Thursday, 21 June 2012

Project DONE- Series Two. Another "Done" Guy- One 2 n 2 Hair Extra INT

In order to not continue giving people reasons to label me a vicinity bigot, I debuted Project DONE with a small-scale business owner from the Ogudu and not YABA area of Lagos. Friends who always call me partisan had expected I would begin from my heartthrob- Yaba; am glad I disappointed them. Well, have been fair enough so I return there for Series 2 of Project DONE.


In pursuit to finding contextual answers to Nigeria’s socio-economic survival and hopeful development, I engage another informal sector participant who has spent over two decades in the Hair-Styling Business. Mr Owolabi Ibrahim is the Chief Executive Officer of One 2 n 2 Hair Extra International- a hair styling outfit that caters to both male and female clients. Since my adolescent days in Yaba, One 2 n 2 Salon had existed. Seeing it still standing motivated me to finding out the tricks or reasons for its survival.  Here is the story.


Q. Could you briefly tell me what you do?

A. I’m a Hair Stylist. I professionally handle all that has to do with Hair styling for both male and female clients, which includes shaving, fixing, braiding, weaving and all. I also do nail fixing at my salon and have been doing this for 25 years.

Q. How did it all begin? Did you seek some kind of apprenticeship before starting out?

A. Not really. It all started when I finished school on the path to seeking some kind of  formal employment. Originally, I had always been an artist. I’ve always had that artistic flair lit up in me. Anything that had to do with drawings and creativity always caught my fancy. After a long while searching for formal work here and there and to no avail, I took the decision to lean back and re-discover myself. Most times, I was convinced I had a talent and gift, but trying to place exactly what area this artistic thing in me would thrive was the challenge. So I took the tough decision of taking sometime out to re-discover myself and find that within me which could empower me for livelihood.  After a while discovering myself and with the artistic knowledge I had, I transformed it into the expertise for Hair Styling and it seemed to flow naturally.  Almost 10 out of my 25 years in this business I worked for a Barbing Salon in Yaba called Choices. I’m a direct product of Choices. But have been running my own business for profit now for 18 years with a partner i met also from Choices. The journey wasn’t smooth initially but today, here I am, thriving in this business.

Q.  Wow…so you mean the breakthrough or transition was hugely aided through self-discovery?

A. Yes, to a large extent.

Q.  Am so glad to hear this because it is one major thing my organization continually promotes and the fact you are a direct beneficiary of this ideology further confirms my methodology and complements this project.  I have always said that the most beneficial invention every individual can achieve is self-discovery. When one continually aims to discover and re-discover his or herself, the opportunities that lie within this process are limitless and the breakthroughs not only guarantee advancement for the individual but also further rubs on the environment or society the individual happens to be present in and this can accelerate societal development. Pardon me, I just felt elated hearing such a testimony from you. So how has the journey been so far? 18 years is a commendable time for a business like yours to still survive?
 
 A. I agree. My brother to be very honest with you, it has not been as easy as it all looks now. This whole thing started on a balcony where I was living, before I proceeded to get a container and then proceeded to be able to afford a shop. It’s been so so so tough but with perseverance, endurance and the grace of God, I have always believed there is nothing unachievable. It always depends only on the individual. Some are very weaken and some have the strength to continually push on and I happen to be in the category of those who continually persevere and endure. I don’t give up easily irrespective of certain challenges. All my focus is to be consistent and sustainable in what I do; automatically with these principles you shouldn’t expect anything less than what I have achieved today.

   


Q.  Hmmm, I see.  So who exactly are your target audience as regards clients?

A. My clients are mixed. In my line of business hardly do you have preference. I believe the price for services that we set and to how each individual can afford it is what gives preference. That aside, before a client can request ME personally to render service for him or her, they have to be of a particular standard. Hardly do I render service at our outlets again due to my huge staff strength and capability, I do home service for clients who request me personally and truly, most of them do so for confidential and private reasons. I have a staff strength of 60, including apprentices at 3 branches of One 2 n 2; one in Ikorodu which is my biggest branch, the other in Akoka which my partner handles, and this one at Yaba.


