•What ALALI HART Told City People 25 Yrs Ago
Alali Hart was one of the beautiful ladies who rocked the Skincare & Beauty sector 25 years ago when City People Magazine started publishing. She had a slim and petite frame. She had this sweet 16, innocent look and a complimentary smile that disarms.
25 years ago, Alali Hart was ranked as one of Nigeria’s most enterprising women, She is a self-made lady, who had a clear idea of what she wanted from life. She is ambitious, hardworking, energetic and independent-minded. She is richly endowed with the brains and brawn needed to hold out in such a male-dominated society as ours. She is forever driven by the desire to excel. She knew what she wanted from life from a relatively young age, and she went for it.
Alali Hart was the exclusive agent of Clarins, the world’s leading name in prestige skincare and colour cosmetics, in Nigeria at that time. Clarins was then the Number one beauty brand in Europe. It was a market leader in the UK. So also in France. But, one remarkable thing about Alali is that she is not loud about it. She has always been very reserved and as she is quick to add, a very private person.
Alali has a lot going for her. First, consider her intimidating profile having attended the best schools in Europe. She has a double B.Sc in Business Administration and Accounting from Pepperdine University, Malibu, California and an MBA from INSEAD, a top business school in France, where she speculated in International Strategy and Marketing.
Before her foray into the world of Cosmetology, as an exclusive agent to Clarins, a Paris-based privately owned skincare company, Alali had worked with a firm of certified public accountants, an American and a telecoms consultancy company in England of which she was a founding partner. At a point, she was the Financial Counsellor of a division of Lonrho Plc, a British multinational.
But the more interesting thing about Alali is how she started off in the world of high finance in Europe, armed with an MBA and later veered into the exciting world of beauty business. “It all started off while I was in the US”, she says in her nice mellifluous voice. After finishing her high school in Nigeria at the rather young age of sixteen, she took off abroad, to do her first degree in Accounting and Business in California, where her brother and sister were also schooling. She went to a private University in Malibu after which she stayed back to work. “I level in America, and worked with a firm of Chartered Accountants”. Then, she moved over to England, where she took up different jobs, her last being a financial controller for a subsidiary of a large British multinational.
Because of her plans to learn more about Marketing, she decided to go pick up an MBA. “It’s a fact that most of my work had been in finance and management”, she explains. “So, I decided to go for an MBA to enable me become more marketing-oriented” She also felt it would help her when she eventually decides to set up her own business someday. “Having got the basic among footing in the financial aspect of business, I thought I needed more of the marketing know-how. So, my studies were, majoring in Marketing and International Strategy, specifically concentrating on the cosmetic industry worldwide”.
So good had she become in that area of study that by the time she left, she had become something of an expert in the Cosmetics industry. “I could tell you, who all the major players were in the market, and who controlled what, in which market”, she explains.
It was while doing her MBA that she clinched the CLARINS programme deal. She was doing a course then called, New Ventures, which ran over 2 semesters, which gave opportunities to prospective entrepreneurs to get together in groups, to generate bright ideas. The course opened for her new vistas and it was halfway through it when the Clarins people approached her to know whether she’d want to work with them or not. “Initially, I said no, and I later said, let’s look at it further”. That’s how her romance with Clarins began. “I basically was put in touch with the Clarins’ family because I was already working on developing another project within the cosmetic field after my MBA. They’d always been interested in the Nigerian market but didn’t have someone they felt had the expertise or even the dependability to work within Nigeria. So, they proposed to me to become their agent in Nigeria. Quite frankly, I was living in England and was not really very interested in coming back to Nigeria, because I had other plans. I thought, well, let’s come down, look at the market, do research, and see if it was interesting I did some market research, and it was quite surprising because there wasn’t any other brand of this calibre or companies, being distributed properly in the Nigerian market. So, I decided that even though nobody was doing this, it looked interesting to develop a market in this sort of way. That’s how it all started.
