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We are perfuming a new oil industry in Nigeria


Adewale Aladejana

Adewale Aladejana, the Chief Executive Officer of Sapphire Scents crafted his ways into the league of millionaires by manufacturing perfumes. Just three years ago, when he moved from Benin City in Edo State to the Federal Capital Territory, Abuja, Aladejana and his wife were sleeping on the floor, where they have to share an apartment with a relative. But the decision to quit his job and move into the perfume industry changed Aladejana’s life. In this interview, he shares with KINGSLEY JEREMIAH, the need for youths in the country to look inward to end unemployment.  He also discussed other germane issues that could help the country ‘perfume’ a new oil industry.

Tell us the story of Sapphire scents?
In April 2014 I was transferred to Abuja from Benin.  Things were generally rough. I had no accommodation and no means of transportation.  The worst thing was that my wife was 7 month pregnant. Indeed, we were only managing an apartment with my younger brother.  We put a mattress on the floor and life started in Abuja.  Along the line, by April of 2015, which was my wife’s birthday, I really wanted to make her feel special.  While growing up, I never see my mother sleep on the floor with my father. She was not struggling to join public buses. I don’t expect any woman to go through that phase of life with me. And here was this beautiful woman doing all of that with seven months pregnancy and all that I could do was to appreciate her.  So I bought her a phone and a gold chain. By the time I got the gifts my salary had finished. I had like four weeks to go. All I had left was like N30, 000. I started thinking of what I could do to raise extra income. I know a friend, who was using a fragrance called Oud, it smelled well and I remembered I have always loved good perfume.  

One of my friends was returning from Dubai so I asked him to get me a bottle of perfume and he did and I liked it. From there I got an idea to try going into perfume business. But I didn’t have the capital to start getting perfume from Dubai. I discovered an alternative at a shop in Wuse, Abuja here. I picked some of the perfumes, did my research and started marketing to people on the social media. I started making sales every day. I was still working so I would get to my office in the morning, put up all the post and continue my work, by the time I will come back to my desk there would have been enquires. During break, I would rush to transport companies and distribute my orders.  In three months, I made over N1million and in 10 months I quit my job and focused on Sapphire scents. Sapphire scents is my brand; what we do right now is to travel to Middle East to get exceptional oil.  We focus on Oud, frankincense and myrrh and we mix with essential oils like vanilla, jasmine, balsam, citrus and many more.  We source for raw materials from Middle East because we don’t have them in Nigeria. We bring them here, mix them here and produce here.  It’s proudly a Nigerian product.


What is the level of your local content?
Apart from the ingredients mentioned above, most of the things we use are done here. We currently have about 60 per cent local content. There are things we don’t have in Nigeria so we have to source for them outside the country. 

Tell us about the number of people you have been able to employ?
Apart from our core workers, right now we have close to 300 distributors consisting of students and NYSC members as well as stay at home moms. We just started a package for NYSC members, their allowance is N19, 800 what can they buy with that? So we created a package for them to ensure that they can sell perfumes and make extra income. We are about to sign new pacts opening to boost our operational profile.  

Nigeria spends huge capital flight on the importation of perfumes and other beauty products, how can we reduce this?  
I am so excited right now because when I walk into perfume stores, I now see that Nigeria has a perfume brand that is better than a lot of what is imported. Indeed, we have something better than what I see in most stores. The advantage they had was packaging and by the grace of God we have been able to do that.  We have spent a lot of money on our packing to ensure that we give users the luxury seen in Sapphire. It can compete with any brand in the world and it would beat them hands down. We are gifted in Nigeria. We have what it takes and a more enabling environment for instance would make the sector go a long way. The multiple regulations from the different regulatory agencies are unnecessary. Perfume business is billion-dollar industry. This year we are working on meeting our billion-dollar target by God’s grace. The perfume industry is a huge industry because Nigerians like to smell well.  They want to smell the best and that is why imitations are selling fast. Perfume is a huge business and Sapphire has been able to give Nigerians something different. We do original and quality fragrances, we don’t try to imitate or copy anybody. Try smelling our perfumes, we have 20 perfumes, they don’t smell like anything you have ever smelled. So we try to keep originality because we know that that is the future. We are perfuming a new oil industry in Nigeria.


The sector is reportedly raking in $66.4 billion to global economy yearly. What share is coming to Nigeria from the business and why is Nigeria losing out?
There are limited local perfume and fragrance manufacturers in Nigeria. Currently, we are one of the biggest local manufacturers in the country. We are just about entering the 20 to 50 thousand bottles mark in a year. We are trying to sell at least 50, 000 bottles this year. If you go aboard, there are perfume makers everywhere.  They have enabling environment that supports local manufacturers. Young businesses are folding up daily. Though we have enjoyed support from Standard Organisation of Nigeria but there are a lot of agencies that are practically killing businesses. So enabling environment is key. If government supports local manufacturers they will make you proud. Nigeria has the population and we must use it.  We have a huge market. We are still down the ladder in the global share. Awareness is also important because we are far behind; people look at our products and feel they are inferior. Those are what we have tried to change and thank God for people that have really been supporting us.

The rate of unemployment is high in the country how can we address this issue?
I think I have been able to deal with it because I have been there and I strongly believe that if you have a job that cannot carter for you, you are actually unemployed. You can actually be going to your office everyday but you don’t have a roof over your head. You cannot feed your family. You are just struggling. You are actually unemployed. That is where I was coming from. Some of the people that are working are underemployed because some jobs are just to make ends means so what you earn maybe N20, 000 by the time you pay your transport, your salary is gone. A lot of people are working because they just want to get away from stigmatization. The important thing that youths need to do is to look inwards because the solution is not outside, it is inward, and we have capacities that we take for granted. We don’t know that those are gifts that can change our lives. 

Imagine where I would have been if I had not tapped into what I am doing now.  We need to pay attention to those gifts.  What we have been told and what we believe is affecting us.  How can you spend four years in the university and still be struggling to feed. Wealth is created out of something that God has put in you. The youth in Nigeria need to get away from sentiments.  Nobody owes them anything. If they fail it is because they wanted to fail. They should take responsibly for their lives and look inwards.


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