Q. How do you recruit your employees asides those who come to you for apprenticing and what is their salary structure?

A. Upon starting the business, most of my employees were apprentices and I did most of the jobs. The referrals and patronage I always got made the apprentices troop in large numbers to learn the job. My apprentices then, today, have become owners of their own hair styling outlets all around the world. I have so many scattered in America, Europe and even here in Nigeria. I employee hair stylist based on proven track records who cant afford to get a store yet, aren’t so strong to carry the responsibilities and demands of running of a business or who want to associate with the brand- One 2 n 2. For 16 years running this business I had been paying fixed salaries. But from early last year, I changed to a commission salary structure having realized certain contemporary ways to dealing with employees in order to further sustain my business. All my employees asides my apprentices are on a 20% commission for every job they do. This has even enabled them to be more hardworking and committed to the job. I have employees I pay as much as N250-N300,000 per month based on this commission salary structure.


         
Q. Wow, so not only are you in good business but also making your business structure more open and accessible through the employee salary structure and adding more value to by making them part and parcel of the business?

A. Exactly!

Q.  Quite sensible. So could you give me a rough idea of how much One 2 n 2 makes in profit in a year?

A. If not for the poor infrastructures and failed public service delivery we have in this country, my profits yearly would have gone as high as N10million or even more every year. We make as much as N100, 000 here at the Yaba Center daily. But there are huge demands that come from poor public service delivery we experience needed to sustain the business. But in all under Nigeria’s present circumstance, at least every year, asides procurement costs, staff salaries and over-necessitated sustainability requirements, to be modest, I make as much as N3-5 million in profits at each branch.


Q.  What are these hindrances you complain which chew your profits and how have you been able to overcome them?

A. My brother let me be honest with you, this business is very profiting. People bother heavily about their looks and to a large extent are even governed by it. My most painful hindrance is the lack of power supply. The nature of my business requires 100% power supply at all times. Electricity is the backbone of my business. Right now, we are having this interview in the car and not inside the salon because of the noise the generator presently being worked on is protruding. I can authoritatively tell you and have records to prove that out of my 18years in this business I have single-handedly generated electricity for 17 years to sustain my business. My purchases of generating sets, auto-mechanic invoices, fuel purchase receipts and all. Everything is there. Two years ago, I ran four electricity generators in one year. They all packed up that same year.  Imagine that? I bought four generators that year and all packed up. Where do I lay that account? If government provided power, would I have spent such huge money purchasing generators? That aside, another challenge is Water. It’s only my branch in Ikorodu where I own the building that has a borehole. If not for that, relying on service delivery as regards consistent water from government would kill my business. This Yaba outleft and that of Akoka are leased and do not have borehole facilities. We have to constantly source for water. I have constructed quasi-water delivery systems that store water supply from government when it chooses to come but we don’t fully rely on it. If government adequately provided these things for us, One 2 n 2 would be bigger and larger than it is today because I wouldn’t have to channel funds we make un-necessarily to provide the responsibilities of government in order to sustain my business. It has been drowning and killing my profits for donkey years but we thank God for giving us the strength amidst all to still stand strong.


Q. Have you tried in anyway to seek government representatives in our community and express your distress as regards these issues?

A. How now? Where is the access? I don’t see anyone who wants to listen to a Hair Stylist like myself irrespective of how long have been a participant of this community. No government man or woman cares to listen to me. Its only people in the community, voluntary citizens like yourself who hear me out often and give me a platform to express my dis-pleasures. Let me tell you the secret to all of this; the moment I realized while I was growing up that the poor has no say in every society, has no regard in society, I stood up firmly and took the decision to never be in such category! When I realized everyone loves to associate only with wealth or success, I decided I myself would be a success. Seeking self-enhancement or comfort through man’s pity, favor or public complaint is very rare to achieve in our society. The way you would even be looked at or talked to is something I can’t stand. When I realized this, I knew I had to go back, search myself, re-discover myself and find means to empower myself to be among the successful in society and also help transform as many lives around me as much as I can. I never for once want to be at the mercy of anyone except God.

Q.  Well, I would just like you to know that now, there are more contemporary ways you can seek government’s attention or even petition them. The social media for one is a very powerful medium and has given good results….(cuts in)

A. My brother, social media or no social media. Those guys already know that which they would do. In Nigeria, all we can do is only speak truth to their power but truth would never override their power.

Q. Since you started One 2 n 2 up until now, 18 years on, you mean you have never had any government or financial institution support what so ever?

