Can you elaborate on the opportunities in the industry?
It looks like a very small industry and I tell people who work for me that they shouldn’t judge by what they see, it’s very little and at the same time it’s very big.
One thing with traditional Spa, from my own point of view, is that our products are not expensive and it’s very easy to break even. One major thing that is the most difficult part, is understanding the skill and how to put it into use and they are two different things.
One thing about starting Modest Muslimah has taught me, is to think effectively and efficiently and how to understand my products and to understand my client’s skin and body.
The fact is that we have different people with different skin types and traditional spa, you don’t go to school for it, there is no book for it. And like I told you, I am self trained, i learnt from research and travelling to other countries. There is no one I don’t employ on Modest Muslimah that doesn’t learn one skill, it’s very imperative.
This is a small market you can gain a lot from, One thing I can authoritatively say is that it’s a business that you can easily break even from. The only thing that is so difficult to do, is maintaining a standard. You have to evolve as the day goes by, you have to pay attention to details and create that memorable experience for our clients.
How do you source for the materials you use to produce your Natural Skincare Products?
I get most of my materials from the Northern Nigeria, Northern Africa and the Middle East. Actually most of the products we use in Modest Muslimah are spices, sometimes we ship the products down here if I can’t travel.
What are the challenges you have faced so far in running this business?
When we were starting in 2016 there was a serious recession at that time, that was when we had the dollar surge and dollar was fluctuating and i had already started and i had gotten the store and everything, so it was really tough for me that time. Despite the challenges, i was undeterred, i still went ahead to set up my business but i got great support.
Another major challenge is staffing, it’s not easy getting hands, loyalty is different from efficiency. A lot of entrepreneurs are facing this problem, because you invest in your staff but they end up disappointing you.
How many young girls have you trained so far and what way has it made an impact in your sector?
So far, I have trained a total of 20 girls, there are some of my students that have gone far and wide like one in Cotonu and some in the Eastern part of Nigeria.
As a Woman with so many responsibilities, how do you start your day?
First thing, is that family comes first. I ensure the kids are good to go to school plus I also arrange breakfast. I ensure my husband is fine and then i find out how many clients have booked. Then i ensure the Children’s closing time is taken care of and i work with my manager because she is competent in terms of handling things, so that has been helpful.
How did you manage to finance this business in it’s early days?
My main financier is my husband and he has been a pillar of support through this journey.
It is always good to have a partner who supports your dreams and aspirations.
Now, when I started this business, I had no experience so he encouraged me. My husband helped me to watch over the kids as well, because we have this policy of not leaving the children alone for long with the nanny. So I would say my husband has been my support, financially and Morally.
So, How have you been able to carve a niche for yourself, despite the competition out there?
One thing that stands us apart is our attention to details, our skilled personnel and home away from home environment.
I always tell my staff, is that business is about profit, but please give your customer a lasting impression and make sure you are wearing a smile.
Were you ever afraid, when you ventured into this business?
I didn’t want to fail my husband knowing how much he had invested financially and Morally. I just felt I couldn’t do it because all I knew before then was my books and my 9-5 job. It was hard accepting that I could do it.
I actually rented a 350 thousand Naira Shop but my husband spent 3 million Naira in fixing it, because he said you are doing this for women, it has to be perfect.
Each time he comes and change something, i would be scared that are people going to patronize us.
However, I decided to be strong and i will tell myself that Modest Muslimah will be different and this is because my vision is different.
I also scrapped all I had to set up this business as well and i am constantly thinking of what to bring that is new to transform the business. Now, I am happy people call me from outside Nigeria that they want to venture in this business.
How can the Government create an enabling environment for businesses like yours to thrive?
I will say by financing small businesses or providing means of making business start ups to thrive.
Now, for my business that depends so much on electricity and water, lower tariffs when electricity is provided can help me save a lot of money. When there is no power, we spend a minimum of 20,000 Naira on diesel everyday so imagine if I run a week without power.
Tell us about a highly difficult period where you probably thought of giving up and how you overcame it?
I would say this was a time when I got disappointed by a staff of mine and you know as i told you this business you can’t really hold anything or keep any secret, because at the end of the day you want your client to be happy.
A Young Female Entrepreneur out there is thinking of following your footsteps, what would you tell her?You need to start with a busisness plan, then create a vision for this busisness, then acquire the skill to be able to run this vision, seek adequate finance, Identify your target market to sell out your vision, and confidence to pull all the above. I won’t mention location, because from experience, your customers will find you once your provide quality service.