Body & Soul

Nigerian women’ve risen above obstacles –Chinwe Williams

Chinwe Williams is a beauty expert, entrepreneur, and CEO of So Beautified. She is one of the few young entrepreneurs, who have followed their passion of making women confident in themselves. In this interview with IFEOMA ONONYE, she speaks about side effects of using harmful skin products, body enhancement and why there are still more to be done for women as the International Women’s Day approaches

It’s international women’s Day in few days’ time. In your opinion, how have women fared in heading big conglomerates, in the family and rising above prejudice?

Women have done exceedingly and exceptionally well. Irrespective of the all the barriers that have been placed, both through culture, society and sometimes, even religion, women have continued to rise whilst still juggling and managing the affairs at home. For instance, you have the recently elected FCT Senator, Ireti Kinigibe. Then, there is the current MD/CEO of Fidelity Bank, Mrs Nneka Onyeali-Ikpe and another stellar example is the CEO of Ikeja Electric , Mrs Folake Soetan. Across all the sectors, women are rising to great heights and it is very inspirational to see.

There is always room for more to be done for women. What area do you think the government should look into more in helping and protecting more women?

You are right. There is always room for more to be done. I believe that with all due respect, the government needs to protect and preserve the right to education for all Female Children. The effort and quality of education put into a Girl Child, is never ever wasted, as she will in turn end up raising both male and female children, who will be the future of our society. A girl child will in time become a woman and I believe the educational rights of all girl children should and must be protected.

Are you among the few that believe in feminism and what does that word mean to you?

Wow, this is a very good question. I believe that every woman has the right to live her life how she decides to within the reasonable moral and social constraints of a decent society. If a woman decides that she wants to be a Housewife, this is absolutely fine and just as respectable as a Woman who wants to lead the life of a Director of a Multinational Company. Feminism to me means empowering women to be the best version of their individual selves and not expecting all women to be in the same box, based on their gender.

What inspired you to go into the beauty sector?

Most women come in and leave looking more different, looking more enhanced. The name was just a prophetic name really. To say this is the place we can come to and get more beautiful. The first branch was opened in the United Kingdom. That was in 2019 just before the COVID pandemic. We just literarily opened the business. We had not done much and the government of the United Kingdom had announced the lockdown. Luckily for me, I had online businesses and they were not affected in any way. But the physic a l ones were affected and had to be shut down. Online, we sell cosmetics, everything hair and we had quite a number of beauty outlets online. This included hair extensions; which could be synthetic for braiding or expressive weaveo n s and beauty soaps from different brands. That actually thrived during COVID. Many people couldn’t go shopping physically because of the lockdown and they turned online. To be honest, online did give me time to concentrate on the business.

Was that why you started the Nigerian arm of the business?

The Nigerian arm was actually started because I sincerely believed that even though the state of the country is not favorable, whatever we are doing abroad, we should do here. I believe that is where you are more welcomed, where you are more accepted, and no matter what you have achieved abroad, if you don’t achieve something at home, you have not achieved.

Are you into skincare?

For the skin, I stock products. We do facials and take care of the skin using natural products. We stock some major brands like Iman, which originated from Morocco. For skincare, depending on what you chose, it could be natural products like lemon or lime mixed with other natural products. We all have certain things in us that can be brought out. Most people complain that their skin is not looking good but the question is what you have done to make your skin look better. Just like if you go to the gym constantly, there would be positive results in your figure. So, if you do certain things with your skin, it can make it better as well.

A lot of people sell products that are not organic and cause more problems to the skin. There are also bleaching creams and their effects. What is your take on these?

I do not believe in bleaching creams. God created us beautiful in all shades. It is unfortunate and we must know that there are lots of things about the west and their idea of beauty is not the same as our own. Beauty comes in various shades and various sizes. Bleaching creams contain stuff like mercury and steroids and they are not meant to be applied for more than one or two days. You can imagine people that use bleaching applying them consistently. It leaves such damage that people don’t actually talk about it because of shame.

Do you help some of those who have run into trouble with their skin?

There is not much repair that can be done because sometimes, the damage is permanent. So, when you talk about repair, the best thing to do is to use natural products such as oils, Shea butter, as well as eat and drink healthy food. Everyone reacts differently but there is not much repair that you can do to the skin that has been affected by mercury in the kidney. For me, the inside is more important than what is happening outside.

