Kehinde Okoroafor is a graduate of Economics. She is an entrepreneur, a humanitarian, and founder of Make Mee Elegant Foundation and Young Widows Mite, as well as CEO of Nextlevelhair Manufacturer, a hair manufacturing company here in Nigeria and Vietnam.
She is passionate about helping and empowering widows and young women acros the globe which has taken her to 12 countries freely empowering women. Okoroafor is a mother and mentor to so many young women and she is a definition of a woman supporting women. She is a recipient of so many awards.
In this interview with Oyinlola Sale, Okoroafor reveals to us the secret behind the success of Next Level Hair Manufacturer
What is the story behind the Creation of Next Level Hair Manufacturer?
It was born out of passion, I always wanted to do something unique that will catch people’s attention.
We started this business 15 years ago and it all started as a passion but it became a reality at the end of the day, and along the line, we established our factory.
Compare and contrast the current state of Nigeria’s hair industry and the situation 20 years ago, what has changed?
Looking at the hair business 20 years ago, takes me to when we started this company, we had 15 staff, it was lucrative and the business was moving and within six months, we had 198 staff.
Then Chinese came into Nigeria with hair products and that changed the game of Nigeria’s hair industry and there began a big competition.
The dollar rate about 10 years ago was N150 to a dollar but now it is more expensive.
What does it take to set up a hair business-like . Next Level Hair Manufacturer, Is it Capital Intensive?
Setting up a hair manufacturing business is expensive, the machines are capital intensive and this business is human-intensive.
Manufacturing in Nigeria is not easy, it will drain you physically and mentally. There was a time for a whole year, I was running on a generator and that alone consumed all my profit.
What is the present state of Nigeria’s hair industry?
Nigeria’s booming hair industry is dominated by mostly Asian companies that supply synthetic and real human hair for everything from wigs to weaving.
However, in recent times local players are also slowly catching up in this highly competitive market.
Wigs and weaves have become the biggest moneymakers in Nigeria, in an industry dominated mostly by Asian-based companies.
What inspired you to establish the Make Mee Elegant Foundation and Young Widows Mite?
I love seeing women empowered, be their bosses and be independent.
I started the Make Mee Elegant Foundation nine years ago, empowering women and young girls.
However, I started Young Widows Mite Foundation four years ago, it was Mrs. Folorunsho Alakija that inspired me to establish the foundation.
Through this foundation, we give moral support to young widows and support them financially.
The Make Mee Elegant Foundation, in collaboration with SunTrust Bank, has been able to give loans to women to start up a business.
My dream is to see that all women are independent.
I have empowered over 8000 young women and I’m still counting.
Now, when you started this business, what were some of your biggest fears?
Due to the competitors and the stereotype for made in Nigeria Brands, I was afraid if this will ever succeed.
I realised that it was just a stepping stone to greatness.
What are some of the challenges affecting the manufacturing sector?
The manufacturing sector in the country is groaning under the yoke of the economic downturn in recent times.
This has caused some organisations to fold up, while others are relocating to neighbouring countries like Ghana, Togo, and so on where the cost of production and infrastructure are friendly.
Infrastructural deficiency in Nigeria currently makes it difficult for the manufacturing sector to have an appreciable return on investment.
The roads are not motorable. There is no constant electricity, which makes it mandatory for manufacturers to fuel their generating sets at their costs, yet pay electricity bills.
Products from China, though substandard and cheaper, are more acceptable to our people. As inferior as the Chinese organisations and their products are, it is difficult for local industries to compete with them.
Then add that to insecurity, you will agree with me that manufacturers are going through hard times in the country.
Now, what makes Next Level Hair Manufacturer unique from other hair brands?
We are known for high-quality hair products, consistency, and creativity.
Now, can you elaborate on the opportunities in the hair industry?
A hair and beauty professional have the daily task of reinventing someone’s image, making others feel more beautiful, thus a job in this area is something challenging.
Not only it allows you to change someone else’s lives, boosting their confidence by making them look and feel great but also your own, through constant personal development.
Today’s hair and beauty professional is a representative of the always-growing, always-changing, and ever-engaging hair and beauty industry. If you are innovative and have the will and the ambition, there is no limit to your potential.
What is your latest achievement and award so far?
Recognition as a worthy champion of Nigerian women award from the Minister of Women Affairs, Dame Pauline Tallen.