There’s a large space in Nigeria’s beauty industry
Dabota Lawson is one woman who definitely knows how to assert herself as ‘beauty with brains’ that stands her out. Born in Rivers State into a family of 10, the fashion model, beauty queen, active Instagram blogger and entrepreneur, is the Chief Executive Officer of Dabota Cosmetics, a cosmetic line that offers young women a variety of products; 26Mall, and Diamond Inc, an event management firm she set up with three friends.
She spent her teenage years in Nigeria before leaving the country at the age of 16 to the United Kingdom to pursue a college education and then university degree in Financial Economics at the University of Leicester, and the London School of Business and Finance, where she studied Accounting and Business.
Whilst studying in the UK, she competed and won the Miss Nigeria beauty UK pageant in 2010. After her victory, she did a lot of modeling on runway shows, high fashion events, and various modeling competitions. She also appeared on the covers of some well-known magazines.Asked how has life been after her reign as Miss Nigeria UK, Lawson said: “The platform created an elevation to where I am. From the day I emerged as Miss Nigeria UK, a lot things changed for me; doors opened and I ran with the opportunity that the platform provided, and I took it to all kinds of level, trying so many things as a person.”
With passion for modeling, she made her debut as a model at age five. “Whilst I was in school I was also modeling. This spurred me to go for the Miss Nigeria UK, because I have always wanted to be a beauty queen. So, when I won, I knew I was going to take the platform to levels beyond my imagination with the help of God,” she added.Though it has been a challenging journey, challenging in the sense that there is the positive and the negative sides. But so far so good, the path has led her to achieving her ultimate goals in life- impacting peoples’ lives positively through her products and services as well as some profitable projects.
“I will say that at this point in my life I know I’m where I need to be and not yet where I want to be, but I know that I have grown so much and I’ve taken a path that will lead me to my ultimate goals in life.”
On the positive and negative challenges, and how she has been able to overcome them and excel, she said, “Because of the way that I look, people often judge me by my appearance. And until I speak, they begin to see the other side of me. It has always been difficult to walk into a room for an interview or meeting and people’s first conception of you is… Oh! Pretty girl. They already cut off the side where you may be intelligent and have so many other talents and focus on the way you look. That has been a major challenge for me as person.
“Even when it comes to relationship, the first thing the men say is oh! You are too beautiful. So, you don’t get know if they are serious or not. Being a beautiful woman has its own challenge.”According to Lawson, the positive side of the challenge is that somehow it has opened doors for her and given her leverage to actually put her foot through so that when she speaks, it becomes even more impressive and people are more excited; they want to engage more.
Not just beauty but with a brain, Lawson is never afraid of voicing her opinion and belief that with hard work you can achieve anything. “I’m growing as a businesswoman, and as you know, it’s so hard to manage people, particularly when you want to shape them to suit your business goals, vision and mission statement. “This has been a challenge, but on the other hand, it has helped me to become more of a people’s person, where I’m able to deduce easily people’s personality as I have cause to meet so many people from various parts of the world and interact with them,” she stated.
For her, schooling in the United Kingdom allowed her to meet and mingle with so many people from different backgrounds- religion, orientation and ideology. Coming back to Nigeria, it is a different society that it used to be when she was a little girl, as there are all kinds of people now.
“Working with people and trying to get them have this same mindset to achieve your dream has been difficult. However, over time, it has helped me to learn more about people’s personality and it has helped me develop my communication skills because sometimes you realize that you are not communicating effectively. You need to transform and reinvent yourself to get the best out of the people that are around you. Also, it has enabled me to be humble.”
She noted that even in the worst situation, she has enjoyed being in Nigeria because Nigerians are happy people, stressing that the problem with the country is structure. “It is difficult to penetrate, restructure and put things the right way they are supposed be done. People always like to cut corners and you really can’t blame them because there is no other way. In the UK, people are more reserved but there is structure.
“So one place has a people that I want to be with, while the other has people from all walks of life that I’m happy with but not as happy as being in Nigeria. The problem is just the structure, from the government to healthcare system, power, roads and other infrastructures. As a business person, you don’t really get enough value for what you are putting out. You work like an elephant and get the share of an ant, which to me is a big problem,” she quipped.
On her cosmetic line, Dabota Cosmetics, Lawson explained that the beauty product company is an organisation she hopes to outlive her. She added that most of the people she look up to in the industry as role models and inspirations have gone on the same path, which is to build a brand around their passion and exercise their strength based on their education and experience.
“People like Oprah Winfrey, Iman, and Mary Kay, name their businesses after them. As a result of this, there is that mantle to be dedicated and diligent. So, when I was nurturing the idea of building my own empire, I knew I was going to go through the same process where I will name the brand Dabota, and it will start with cosmetics but it will eventually expand to so many things to the point where we become a part of history.”
Acknowledging that the beauty industry is lucrative and it is believed operators can make huge money with the right products, Dabota agrees that the Nigerian beauty industry has grown in leaps and bounds. “Yes, and I will say that about 10 years ago, there were few people who started their make up line and probably didn’t think they would be where they are today. Those brands have grown. In Nigeria today, we have so many make up brands. Thanks to the large space in the beauty industry. There are over a million items that one can concentrate on as a beauty entrepreneur. So, I honestly believe that the make up industry is a multi-billion dollar industry, which Nigerians are participating in and making good turnovers.
“As a Nigerian brand, I do not only have Nigerians using my products. People from different parts of the world engage me by virtue of their awareness through my social media platforms. So, you have all kinds of people that follow me from South Africa, Australia and sometimes countries that I have never heard of. It has helped me to know new places.”