There is also the trend of women wanting to enhance their body. While some want bigger breasts, others want bigger buttocks, What do you have to say about this?

I think it is alright for people to keep to trends. Trends are here today and gone tomorrow. We forget that these bodies are going to carry us to our 80s 0r 100s. And changing things now to attract certain people may not turn out well in the long run. There are certain trends now that will affect us and you ask if they will be there with us. I would say that whatever bodies you have, appreciate it. If you want to become bigger, you can eat more to become bigger but I don’t believe in surgical enhancements.

Are you interested in mentoring younger ladies?

I am interested in mentoring young people in this line of business. But I haven’t started doing that yet. I definitely want to give back as much as possible. Apart from beauty, you read Law. Tell us about that aspect of your life. I read Law and I am currently a barrister. I am extremely proud of that. However, I knew that I wasn’t going to practice but I enjoyed it while I did it. I have always been business minded.

Where did you get the passion for entrepreneurship come from?

I believe that it is first, from God, honestly. My parents are more professionals. Law is what they would have preferred me to have taken.

How has the current inflation rate affected the business?

It has affected the business but I believe that this is not only in Nigeria. There is a lot of inflation in the UK as well and with everything, obstacles are meant to be overcome. You just have to plan ahead; you just have to be a bit tighter when it comes to your expenditure and deliver good services that would keep people coming back.

Tell us one or two memorable moments working with your clients

I work with different women from different backgrounds, and different facets of life and I really enjoy that. The funny thing is that even though we all have different tribes and different cultures, we are all primarily the same at the end of the day.

Was there a particular case of a client who came in and left transformed?

Yes, there have been quite a number of cases like that. There was a lady that came into the UK branch disabled. She can’t actually walk and so we did our best to accommodate her. She came in for her facials, manicure, and pedicure. When her husband came to pick her up, he was so happy and said she reminded him of the person he met all those years. She herself was very happy and it was quite a touching moment.

What are some of the challenges of running a business like yours?

There are so many challenges, such as the capital. It is never ever enough. As much as customers are always right, sometimes customers can be wrong. Also, managing staff, and having good staff and those that can affect others. It’s a battle that needs to be fought constantly. Electricity is a problem; I would be honest about that.

Tell us about your personal style.

Style means what you are comfortable with first and foremost. What somebody else may be comfortable with may not be what you are comfortable with. So, in my sense, I wear things that soothe me. I wear colours that soothe me but it might not be colours that soothe someone else.

Are there particular colours that you like?

I like loud colours. But it also depends on where I am going to. If I were going to church, I would not wear loud colours.

Let’s talk about your beauty regimen, and the things you eat or avoid?

I like going to the gym and I do this by waking up early. I try as much as possible to drink at least, 2 liters of water per day. I take fruits and I like pineapple, sour sap. The only thing I take is green tea; then add some leaves like mint leaves and add to the tea. For fruits, I like pineapple; it has some detoxifying benefits, same for sour sap. I tend to be also religious with my food intake.

You talked about Shea butter earlier on. How does it work for you?

Personally, I use Shea b u t t e r but I mix it with Coconut oil because sometimes, Shea butter can be a bit hard to use and so, I mix it with coconut oil and it is smoother on the body.

What are the items that you cherish in your wardrobe?

I am more of a jeans and casual person when it comes to clothes. I don’t really believe in brands. I believe that whatever you have, you can make it look as expensive as the brands that people carry.

How would you assess Nigerian designers?

I believe that they are doing much better than foreign designers right now. Most of the things in my wardrobe are from Nigerian designers.

Are you working on collaborating with them for fashion shows?

That is something that we are looking into.

What advice do you have for female entrepreneurs, who are thinking of coming to this line of business?

I would say that whoever you are, you can start from wherever you are and continue building on your dreams. Entrepreneurship for women is quite good because it gives you more time to do other things you have in mind. No matter how small you may think it is, you can start and do something.

Where do you see your brand in the next few years?

In the next few years, I see the brand completely established. I see it has clients from all over the world. And I see it has a good reputation with its clients.

How do you juggle business and family life?

It is difficult but like everything, that you need, planning is important. For instance, when it comes to cooking, you plan the food for the week. You don’t have to stand in the kitchen every single day. Also, you can have set times for the homework and at the same time as the children are growing, you give them your own chores. Not necessarily you doing everything and that has really helped me.

How do you relax?

I like listening to music. I also travel if there is money.

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