What helped her was the fact that the Clarins deal rhymed with her own plans too. “I’d always been very much interested in aesthetics, whether it is personal, or, of any nature. I always knew right from the start that I’d eventually want to do my own thing have my own company. I wasn’t really called out to be a corporate person, and it was a conscious choice. I wanted to study Business. Accounting was just a bit more rigorous than just studying plain business. So, I combined the two because I know that a lot of people sometimes start companies, and when you are a bit weak in the area of Finance, it’s normally a handicap”
Her main passion all through those years has been to market the Clarins beauty range of products. She was eager to take the Clarins range to greater heights in the Nigerian cosmetic/beauty care market. From simply representing Clarins in Nigeria, she went ahead to open a beauty clinic called The Clarins Place in Victoria Island.
Why open a beauty clinic? “It is really much a part of the Clarins Philosophy worldwide. Clarins really started in the area of what you call ‘Beauty Therapy’. And the man who started Clarins is a doctor, specialising in Physiotherapy. He started formulating his own massage oils and cream. 100% natural. And that was how the company started. Then, he noticed that there were improvements in their cosmetic appearance. as well as their medical condition. When you look at Clarins as a company worldwide, our salon division is actually one of the most important areas of the business”. She explains.
“The reason we did not start from day one with launching the Clarins Clinic was because there was no market really, we had to create a market and awareness for this products and try to get the product out, to distribute them so that customers could easily get to them. And the fastest way and the most cost-effective way of doing that, at the time was just to purely retail the products, distribute through different retailers both in Lagos and outside, like Port Harcourt and Abuja for now, and then, finally, open our clinic. We refer to them as Clarins Institutes. Customers have been coming to us from day one because, a lot of the Clarins customers know that they can go to the Clarins Institute whether here or abroad, and have the full Clarins experience. So, it was a question of time. And also Paris, in particular, wanted to know that we had the expertise and the ability to run a clinic like this”.
Does this entail her having to go abroad for courses regularly”? Oh yes, every time I travel abroad, I update my courses. Clarins has a very strong training programme. So, there are courses for what we call our sales executives, our sales consultants, people who just sell the products”.
The knowledge gained from all these is then put to use at her salon which has intimate, warm and enticing treatment rooms designed with the clients’ comfort in mind. While soft lights, relaxing music, scented oils, cozy towels in rooms, enveloped in harmony await you, the pure, soft and natural wood, creates a warm invitation to relax and unwind. At her salon, Alali offers facial treatments. “We have a whole facial treatment. “We have a whole selection of Clarins facials, which, depending on the customer’s skin types and concerns, we recommend a particular facial for the customer when he/she comes in. We also offer different body treatments that have been designed again, to address different body problems. For example, one which is very common with women. Fat (Cellulite), stretch marks, or it could be relaxation. We also have several other treatments, one of which is an American Dermatologist’s base range called Dr. Murad, which primarily addresses the problems of skin pigmentation, photo-aging, severe acne break-out, and that based on glycolic acid, so, we offer skin peels as well. We also do make-up and make-over which are where you come in for make-up for special events or coming in for make-up lessons etc.
After every Facial, customers have the opportunity to be made up by way of complementary treatment. We also offer other treatments such as waxing, luxury manicure/pedicure treatment, where we give a complete massage of the hand and the feet, using about 10 Clarins products for manicure and pedicure. We have a bit of something for everybody. And we do have a lot of male clients”.
What experience does a first-time customer to her beauty clinic get? “We give them a Consultation, which is complimentary. The main theme of the consultation is to analyse and determine their skin types, whatever skin conditions they might have, such as sensitivities and skin conditions, say dehydration, etc. And then we find out what the customers’ main concerns are, what does he/she want to achieve. And also try to find out about their lifestyles, health, etc. Once that is taken, we write up a prescription for them, and they get a copy of it. We then send the prescription to our home office. The customer will receive in a few days a selection of Clarins samples, again complimentary. During the consultation, we’ll find out what the customer wants to achieve. From that, we’ll recommend the right treatment suitable for that customer’s need. If they come in here, they can buy anything they want, (we have testers), and pretty much play with whatever they want. If you want to buy make-up you can sit down and try any of the numbers available to make a choice from”.
Expectedly, her treatments have enjoyed a good response from Nigerians. Of the entire range, the product which has generated so much interest is the Baby Wrap which reduces cellulite along with a pure massage using any of the Clarins products that break down fat.