The lovely Lola Udu is a self-professed entrepreneur from birth who has been selling for as long as she can remember. The 25 year old accountant by profession gained her undergraduate degree from Wayne State University. She worked for KPMG in Michigan before heading back to get an MBA in International Business and Advertising Marketing, also from Wayne State. Lola also held a role at Wayne County Community College before deciding that it was time to dive into the world of hair.
She returned to Nigeria to establish Lo’Lavita, an international brand that offers luxury quality hair extension pieces; accessories, electronic styling tools and hair care products. Lola tells us that Lo’Lavita is poised to give hair care in Nigeria a 360° spin. Dive in for a fascinating read about the hair industry and this young woman’s journey to live out her passions…
What was the first thing you ever sold?
I’ve been selling since I was born. When I was at Queen’s College I sold food to the boarding school students. I would look for other things that I could buy from the outside and sell on the inside. I was always looking for a way to get money. I can’t really pinpoint when I felt I became a fully-fledged sales person but I know that I can sell any and everything.
What was the first thing you sold from a business angle?
It has to be hair. When I got into that, I thought I could make something out of it. I got into hair while I was studying for the CPA, a professional accounting qualification. At that point I thought I could put in my best into the things I do. I started the web store and I was still working full-time. As it grew and the demand became too much I decided to quit my job and venture into hair full-time. Lo’Lavita is now a full blown company and corporation. I registered it in 2009 but we really started operations in 2010.
I remember seeing your Facebook ads a few years ago but Lo’Lavita is huge now, isn’t it?
I even remember when I was selling hair from my car and my dad’s office. I’ve come a long way from that now. We now have a retail store and we have a service salon where you can take your products for the hair consultants to work on.
How big is your core team?
I’ve been blessed and fortunate to have good people I work with. Right now, our primary team is made of four people. I have a marketing manager, a sales assistant, an IT person that is in charge of online sales. I subcontract the management of the website to an external team. Right now we’ve focused on keeping the team small because I think it’s about quality and not quantity.
But why sell hair? Why not sell something else, like say, shoes?
Hair is exciting. It’s something that women want to change. With hair, once you get started, you don’t get satisfied. We as women are just not content with our hair or maybe we are just not boring people. Aside from the product itself, I work on establishing relationships with buyers and suppliers. I also contribute to changes in the industry by looking for new ways to add value by reconstructing the product or modifying it. We just don’t want to sell a product; we want to solve problems for customers too even if that means inventing a new product. Then, there’s the marketing aspect of things which involves a lot of creativity.
How big do you think Lo’Lavita could get, potentially speaking?
Potentially speaking it could be huge. On our database we have over a thousand customers. That’s been very good so far. Our target market is niche because our products are of very high standards. We’ve recently introduced new lines of hair care products so we are trying to get them into other shops. We are expanding every day.
Did you meet any resistance from friends or family when you told them you wanted to go into Hair?
My parents did wonder why I wanted to leave a secure job to try things on my own but they also considered that I had factored that into my decision. I still face resistance from people who think it sounds ordinary and that anybody can get into the market. But, when I explain all the things that it involves they understand that it’s a lot more complex and that I’m in it for good.
Could you share stunning facts about the hair industry that people who don’t work in it are unlikely to know about?
The hair business is huge and it’s not just one thing. It has different segments such as hair extensions which is divided into higher, middle and lower-end products, synthetic hair, mixed synthetic and human hair. Outside that there are really expensive authentic extensions sourced from different countries. I have partners in 14 different countries and it’s hard to keep up with suppliers.
You then have products for natural hair, coloured hair, hair treatment, you know, things like shampoo, conditioner, hair serum, hair electronics which are things like curlers and straighteners and then the products that complement them such as the accessory boxes, their stands. Then, you have the hair accessories such as pins, and bands.
How do you know this much about hair?
I do a lot of research and although I’m coming at it from a business angle, I’m very passionate about it. You could find people who do their research and won’t know as much as I do. If I were to write an exam on hair I would probably get an A. I always watch other top players like Aveda, Toni & Guy, and Redken. They make their own products and have service centres too.
Yes, you also have a service salon, don’t you?
We manufacture hair extensions and distribute globally, so consider us the best in fixing your hair, weave-on, closures, lace wigs, short hair-do, blow dry, layering, cutting, colouring and extension maintenance. In spite of our clients busy schedule, our team will monitor appointments and remind customers of their routine treatments. We are devoted to quality through education and our stylists receive constant training on the latest trend and techniques regardless of their years of experience. This ensures an uncompromising quality on the brand.
Lo’Lavita Studio Salon is located in the commercial district of Lekki Phase 1, and its truly a hot spot for trendy beauty reminiscent of a Hollywood dressing room with a multitude of beautification services, The glamour and sophistication of it creates the ultimate boutique choice for luxury styling.
If you were going on a very hot date how would you style your hair?
I would have to have some Lo’Lavita hair. Not because its mine but I actually love our products. I love Lo’Lavita Russian hair, Lo’Lavita Special hair and Lo’Lavita Asian hair, so it would have to be one of them. I would make sure it’s curled up nice or straightened nice. I would spray some Lo’Lavita leave-in conditioner which has sun protector and doesn’t make your hair humid. I still use other brands for serum like John Frieda serum. It’s just so nice; I wish Lo’Lavita could replicate it.
Are you involved in any social responsibility projects?
We have a partnership with C.O.P.E Foundation, a Breast Cancer Awareness organisation. A percentage of our sales goes towards producing hair products for women who are diagnosed and/or undergoing treatment for breast cancer and have lost their hair as a result of the negative effect of chemotherapy. This is really important to us because we know that every woman’s hair is her crown and glory.
Lo’Lavita runs a loyalty programme for all customers. It allows customers to accumulate points that can be redeemed on later purchases. Check out their online store here