‘decision to be vegetarian impacted my lifestyle in most positive way’
Debbie Chinasa Collins, is an author, first runner-up of the Most Beautiful Girl in Nigeria pageant 2015, Nigeria’s representative at the Miss Universe 2015 and Miss World 2016. An entrepreneur, she is the co-founder of Rbrth Essentials. She earned her honours degree in Business Information Systems from Tshwane University of Technology in South Africa. In addition to her work with Rbrth Essentials, she co-owns Greenlys & Co, a health and wellness brand offering holistic solutions, herbal products and supplements for a healthy, plant-based lifestyle. Debbie’s entry into the health and wellness space began when she became a vegetarian in 2015, leading her and her sister to become more conscious about the products they use on their skin, hair and body. This awareness led to the creation of Birth from Earth, now known as Rbrth Essentials, which offered unique, natural and non-toxic hair products. She is also committed to giving back, as she plans to roll out initiatives that benefit the lives of young, disadvantaged women. In this interview with IJEOMA THOMAS-ODIA, she shares her perspectives.
You have your honours in Business Information Systems. Tell us how that translates to your current role at Rbrth Essentials?
Business Information Systems gave me foundational knowledge in Computer Systems and Information Technology. Currently, I’m working on merging that knowledge with our product offerings in a way that will make sales and other aspects of the business seamless and accessible to customers from around the world.
Business information systems provide information that organisations use to manage themselves effectively, typically using computer systems and technology. A given and basic example is Office Automation System (OAS), which is a suite of Microsoft Office products, including Excel, Word, PowerPoint and more. These are programmes that improve productivity and data sharing within the organisation. It will amaze you what a simple excel sheet can do for your business. These were the foundational tools I implemented effortlessly in our everyday business.
How has emerging the first runner-up of the Most Beautiful Girl in Nigeria (MBGN) pageant in 2015 and representing Nigeria at Miss Universe in the same year helped build your brand and sustain it?
The experience prepared me to take challenges head-on. I have sustained a healthy belief in myself and my abilities, which I believe was further developed on those platforms. The experience gained from being on both platforms was life-changing; it helped me grow in confidence and bravery to forge ahead in life knowing you can achieve anything you set your heart to. It helps create a mindset shift in understanding global beauty and that, really and truly, women are the same all over the world with the same beauty and self-care needs. The exposure helped me to understand that in creating a brand, it has to meet global branding
Has being a niche brand served in scaling the turnover or do you sometimes wish to add other products to the brand?
We will be adding other products to the brand, branching out into becoming a fully functional beauty and wellness brand. We are however happy to have penetrated the market with such a stand-out unique product. It gives us leverage to introduce more products, numbers never lie. We are doing well as at now, but it also feels like the right time to scale and diversify. While the Nigerian beauty consumer market is a burgeoning and fast-growing one, let’s be real, self-care products is still perceived as luxury occasionally. So, at this time on our drawing board is introducing an eco-friendly FMCG that will speak to the daily needs of consumers and also scale our brand.
Would you categorise your brand under wellness or beauty?
It’s a blend of both; beauty because it caters to beauty and skin needs, and wellness because it promotes slow living and slow care. To categorise wellness away from beauty would be a huge disservice as both are intertwined. There is no beauty without wellness and to indulge in wellness is to experience true beauty on the outside. So, I believe our brand plays a part in both terms beautifully and respectfully so.
What are some of the lessons one can take away from a co-owned business?
You learn to work as part of a team; your decisions must be supported and discussed. The other part is that everyone brings a different personality or sets of skills to the business which makes running the business easier. You don’t have to worry about how your personal weaknesses can affect your business, because most times in co-founding, the personalities and skill sets are complementary; what one lacks the other makes up for. And it is such a beautiful thing to experience as business and several decisions surrounding it can take a toll. It is a good thing to have someone to shoulder all those responsibilities with.
Innovation in business is such a great feat as it brings great relevance. How did you come about launching body candles, such a rare find in this part?
My sister, Tina and I came up with the idea to merge beauty with self-care; we wanted products that were multi-purposeful as well as effective in beautifying the skin and promoting self-care. The burning part of the set-up is exciting for everyone, because when you burn it like a candle, it becomes nourishing body oil, which can be used to moisturise the skin and massage the body. It’s new in the Nigerian market and we do feel privileged to have been the ones to introduce it. Our products simply help give you a home-spa feel, which to be very honest is essential especially when you live in a metropolitan city like Lagos or anywhere else in the world. The hustle and bustle is real, enduring traffic, toxic air, lots of sweat, you deserve to go back and truly unpack with a product like ours. If not every day, then at least twice a week, you owe yourself that much.
What roles do you believe women add to the society and nation-building?
Women are vital nation-builders. I believe that the roles women play critical to nurturing, incubating and empowering the next generation. The fantastic aspect to being a woman is also that your abilities aren’t capped. As long as we keep pushing ourselves, we can grow and expand. It would help to see women in every sector from education, tech to governance, taking charge and adding their unique value to the system chain. For what it’s, women do have a lot to add to nation-building beyond being wives and mothers.
Where will we find your brand in the next five years?
A fully functional beauty and wellness global brand with added services and a physical location, distributed worldwide. We are exploring the possibilities of penetrating Europe, America and Asia, beyond other parts of Africa we currently are in. Amazon also seems right for us now, and we are fully about to embark in the process of being on it. Our goal is to educate and raise awareness among our customers and potential clients about the significance of wellness and embracing a green lifestyle. We firmly believe that these ideals are closely linked to the beauty standards they aspire to attain.
What baby steps do you think one can take towards green eating and living?
It hasn’t been a walk in the park, especially in the early days. The decision to be vegetarian impacted my lifestyle in the most positive way. You must ask yourself why this is an activity you are interested in. Is it for health reasons or for the practice of it? Either ways you start where you are by decluttering and surrounding yourself with friends who share the same philosophies. You also have to find interesting ways to prepare your meals otherwise you will fall back where you started, and if you do fall back, that’s also okay, you just pick up from where you left off. So, I say start small, surround yourself with people with shared interest; plan and prepare your meal days ahead. Don’t think that it is a more expensive way to live, not necessarily; there are several options, spinach (Ugu)is cheap and available; we infuse it in our diet all the time, so is okra. It will amaze you the many options of greens we have in the market. In terms of living green beyond what you eat, declutter your space as often as possible, move your body and embrace minimalism. Your life will have you to thank for it.