Ruth Agbasimalo - Member Story
Tell us about who you are and your business.
Good afternoon. My name is Ruth Agbasimalo, I'm the founder and chief marketing personnel in Omari Skin. We create skincare products for a particular set of people - people who are a bit more educated about their skin and want to make more informed choices because I noticed that the market is pretty much saturated with skin lightening products and we want to stand out. So we help people who understand how their skin works or who want to understand how their skin works and how to take care of it.
So how did you stumble upon this awesome business idea?
Growing up, I've always had skin issues. I had boils, constantly, almost like every month and I didn't understand why. I tried every single thing I could to avoid it. I had it in various areas of my body. It was so embarrassing. Sometimes I wouldn’t go to classes just because I had boils and it was so obvious, it was on my face and on my back. I really wanted to understand why this was happening so I ventured into skincare. Even my son has the same issues right now. I was also the only person who had ever experienced it in my family and it was starting to look really funny. So I tried to understand why, and in the process of doing that, I was able to help myself - so far I’ve not had it in over a year and from there, I got interested in skincare.
Who or what inspired you into taking this path? I mean, why go towards developing your own solution as opposed to searching for an already existing solution, if it exists?
So I did search, I talked to a lot of skincare brands. I wasn't the kind of person that bought anything, especially when it comes to skin, online but with all my researching, what I found was a lot of skincare consultants or brands were selling lightening products. And that was not my problem at the time. And I noticed that there was a disparity, it was like, everybody just wanted to lighten their skin. Nobody was talking about skin issues - it was just, like, something has to change. So when I was able to help myself, I really learnt a lot about my skin and I noticed that nobody was even talking about how your skin works or how to take care of your skin or what could be causing any of the issues you're having. So I decided there should be a place for that on Instagram which led to building my own brand.
Great! So who was the first person who believed in you? The first person that showed you, you could really do what you’re trying to achieve with Omari Skin.
I've not mentioned it, but I work with my sister. She's a pharmacist. She was the person who was like, “okay, this is totally doable: She has a background in formulating and all of that. So I just told her what I wanted to do and she started helping me out with the processes and well, we run the business together actually.
That's nice. Now, what was the moment you knew you could be successful in this line of business? Like, when did you know or what was showing you that you could really like make a living from this?
Of all the things I've gone into so far, Omari Skin has shown me a lot of progress. As at now, we have over 300 customers in Lagos alone for a business that started in April.
I wanted to start in January and then I was really scared because that was when I first started hearing about the COVID-19 issues. I was like, maybe I shouldn’t. Then, in April since I was at home - because I actually work, I have a nine to five job as a software developer – I felt this is the best time for me to do this. At least I'll be able to know if it is something that I can do long-term and it shocked me. I was shocked at how I kept getting referrals upon referrals upon referrals. At this point we’re looking towards going to get somewhere to do this permanently. So, I know that yes, there is a market for this.
Also a lot of bigger brands are very expensive. One of the things I knew would be an issue is that everybody wants to have good skin but they just don't know how and most of them cannot afford these bigger brands. They believe that it is luxury to buy skincare products and so we want to be able to tell them that, no, it's actually very important for you to take care of skin right now so that when you get older, you can maintain that youthful glow or youthfulness of your skin by taking care of it at this stage. And by making it affordable, people were like “okay, this is more affordable than most” and they wanted to try it out. They liked it and kept coming back for more and also telling their friends about it.
Amazing! How do you define success for yourself?
In general, I would say it’s when I am able to fully pass across the message that I had for the brand, which is that everybody should be able to take care of their skin and should also afford doing. Success would be people knowing a lot more and making informed choices because I've seen so many cases of people coming to me saying, “I’ve used these and I've damaged my skin. How can you help me?” It's really sad because they just wanted to do what everybody was doing, lightening their skin with steroids and all of that. And some of those damages going up to 10 years before they’re able to fix it properly. So success would be at least being able to educate everyone basically at first and then hopefully help them out in the future.