A. As you ask me these questions, they making me the more bitter.  I feel terribly cheated. I sought for financial support once but never ever got it. The collateral I was asked to bring was enough to cut my head off without a sword. The only support I have ever gotten comes from community members through their inspiring words, accolades and motivating patronage.



Q. How many lives can you say you have helped transform through your business and what kind of awards have you received from community members?

A. I have lost count. Like I told you earlier, I have stylists scattered all around America and Europe. My family lives abroad but I do business in Nigeria. I have people who came to One 2 n 2 broke! Nothing, no job, no place to stay and I have tried my best to make them better people. Right now in my salon, you can see the amount of staff working, come next year, you wouldn’t see them here. Some would finish their apprenticing this year, move on and start their own hair styling outfit. Out of the 60 employees I have, only my General Manager and Nail technician has been with me for at least 5 years asides my partner who heads the Akoka branch. I believe in transforming lives by first empowering them and then allowing them go and build their own world. Not tying them down to work for me forever. Other staff would still join next year. I have lost count of their numbers. As regards recognition from community members, I still continue to get awards. I have been given the Ikorodu Division Excellence Award for most outstanding salon in their community, I have also been that in a similar vein in here in Yaba; in fact, have lost count. They are all hung up on the walls in the salon, you can see them and take pictures if you like.




Q. This has been very informative. So asides government being responsible, how do you think individuals like yourself and government can work hand in hand to help move this nation forward? What kind of Nigeria do you wish to see?                                           

A. Last year, I was going through a tough period. I thought to myself, maybe I should just pack up and go stay with my family abroad for good. I should leave my business running itself, good or bad I don’t care because the system had even not been so supportive to my kind anyway. But then again, I thought to myself- if everybody leaves, who stays? I want to see a Nigeria that generally thinks like that. Not selfish but sacrificial. I want to see a Nigeria that prioritizes its citizens. Most countries around the world don’t joke with their citizens. Their citizens are huge priority and their greatest investments. It’s not the same here in our country. Not even to talk of citizen welfare, just the fact that you are a citizen, you should be of huge priority to your government. If government representatives can help prioritize and empower its citizens and public servants can be oriented in the same line, there would be some level of mutual respect and full consideration. Also, empower citizens financially. Everybody needs financial support to an extent. It’s done in other countries, why can’t it be done here. If everyone at some point has access to empowerment and financial support, we can all collectively help build this economy indirectly through the pursuit of individual transformation. Thank you.


My interview with Mr Ibrahim was a lengthy one but a real eye-opener. I have come to realize that businesses like his not only unconditionally help transform lives but also have steady access to raw cash on a daily basis. More so, not to his advantage but to that of our economy, he indirectly ensures the circulation of cash more rapidly through having to consistently self-provide failed public responsibilities in order to sustain his business. This reduces his profit margin but indirectly guarantees and pushes cash more quickly to the most integral needed parts of our society. From miniscule fuel purchases for electricity generation to auto-mechanics for generator repairs to water vendors for salon duties, his business swiftly than larger businesses ensures money changes hands, thus guaranteeing individual socio-economic survival.

Its quite interesting to find out that even the poor public service delivery we complain about each day can be an indirect enabler for survival not only for those corrupt but also for honest and hardworking citizens. It’s really eye opening. Well, Mr. Owolabi Ibrahim is the second individual am inducting as citizen of DraggNation! Congratulations Sir! For information on how to contact Mr Ibrahim for his personal services or trips to his Hair Salon, kindly read along.

My next conversation promises to be even more interesting. I have reserved appointments with a Printing Press outfit owner, Garment maker, Make-up artist and a Household farmer. All four have been in business for quite sometime in Lagos and are doing extremely well. Please follow the handle @dragdapperdon on twitter for updates on which of them I would next interview.

Contact Name : Owolabi Ibrahim

Telephone: 08033039854, 08023055231, 07098004700, 07098004698, 07098004699.

Email: owolabiolasukanmiibrahim@yahoo.com

Head Office: 122, Murtala Muhammed Way, Ebute Metta
Yaba, Lagos.

Akoka Office: 61, St Finbar’s Road, Chemist Bus Stop, Akoka. Lagos.

Ikorodu Office: 115, Lagos Road, Jumofak Bus Stop, Ikorodu, Lagos


Jide Alara.


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