‘I focus on my mission, not challenges’
Dr. (Mrs.) Patience Johnson was a housemaid in Nigeria before destiny took her to Germany where she became a World Champion. A world-renowned German-trained Cosmetic Dermatologist with a lot of experience in the use of laser technology, she is a professor in healthcare, an Eminent Researcher and EDUpreneuer.
In this interview with IJEOMA THOMAS-ODIA, Mrs. Johnson, who has been in the business of beauty and aesthetics in the past 20 years, talks about the role of faith and creativity in the success of any human endeavour.
What would you describe as triumphs and challenges these past 20 years in beauty business?
I am celebrating 20 years of being a company owner, I am celebrating years of failures, mistakes, hard work, betrayal by people I trusted most, but I never allowed them to pull me down.
I am celebrating years of working with wonderful people who saw my dreams and the giant in me and were ready to partake in the journey. We are celebrating 20 years of excellent innovation in both medical and beauty world.
Most of all, we are celebrating our baby Derma Contour, which was born around this time in 2001 in Germany.
I am celebrating that against all odds; we could still stand as a team and family. Being in such a delicate industry gives room for many challenges, but I think the challenges gave room for growth and innovation. I garnered all my efforts in trying to render unique services and quality products, which make us exclusive in the market.
I grew up utilising every opportunity both negative and positive. I have learnt to grow where God planted me without complaining. In Germany, I had little or no challenge, because the environment gives you the opportunity to grow, so I grabbed that opportunity by trying to be versatile and ever ready to build with the stones I collected. But like I said, I didn’t allow the disappointments to weigh me down; I saw them as avenues for growth.
I had the challenge of getting trustworthy workers in Nigeria, because most of the people I came across were more interested in the money and not the mission. I grew up to pursue mission instead of money, because I know that if you are on the right mission, money will come pursuing you; if you do the right thing and remain on the right direction, there can only be a way and the right way is the way.
You were doing very well in Germany, what informed your decision to come back to Nigeria?
My coming to Nigeria was a very hard decision, but I see it more as a mission than just relocation. I dreamt three times with the same message, ‘Go back home and take back your life.’
I ventured the first time, put an office in Lagos, but was duped by the landlord. I went back frustrated and the same dream came back when I was in Germany. I came back this time to Abuja, but an agent and a friend I asked to help me get an office also duped me. I left everything and went back and the same dream came again.
That was when I knew that it was something to be taken care of.
I am on my third missionary journey since three years now, confronted with a lot of spiritual battles. First, I had to battle a skin disease and second a swollen right leg. When I was flown to Germany, they couldn’t trace anything and several other sicknesses, but here I am still living.
You can’t compare my experience in Germany with that of Nigeria; Germany offered a clean and trustworthy environment. Nigeria has a lot of fake people, which makes it hard for one to build properly, because everyone is asking you to be careful and so you end up exhausting your energy in being careful than being creative. I had a bad experience with the first group of people that worked for me – they were nowhere from the field. I was free to teach them what I spent 13 years learning. They thought they could do it in six months, so there is always this problem for diasporas, because we grew up with the mentality of building while most people here in Nigeria work hard to destroy.
Why I am still in Nigeria is because of the mission, which will last five years; I am almost on the fifth year now, after which I will return to Germany. I don’t intend staying here forever. I was thinking of putting up a branch and allowing someone manage it, just the way I did in Europe, but unfortunately, our people are still far from such trustworthiness.
Can we talk more about the frustrations, having been here for some time now, what and what really frustrate you as a business owner?
Operating in Nigeria as an investor is very frustrating. I have thought of going back to Germany on several occasions. I remember back 2007 while in a pedagogic exam in Germany, we were operating with the 86th volume of law book and I am sure that by now, the volume must have increased. But in Nigeria, you are still operating military and outdated laws, which do not favour all your citizens, and you are expecting a change? Things don’t work that way.
If Nigeria wants to move forward, let them construct a new, more inclusive constitution. Once this is done, there will be hope. Second, there must be a conscientious effort to choose competent and educated people as leader – Nigeria is a land of giants, but unfortunately ruled by dwarfs.
I am really worried, because that name ‘home’ is no more found in Nigeria. A home is where you find peace, joy, love, tolerance, protection, help, harmony, acceptance, provision, but looking around the country, you hardly find it anywhere. Even the people who are meant to protect us can no longer do so as they can’t even protect themselves. Coming back after thirty something years in Europe, I feel like going back because, with the look of things, Europe offered me more than ‘home’ has offered me.
What inspires you?
My inspiration is and has always been from God. I have an authentic Christian foundation; I take no step without God going with me. Even my coming back to Nigeria was more of a mission than business; I heard the voice three times telling me to go back home. I believe that after coming back home, God allowed me to go through all the disappointments so that I could understand what it means to practice in Nigeria, and I am grateful for all the experiences both the good and the bad ones. It’s got to happen at the beginning as a warning.
So, for every achievement in my life, all glory goes to God. I have also reached a level in life that I can look back and say, ‘If not for God…’ To tell the truth, 70 per cent of all treatments I have done since I started the company were never taught me in any school or university. I build upon problem and I am always excited when there is a problem, because that is when my craft is needed. I am grateful always to God for what he is using me to do for my generation.
Where do you see Derma Contour in the next two decades?
In the next two decades, I believe that my children will take over while I go to rest. There is so much we can still achieve. The first 20 years was not easy, but I think the next 20 will be much easier, because we have learnt a lot in the journey; we have more than enough experience that can help us solve any problem that we may come across. There will be challenges, but what matters most will be how we face and manage them.
Derma Contour has come to stay, that I know for certain. Derma contour in Germany, United States and United Kingdom also includes an advanced training centre for people who are already in the field for their continuous education. I am not thinking of retirement yet, what will I do if I go on retirement? The first 20 years is just the beginning of the journey. We are yet to unfold our packages. Like I said earlier, Derma Contour is a tree with many branches; we are working hard to continue to water and prune that tree. Successors are already on ground but I will still hang around to assist whenever my advice is needed.
We don’t tend to stop only in Nigeria for the mission we have for Africa. Our next target in Africa is South Africa, Uganda, Ghana and Ivory Coast. My dream is to build as many entrepreneurs as possible who will be ready to go through the process not just pursuing money. I wish to produce people who will be ready to sacrifice and not just to consume. We need more producers in the world especially in Africa.