Thanks for sharing. So give us a typical day in your life. So we want to know everything from when you wake up, what you have for breakfast, if you have a morning routine, what you have for lunch, just tell us a bit of what a day in the life of Ruth is like.
Hahaha hmmm! A day in the life of Ruth can be basically wrapped up into two words – WINGING IT!
Hahaha winging it! I love that! Because you know, with a kid in the mix..
Well they’re two actually, a boy and a girl! *laughs*. So basically I just try my best to make sure that nobody falls apart. But I do most of my reading, basically preparing for the business and all of that, at night because that's the only time I have that peace of mind, that clear mind and plain head for me to plan and determine what to do next. Weekends and nights are the best times though.
Mmm. That makes sense. Do you have any sort of pre bed ritual or morning ritual - do you have anything that kind of helps you get started and wind down?
Because y’know, sometimes this business can be a little bit discouraging, especially because of the Nigerian environment - doing business in Nigeria, it's crazy. So I try to not make it about me. I try to be impersonal when I'm making some decisions and not put my emotions into it because it can get pretty frustrating, pretty quickly. I also try to affirm that “you are doing the right thing”, “this is working out”, “this is going to work out for you”. And I try to do that as often as I can because it’s not easy.
It’s not and you’re doing well. Well done! What's been your most important skill that you've developed on your business journey?
I would say it’s customer skills - communication with customers. Half of the time, they don't know what they want and you have to be able to convince them that, “okay, this would work” because they all have so many questions. “Oh this is what I did before”, “this is what's going on now”, “is it going to work immediately?” Although sometimes my phone will be so freaking busy and I'm answering several people at a time, I have to be able to make sure that they don't know that I am doing so many things at the same time, by focusing on each of them.
Everybody has to feel like that attention is specially on them even if it’s not.
Exactly and being able to convince them of what could work as well as being truthful. So basically it's customer service. I mean, I can’t be 100% sure because I’m not able to look at their skin up close cause most times, they send me pictures. I'm able to at least, say, “this can help or you can try these”. And also being able to say, “okay, we can't help you right now”, which is important because I noticed a lot of them would tell me that, “Oh, I met this person for acne products and basically they gave me skin lightening products instead”.
What's been your greatest challenge in starting and growing this business so far?
For now it’s COVID-19 because, because the dollar rate has gone up. So some of the prices I started with, I'm struggling to keep up because I still want it to be affordable for everybody. Yea the dollar rate has exponentially gone higher like a hundred naira difference. So greatest challenge right now is dollar rate and coronavirus.
What’s been your greatest reward in the choice you’ve made to do this line of business?
Anytime I get good feedback, “oh this is working, thank you so much” because most times I'm just hoping that it works. I know it won’t cause problems because I try to make sure each ingredient I use is more beneficial. So the worst that will happen is that it will not do anything which doesn't help the business either *laughs*. Everybody has different skin so something that would work for you may not work for someone else and it’s not your fault which is why a lot of brands exist. Some people prefer this brand to that brand maybe because of the formulation and how it affects their own skin.
Okay. Final question. What do you want to learn from a community of your peers?
I'd like to learn how they were able to grow the business because the issue I had before starting, I wasn't sure about if I was going to sell on Instagram. One of the factors of success of my business was this COVID-19 because a lot of people were buying online. So I'd like to know how to grow the business because I know I'm getting to the point where I need to start introducing some processes and hopefully getting some help and I know I want to have a remote company. Except from the manufacturing, I don't want to have staff. I mean, remote work in Nigeria is a very new concept. I don't know how disciplined people will be to be able to do their work when they aren’t being monitored.
In any case, I think I'm getting to the point where I need to start outsourcing the branding aspect of the business. So I can focus on the customers and the manufacturing. So I'd like to learn how other people do that or when they start.