‘Govt Should Consider Certain Incentives For Women In Business’
Mrs. Oke Ogba Maduewesi is the founder and Chief Executive Officer, Zaron, an indigenous cosmetic
FROM the breath-taking models who lighten the mood as they look down from billboards, we traced Zaron, an indigenous cosmetic manufacturer to a chic office, off Awolowo Road, Ikoyi in Lagos.
We saw that glamour is taken as just as seriously in their office as we observed smart and attractive young female workers –all or most were dressed in black and high heel. But unbelievable is the serious corporate culture that Zaron has given the business of facial make-up for there could be seen many employees – among them were young men who were bent over computers.
Finally, we meet Mrs. Oke Ogba Maduewesi, the Founder and Chief Executive Officer, Zaron who confides that the company was the result of a dream to create a unique brand and make an impact.
“I longed to make a brand using Africa; Nigeria especially as a landmark. I wanted to make a product that people would trust and reckon with and which would ultimately become a global brand.
“I read about many of the global brands when I was doing my Master’s degree and resolved that someday that people would read about mine. That was in September 2011 and we are thankful to God Almighty that we are we on the journey to doing that”, she said.
On how they made it coming into the business environment when the existing ones groan under a difficult terrain, she says: “God has been extremely good. The beginning may have been trying and the market structure challenging, but I have learnt so much, I have grown. We have been able to build a recognised brand that has impacted on people’s lives. We contribute to the Nigerian economy, we create jobs. We make products that give joy and satisfaction to customers.
“We have 22 franchises and distribution chains. Students pay their way through school by selling our products, men make a living selling them, and mothers are taking care of the families through the franchise.”
Challenges to make a success in business in this environment are many, Mrs. Ogba Maduewesi observes, noting however that the major one for a manufacturer in this environment is product counterfeiting. “At the moment, we are grappling with the counterfeiting of our products and there are no penalties for offenders. We need to have a regulated system. The government should pay more attention to local brands and businesses. They will serve as role models for Nigerians who are coming behind and they create the much-needed employment for other Nigerians.
“The government should also consider certain incentives for women in business; there is nothing like that available at the moment.
However, as we waited our turn to meet her, we overhear her tell someone that she is in the business of fashion and took her up on that. She explains that she comes across people who tell her that she is fashion forward. “I say that I am in the business of fashion because that is who I am. My passion is cosmetic products.
“But there are people who are fashion forward because they set the trend, colour of fashion. However, if I were to want to do any other business, it would be fashion because it has huge turn over”.
She sounds the warning to new comers that money should not be the goal in the early days; look, dream about what to do, think impact, put them in what you want to do and the money will come.
Zaron which derives its name from the combination of her children’s names, Zara and Ona, she reveals is made for the woman of colour because they are highly pigmented. “We translate joy and satisfaction; cosmetic is key to appearance. We have a full range of colours which are used by women of all ages. It is good for the teenager and the aging woman leaves our counter smiling.”
Maduwesi is happy that there are other local brands in existence. “I would like to see more Nigerians taking up the challenge of industry so that the income comes to this country. And we make quality products that can make people believe in us. I am an advocate for the Nigerian brand.”
She observes that if competition could be spoken of at all in the production of cosmetics, it would be said to be a healthy one because the market is big enough.
“I am proud of Tara Fela-Durotoye as an African woman. She is doing an awesome job in the industry.”
Her preferred make-up style is the natural look. But she says that it is generally what works for an individual. But the credo of make-up is that it should not change the look dramatically, she says.
For her thought on time, she says: “When I was in Zenith Bank, I thought I did not have time to indulge my personal wishes. When I went into personal business, my first thought was that I have the time for me now. But a few months after, my daughter said, ‘Mum, we saw more of you when you were in the bank’. I don’t think I rest as much as I would like to but I work more at night because it is calm and peaceful.”
Her advice to would be businesswomen and Nigerians is to rise up and create something. “If your mind tells you that you are not able to do it, you are limiting yourself.”
She has three road maps to success, she posits; the first is forming the big picture; the second one is taking action.
“Sometimes, we Nigerians are big thinkers but take it further by reading up and researching your subject.”
Her third road map is making it work; keep up the hard work avoid being trapped in the comfort zone. Create value, make a difference, and be innovative.
“Also, give back to the society which has given you. At Zaron, we are high on Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) activities. Right now, we have two major initiatives; Zaron Hunger-Free Day. We go to deprived communities like Makoko and Ijora. We take food and drink and party with them. We also share food items.
There is also Zaron Widow’s Day, which she says is important to her personally as widow because she feels their pain.
“We look for the really needy widows whom we give money. On Valentine’s Day, we eat with them and give them red roses.
We follow up to make sure that money given to them is well invested to take care of the family.”
We ask this soft-spoken and feminine looking woman to describe herself in a few words, and she says: “I am determined, focused and driven. I love God. I call myself a Christian in the market place.
“I think I work a bit too hard and should learn to play more but I try to be the best mum. I am down to earth.”
Mrs. Ogba Maduewesi read Economics at Edo State University, Ekpoma and has a Master’s degree in Business Administration from Leeds University Business School, United Kingdom.