Her name is synonymous with the Make Up business in Nigeria. Just mention Tara anywhere and every one will tell you she is the Queen of Make Up business. She is done well for herself. She has taken what started as a hobby to greater heights.
In this interview, she told City People Publisher, SEYE KEHINDE that when she started off 19 years ago it was a virgin territory. Today, Tara Fela-Durotoye sits atop a big beauty conglomerate that has international dimensions. This her interview is very revealing.
How did you get into the makeup business?
It was something I started obviously as a hobby. I was in the university then. This is almost 19 yars ago. At that time the business didn’t exist. First of all, secondly, nobody was doing Bridal Make up artistry as a profession. And this was something I had started. When I started it I didn’t really realize it was going to become this big. I look at the industry today and I am in awe of what I see. I was at a party on Saturday and it was unbelievable the number of women who were at that party who were professionally made up. In the past, only the bride will get her makeup done. And in some cases, only the bride and her mother at the most. And in other situations, only the bride, her mother and her sisters. But this time around, every aunty, every cousin and there were varying degrees of professionalism in terms of the makeup that was done, but everyone looked amazing.
And I looked back and I thought; how about if I didn’t start this. Thank God, I didn’t give up then. If I had been discouraged it wouldn’t have become what it became today. It has become part of our culture. That women will have their makeup professionally done, when they are doing their traditional wedding. But now people are even getting their makeup done professionally for them to go to work, or if they have big meetings. So, I look back at that time when I just started. So it wasn’t became I thought it was going to become a big business. But one day, I just sat down and I did my numbers and I thought if this numbers came out of the business, then I have to sit down and take it more seriously and look at it more closely and more attention to it. And that is why I decided to pay more attention to the business and the consciousness started to grow and I created structures around it. I put systems in place.
I remember my interview with you at my first store at Oko-Awo many years ago. And I said to you at that time that I was no longer going to be doing make up again professionally. And I remember it made headlines and people were like what is happening and it was crazy. It was became I didn’t want to focus the business on me in terms if my skill. I wanted to focus it on an array of makeup artistes. That is the same model we have built today. It is interesting when you look around and you see an array of makeup artistes who have2 to 3 people who work for them. If I hadn’t made that decision then it would have been impossible for someone to travel or go and have baby and their business continue because everybody will be waiting for Tara to come and do their make up for them.
Merely looking around your office one can see clearly defined structures and various departments doing different aspects of the business. Could you tell us about the phenomenal growth House of Tara has witness over the last few years?
House of Tara in terms of our business units, over the years, has grown to not just focus on bridal make up which is where I started we grew to having a retail store, what we call a Make Up Studio. Today we have about 25 of such stores across the country. And then we expanded to having a Make Up Training Centre where people can train to become a makeup artiste and today we have 19 Centres across the country, where people can learn how to become professional makeup artistes, and then as w e expanded we created our own make up line.
We started as Tara Orekelewa and then evolved into Tara The Make Up. And then we became the indigenous make up brand that was known and we created a model around Direct Selling. We recruited young ladies in the Universities campuses to build businesses for themselves, to start their own micro business and make money. Some of them started with N15,000, N20 and today some of them have now become distributors of the brand. And they have their own stores. And it is nice to see that growth. And so, the School the Tara Product line and the retail store are the 3 business unit.
Each of these 3 units requires a business manager and at a more executive level we have two directors. –one head of operation that oversees Admin, Finance & Supply chain and another one who is in charge of sales and the store experience and the experience to the customer. I am still CEO and Creative Director. I am still responsible for innovation, new product that will come out. It is a great privileged to be able to look back to what happened 2 years ago when I took a year off, and I went on a sabbatical.
I packed my bag. And I remember the chairman of my board had s aid to me, you need to take some time off. I struggled with it and eventually I decided to go. She said to me you have put structures in place, you need to test that structure and see how well you’ve done. Imagine that you are going away because you want to test that structure. I went a way for 1 year and came back and the business is still here. It did not deteriorate. It did not die. But it didn’t grow as fast as I thought it will grow.
What did you do for that one year?
What I did for one year was just to enjoy my heart. I will wake up in the morning not worried about going to work. I was getting my salary paid every month. I ran a business that could afford to pay me when I wasn’t even there. I was actually jobless for one year and I enjoyed the fact that I didn’t need to work on any project.
I worked on my garden. I did decoration in my home. I bored with old friends, childhood friends. I spent time with my mentees I rekindled old relationship. And I came back to work a year after, January of 2016 to a great company I was very happy because the team I left the business for to run carried on well. My being away was very productive. That was when I was able to create the TFD series, a platform for the mentorship of young ladies. Because I was away it gave me the freedom. I began to see myself operating beyond. The House of Tara I saw myself bigger. It made me realize I had other capabilities. I had so much time to think I had so many ideas.
I set up my own personal website during that period. My personal website made me explore who I am beyond an Entrepreneur. I decided I was going to set up a Pan African mentorship programme. I now found out that I had fans and friends, on line, who do are not Nigerians. They are from Angola, South Africa, and Kenya who wanted mentorship. I now had more time to relate with them. I found out that a lot of women need cancelling.
I found out that a lot of young women who had dreans and ambitions that are bigger than they are currently are afraid that if they get married, or, they are married their husbands will not allow them. And they wanted to know how I have achieved all these things and thrived and remained happily married. I set up a bride-grooming academy. That was a way of hand-holding young women who have been married for a year, to say, this does not happen by accident or by councidence. You have to keep at it. You have to be committed to make sure that your marriage works. How? Come and learn. I set up the Bride academy and came back to work.
And then we were faced with counterfeiting of the Tara brand. And we suffered a lot of loss from the brand standpoint from the equity stand pioint, from the sale stand point we had to give up on our channels became of it. We suffered a lot from the counterfeiting of our products. Our products were counterfeited out of China. So, I came back to the business, 6 months after and I was faced with this trouble. And I remember saying, I have never been, in the entire history of my business, been hit by anything so badly like this. Sales dropped. I spent the bulk of 6 months of the year addressing that issue. I am happy I had gone to have enough rest and it prepared me for this challenged. It was as if God knew that I will need the strength, it was as if I went back to re energise. It also allowed me to see how powerful the brand was people stand for us. I stand behind the Tara campaign trended online. People stood for us. People came out to stand for the company and its products.