By Peace Hyde
Temitope Mayegun has made a name in Nigeria selling natural oils from fruits, seeds and vegetables, but it was a greasy path to follow.
From stock trading to skincare, in the last four years, Temitope Mayegun has built a company that sells what she calls “natural skincare products” but to achieve that, she first needed to change the mindset of Nigerians.
“I got divine inspiration,” she says, “to start a company that will enrich lives and inspire a healthier and happier world.” The founder and CEO of Avila Naturalle in Nigeria felt she needed to first educate people about the toxic and unsafe chemicals they were hitherto using for bleaching and skin whitening, considering how sought-after they are in Nigeria.
The former stock broker was also frustrated she couldn’t find an all-natural skin product without bleaching or whitening ingredients harmful to the skin, so she created her own.
Today, from a humble start in 2017, her company retails over 350 products in the skincare division, 90 products in the food division and 10 products in the water and drinks division.
But it took a lot of ground work and research to start with.
“I saw that many people believe your skincare product should enhance or change your skin color,” recalls Mayegun.
With a degree in accounting from the University of Lagos as well as an International Masters in Business Administration from Eaton Business School; and having done a Harvard Business School Executive Leadership course, Mayegun’s most valuable qualification would prove to be a diploma she obtained in an organic and natural skin school in London.
Equipped with the knowledge of the goodness of natural products, Mayegun set out on the cumbersome path of changing perceptions.
“It was difficult because a lot of people were not ready to change their bleaching and whitening products. So, we did not follow the crowd even though there was pressure to go into whitening and pressure to create products that will let customers bleach their skin,” says Mayegun.
To combat stereotypes, Mayegun knew she had to create a unique product. She began with 30,000 units of pure coconut oil.
“I had to create campaigns to educate the public on the importance of using natural products.”
“At the time, there was no pure coconut oil on the market. Most of them were watered down with other edible oils which reduces the quality. I had to create campaigns to educate the public on the importance of using natural products and sell them on the superior quality of our products.”
The hard work paid off and Mayegun sold out her 30,000 units, which was two cartons of pure coconut oil, in just two days. It was time to expand her business and with that, she needed to find capital.
“I started asking friends for a loan but I could not raise the money. I went to microfinance companies looking for a $10,000-loan and they said I needed collateral which I didn’t have.
“There were times when I worked between 17 and 21 hours a day. I would be trying to convince people on why they should use coconut oil for their skin. I knew people were not ready for natural products but I kept pushing and after a while, I got a lot of people asking for coconut oil and it was not easy meeting the demand,” says Mayegun.
Soon, word got out and the distributors came calling. Today, Avila Naturalle offers multiple natural essential oils made from carrots, avocado, hibiscus and mustard.
“When people saw our mustard oil, they were shocked that there were these oils in Nigeria. So, they bought in bulk to resell. We were the first to produce essential oils in Nigeria. People were asking if we bought them from abroad and dilute it with other products which was the norm. We are the only company that sells 100% pure natural oils from fruits and seeds.”
The sizeable beauty and personal care market in Nigeria is what Mayegun has sets her sights on.
“To make this happen we have created a multi-channel natural body care and household brand with multiple product lines, which combines a dynamic distribution network with a retail strategy as well as e-commerce,” she says, also referring to changing consumer habits in the post-Covid world.
With just $100 and a burgeoning global supply chain network, Mayegun has built a million-dollar company manufacturing natural body and hair care products and foods in Africa.