For 30 years, Kehinde Okoroafor, managing director of ‘Make Me Elegant’, has been in the business of beautifying and empowering women. She is mostly passionate about helping them to discover their innermost talents and actualising their desired dreams.
What brought about the idea of you starting manufacturing of hair products ?
I don’t even know.
When I came back from England, I wanted to start doing something.
I met a lady who is late now, she asked me if we could jointly go into hair manufacturing since my husband works with LOLITA.
When they brought the proposal, it was capital intensive, so I travelled back to England to raise the fund, came back to Nigeria and that was how I started.
Five months into the business, I have over 190 staff; we started in Badagry.
What brought the conviction?
I actually had a dream where I saw a very close friend of mine, he’s late now too.
That person is late Otunba Durojaiye Agbetusi of DLC mobile consult , I saw him in my dream and he gave me something like a proposal and said Kenny I want you to go into free empowerment programme.
He instructed me not to take money. He said, “even if you are going to be taking money, maybe N2,000 or N2,500.”
Five months after the dream, I didn’t do anything, I had a dream again, and I saw him again in my dream and he said Kenny I want you to start doing an empowerment programme and don’t take money and that was how I started.
But, when I started, I was taking money from N10,000, some between N15,000 and N20,000.
Again, he appeared to me in the dream and said, “Kenny stop taking money, the empowerment programme should be free, that was how I stopped taking money and that was how I blossom.
So how has the journey been so far?
It’s okay, though tough at the initial stage.
When I told some of my friends that we started the programme togther that I did not want to be collecting money.
They didn’t believe me. They said they could not do business that they will not be collecting money, so I was left alone.
I started with a very good friend of mine who was my senior in secondary school, Sesan Akinpelu, CEO of clear vision estate, that was how both of us started together, later, they came back to join us.
That was how we worked till we were recognised by people abroad; we’ve been abroad, Japan, Israel, America and London.
So, how do you get your funding to get things done? I get funding support from my hair manufacturing company, then Sesan too would bring from his estate business.
Aside this hair manufacturing, what else do you do or are you also into NGO?
Funniest part, I didn’t even register in NGO, I have a friend in England that would always tell me, you know what Kenny?!
Try and register, I said no, because I want to be using my funds to touch life.
What motivated this passion of yours?
Right from when I was young, I like helping people. I just love it. I don’t know why but I love helping people.
Let me tell you a story, four years ago, I was sick and I had a dream where I saw so many people praying for me.
I saw Christians, Muslims, and other people wearing white praying for me. I told my Pastor that most of the time in the night when I sleep this is what I see; My pastor would say that those are the lives I am meant touch.
Sometimes when I do empowerment programme, the way the beneficiaries pray for me, you will know that it is from their hearts.
We did one empowerment programme at the Palace (Oni of Ife), 321 people came and we actually budgeted for 200 people.
For instance, one lady came to meet me during the programme, she held my hands and said, “I don’t have money.
I don’t have anything, I have never seen such a programme since when I was born. But the only thing I will tell you is that God will provide for you, and that’s all she just have to tell me. ”
From her story, I deduced that everybody made her believe that she was worthless. After the programme, her confidence got restored, she can now make her shoes and bags by herself.
That means there was something in her that she didn’t discover.
What sort of empowerment programmes do you do?
when I started, I started with shoes, bags. Later we now added make up, Gele tying, party drinks, Chinese rice, hair fascinator, sowing, hair dressing. And now thinking of adding production of attachment into it.
Helping people is not an easy task, how are you coping with the challenges?
Surprisingly, I don’t feel such challenges! In this empowerment business, customers don’t owe me, maybe I’m the one even owing them but customers don’t owe me. I thank God for that.
So what advice do you have to the women out there on ability of empowerment?
It beats my imagination when some of my friends call me to say, their husbands did not give them soup money! Nigerian women have the mentality that their husbands must do everything for them.
For 13 years in my marriage, I have never for one day asked my husband to give me money for soup or feeding. I believe I am working, I can support him, sometimes I would have pay my children school fees before he reimburses me.
My solid advice for women is that they should stand up on their own and work, by so doing, they will enjoy it.
You can be a boss-lady, it comes with a boss feeling. You can be a support to your man, not every time this Nigerian belief, it must be our husbands doing all the time.
Another thing I always tell people I empower is, there is something special in you, develop it. Women should be proactive.
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