Bessie Duke-Odu is the entrepreneur behind Flair Hair Academy, a Nigeria-based business established to tap into the lucrative hairpiece market. The academy specialises in teaching the craftsmanship required to produce hair pieces. Its curriculum includes wig posting, hackling, machine wefting and wig making.
1. Tell us about one of the toughest situations you’ve found yourself in as a business owner.
Retrospectively, the “tough situation” at the time now puts a smile on my face. As with everything else, finding the lessons in any experience is always key.
I remember taking delivery of the first set of wefting machines, which had been shipped by sea and arrived about eight weeks [after]… the expected delivery. The packaging was mostly ripped out, coupling parts were missing, instruction manuals were either nowhere in sight or had their ink blotted out and — of course — parts of the machines had begun to oxidise.
The next hurdle was to find technicians who could assemble the parts — and this phase kept me incapacitated the longest.
Hindsight, they say, is always 20/20; eventually, after about a year, the machines were sorted but not without tales of woe.
2. Which business achievement are you most proud of?
I would say my entrepreneurial journey and everyone Flair Hair Academy has impacted.
The journey has not been easy, but it has been worth it. Taking the chance to invest so much into learning hair manufacturing skills, when no one saw the potential; blazing the trail, with all the setbacks unique to us; and yet still keeping at it. That gives me pride.
Looking at enrollees who walk in as novices and leave with sound knowledge makes me super proud.
3. Describe your greatest weakness as an entrepreneur.
Firstly, I am a control freak. Being an entrepreneur, you constantly have to outdo yourself and leave a personalised touch along the way; I find it hard to [approve]… anything that has not gone through my vetting.
However, as the business grows and evolves, every partner knows the standard must remain uncompromised.
I am also learning to trust their judgment.
4. Which popular entrepreneurial advice do you disagree with?
The phrase, “just start”, is one I keep struggling to accept.
While I agree that, if someone has a business idea, it’s good to start, I also feel that adequate preparation is mandatory.
Like an airplane first gathers its momentum before takeoff, starting a business should be likewise. You should get adequate information on the subject area, acquire specific skill sets, dot your i’s and cross your t’s.
I also want to add that one does not have to wait for all conditions to be perfect, but you also do not want to get on that stage and look unprepared.
5. Is there anything you wish you knew about entrepreneurship before you got started?
Absolutely… the questionability of work-life balance. From a feminine point of view, it is a constant tussle. Being a mum to kids of different age groups and an entrepreneur at the same time is difficult. You have to wake up daily with renewed zest and zeal. The doggedness is real.
I find that keeping the balance is hard. It is, however, safer to replace “balance” with “integration”: work-life integration.
6. Name a business opportunity you would still like to pursue.
Although I enjoy what I do and realise I still have loads of miles to cover, I have a yearning for shoemaking and perfumery.
For shoemaking, I would be giving my thoughts an outward appearance and for perfumery, I love to bring to life beautiful and elegant olfactory compositions.
Fingers crossed, I am hoping I can express myself in all the many ways I desire.