Wigs have become one of the major fashion highlights for women in Nigeria. An average Nigerian woman spends a tangible portion of their earnings on wigs, whose prices range from as low as less than N10,000 to as high as N2 million and more.
Orinate George-Douglas, CEO, OrisHairVille, a wig-making and maintenance brand which offers online, home service and walk-in services, has created a niche for herself in this fast-expanding market.
The 25-year-old entrepreneur from Rivers State and graduate of Animal and Environmental Biology from the University of Port Harcourt, is very passionate about the hair industry and has coached over 30 people on the intricacies of the hair market.
The young entrepreneur recently spoke with PREMIUM TIMES about her business and the inspiration that drove her into it, among other sundry issues. Below are excerpts from the interview:
PT: As a graduate, at what point did you decide you wanted to start up your own business? What was the defining moment for you? Were your family members in support of your decision?
Orinate: When I decided that I needed financial independence, that was it, that was the driving force.
I have always had this flair for business and to be able to create impact-defining moments. In the year 2020, during the pandemic, most offices were on lockdown, and most businesses were able to thrive, so it made more sense to me because I had already acquired the skill of wig-making.
I made my decision to go into the business while (being) a student at the university.
At first, my parents did not buy the idea. They wanted me to work in an office setting, but over time, they grew to accept the idea and also encouraged me.
PT: You run a wig-making and maintenance business. Can you elaborate on what inspired this line of business?
Orinate: Hair styling has always been something I love. It has been like a hobby since childhood. I grew up to understand how much of a necessity it is to an average adult female, so I decided to give it more attention.
PT: How many years have you been running your business and how has the journey been? How would you describe doing business in Nigeria?
Orinate: It’s been three years now. It hasn’t been all rosy, but it has been worth the adventure. I have coached over 30 people. I have also done free training for over 15 persons, and they are doing well in the business.
I do not know about other countries, but I feel doing business in Nigeria can be challenging for young entrepreneurs because there is little or no support from the government as a form of encouragement.
Also, the lack or insufficient power supply affects businesses too, because most of the time when there is no power supply, we fall back on purchasing fuel which is also very expensive. The cost of hair products affects this line of business too. Since a majority of hair products and accessories are imported, the exchange rate affects the cost of products a lot.
PT: How else are the exchange rates affecting your business?
Orinate: There are challenges due to the exchange rate at the moment. A lot of hair products have increased in price. Oftentimes, it is difficult to convince customers to accept the new price list. So, many jobs are lost as a result of that.
PT: On a scale of 1-10, how open do you think Nigerians are to having a specialist work on their wigs instead of doing so themselves? If poor, how do you think specialists can boost clients’ patronage? How has your experience been so far?
Orinate: On a scale of 1-10, I will say six, because so many women believe hairs/wigs are luxuries and are very intentional in maintaining them because of how expensive most of those hairs cost. So, they believe a professional would do a better job at maintaining it.
My experience has been adventurous because it allows me to relate with people of different lifestyles and also others in my line of business. It has also made me a source of inspiration to so many young entrepreneurs who reach out to me for coaching and advice.
PT: What is the ‘starter pack’ for this kind of business, the barest minimum requirement to start this business?
Orinate: Wig-making is easy to start. The most important things to get as a beginner are a mannequin head, thread and needle, and a wig cap. If you intend to go into closure-making, you will need a ventilating needle and a closure net. With N10,000 a person can start a wig-making business.
PT: How do you strike a balance between your time and your businesses? What challenges do you encounter in your lines of business, and how do you address them?
Orinate: Proper planning helps me balance my time. I allocate time to my work and also time for myself because a person needs to be healthy and fit to be more productive.
PT: How do you think the government can solve some of the challenges of the entrepreneurs in this line of business?
Orinate: Just like every other business, I experience a lot of competition (healthy ones, though), especially from the online space.
Another challenge is trust. It takes a level of trust to get clients to give you their expensive hair to work on. Then there is pricing. Wig-making does not have a standard pricing system so most times, I encounter clients who seem to know someone who does it cheaper.
Other vendors also reach out to your customers, especially online, claiming to charge less. But when I started, I did some free jobs for some people and also started with lower prices as a means to advertise my work to some persons who in turn, referred me to others and I also explored the online space, especially Facebook.
It gave a lot of people the opportunity to see my work, and they ended up patronising (me), with good reviews. This helped me gain the trust of so many people who ended up becoming my customers.
I also did a free training on wig and closure making in 2021 for over 15 persons. It gave me coaching experience, and over the years, I have had free classes for some persons as a means of making an impact, even though I have my paid classes.
I think the government should encourage the use of social media to help entrepreneurs in their business visibility.
The government should also help by giving grants to young business owners to help grow their businesses.
Also, the government should sponsor free skill acquisition and help with the basic starter packs to encourage the youth who are interested in wig making as a business.
PT: If you were to get a grant, how would you invest it?
Orinate: If I should get a grant, it will help me get most of the hair products/accessories in bulk or even import them directly to help students purchase training materials at a more affordable rate.
Also, it would help me provide a more comfortable working environment for myself and my students and also purchase more hair equipment to help serve my customers better.
PT: What advice do you have for young people who seek to start this line of business?
Orinate: My advice for young wig-makers is that the first thing you should have is passion for the skill because without passion you can give up in the face of any little challenge. Secondly, be consistent and also be patient. Celebrate your small wins and trust your growth process. Lastly, to excel in life, you need the help of God.
PT: Where do you see your business in five years?
Orinate: In five years, I see OrisHairVille training over 100 persons in this line of business, and also creating job opportunities for at least 50 persons. All I see is growth, rapid growth.
PT: After your tight schedules, how do you relax? What is your hobby?
Orinate: What I do for fun may sound funny but I love exploring the online space for informative content. My hobbies are singing and dancing (not as a professional though) but they are things I enjoy. I also create funny TikTok content.
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