From the banking hall to the hair studio, Ufuoma Ejiniwebiâ€™s fascination with beauty started at an early age. She actually followed the footsteps of her mother. But like every childhood fascinations that donâ€™t usually go beyond those formative years, her career path swung to the banking hall. To this end, she like most bankers chased the money and fat accounts for her former employers. For 14 years across two major banks in Nigeria, she walked the path of survival until her childhood passion struck a chord inside her for expression. She quit her bank job for her first love: hair-making. Two years after, her joy knows no bounds as sheâ€™s found peace and satisfaction in her childhood passion. She is today, a celebrated stylist. Her ability to work with all types and textures of hair, combined with her warm personality makes her a perfect fit as Head Consultant at Jinniâ€™s Hair Clinique, situated in the heart of Ikosi- Magodo axis, Lagos. Ejiniwebi tells Adedayo Adejobi how her banking experience exposed her to exceptional customer service and how she has built a brand within two years
I am Passionate about Hair
I Had Financial Security as a Banker but no Fulfillment
My Husbandâ€™s Support Has Been Crucial after Leaving Banking
Solving Lifeâ€™s Riddles
It can be an arduous task to comprehend life at times. If not, how on earth would someone with so much skill, knowledge base and hands-on experience find his or her footing in a career and yet leave it for another one despite having not practised the new one? So many questions waiting to be answered. But for Ufuoma Ejiniwebi, life is like a riddle in chess game. Luckily, life seems to have charted her course, one she is living in full measure in the name of a new career path. She can be likened to the focused child who simply followed the footsteps of her mother and the impulse of her youth, with a view to becoming someone great in life.
Spending over 14 years in active service in two of the countryâ€™s biggest financial institutions, the vision of a lofty career didnâ€™t seem in sight all through those years sheâ€™s put in her best. With courage, self-drive and a resilient spirit, not knowing what the future of entrepreneurship held, she took the plunge into an early retirement and started her hair business. Today, with focus and a drive to succeed despite all odds, she is all smiles, fulfilled and living her passion and ideal dream life.
â€œMy mom shaped me into whom Iâ€™ve become today,â€ she enthuses. â€œWatching her work so hard to see my siblings and I through school was enough to form my opinion on how badly I wanted to succeed in life.
â€œIdeally I wanted to be a banker looking up to my mother who was a banker as well. I wanted so much to succeed in the corporate world. I worked a total of 14 years in two strong banks without any regrets because the experience has given me an open mind to my business and a great sense of exceptional customer service/relation.â€™â€™
If you say she simply saved the best for the last, you might just be apt. This is because leaving the trappings of working in the bank where life is built around chasing targets and losing quality time, long-standing relationships and union with family and friends, yet remaining unfulfilled could be difficult if you considered the financial rewards.
â€œI had always dreamt of owning a beauty salon as a teenager and I had basic idea of some hairstyles from then on, but I wanted to know the trade in a professional way. I went through a lot of local beauty salons for formal trainings but that really did not work. I then read about the Natureâ€™s Gentle Touch Hair Institute and after going through their curriculum, I was convinced I was at the right place. There, they teach you how to run a master class beauty salon professionally.
My decision to retire early from the banking industry came as a result of not having fulfillment in doing what I was doing then. I wanted so bad to be real from the entire make-believe facade that comes with being a banker. My passion for hair which I had made dormant due to the fear of the unknown and the consciousness that I may fail kept burning afresh in my heart so I had to take a plunge. It was either I leave banking then or live through it and be depressed.â€
Truly a Leap of Faith
Before leaving the bank, she hadnâ€™t made an adequate exit plan for the somewhat scary life of an entrepreneur. Being a hands-on person, the urge to set up and hit the ground running was strong. Her experience of how she settled into the life of an entrepreneur is best captured in her own words.
â€œThere was no precise exit plan. I had the urge to leave and set up a beauty salon, but I had to have a proper professional training in what I was leaving the banking industry for. Settling in as an entrepreneur was scary to say the least. I was paranoid (still am) to succeed; but at the same time eager to share my new found knowledge of hair to the world but starting with my local area. The hustle is still on because I am a hands-on person, so sometimes 24 hours is never enough.â€
Knowing men to be averse to risks, especially when it comes to what is considered as â€˜job securityâ€™, her husband, and one she calls her most understanding and tolerant friend, felt at home with her decision to resign.
â€œMy husband is the most understanding and tolerant friend one can ever wish for. He felt cool with my decision to change profession because he too was affected somewhat with the fact that I was losing the essence of my real self.â€
Dealing with Harsh Realities
For any entrepreneur, the phase of the rude awakening to the realities of the entrepreneurial life hits the person at some point. In the last two years, sheâ€™s had her fair share of such rude awakening. Sharing her experience, she says:
â€œTowards the end of my training to be a Trichologist, at that time, my cash flow was really next to nothing. I had to put a stop to some unwanted spending. It was pretty harsh because I was coming from a steady income flow and there I was no salary. I was at ground zero because any frivolous spending at that time meant that my set up money was gone.â€
The early retirement was really nothing to her, as not pursuing her long-standing dreams was something she could not even consider. She then decided between take-a-plunge or leave-it situation approach, which has today yielded astonishing results.
And the Future Beckons
With this, she is already looking into the future of the business. She describes the next five years of the business in this light: â€œThe fact that I met a lot of people who shared their start-up experiences with me has been helpful. A lot of them actually gave me encouragement to start my beauty business which I will cherish for eternity. And this includes becoming the Chief Executive Officer of Ujinniâ€™s Beauty Institute, a full blown hair and Beauty School.
When asked about whatâ€™s the unique essence of being a beautician, she becomes enthusiastic; saying:
â€œI like the fact that I get to educate my clients and staff on a daily basis. I like that I can learn something new every day by relating with everyone that walks into our salon. I like the fact that every client learns something new from our salon in terms of natural hair care which gives me a sense of fulfillment. However, I dislike being a beautician (at times) when I donâ€™t have to get home early to bond with my amazing kids. I know this phase will pass and I will have more time to myself too.â€
Sharing her trade secrets, and how she keeps up with the trends and styles for the year, she says the secret is hidden in the lines of every beauty book, every beauty blog and every beauty write-up she has ever read and still reads.
â€œEverybody is going natural and the rush for organic products is on the increase whether for hair or skin. So itâ€™s a year of increased research and learning to keep up with the trend and our clientsâ€™ demand for quality organic products and methods. I read a lot every day. When I get home, I go on-line to get new and better techniques on different hairstyles and hair products and natural remedies for hair and scalp related issues. I am a natural freak. I rely on a lot of DIYs (Do it yourself) products which I use on myself first as a guinea pig before introducing it to my customers. For new clients, we do a lot of informal consultation; which I may say is more relaxing, where we get as much information on their hair care regimen and maintenance before we diagnose and proffer solutions where necessary. For those that are on the right track, we encourage sometime to try new alternative methods.â€
Tribute to her Trainer
In her new found passion turned career, she talks glowingly of one person who has stood out of the crowd and impacted on her.
â€œThe one person that has impacted on me the most as a stylist is my trainer, Miss Ekemini Udoh, of Natureâ€™s Gentle Touch Hair Institute.
She is very young but very vast and knowledgeable in the study of hair. She stirred a lot of curiosity in me to delve deep to know and understand hair and hair behaviour, product knowledge and salon hygiene.â€
Like every trade, there would always be unhappy customers but she has a way of handling them and the pressure that comes with some unforeseen contingencies.
â€œI try to surpass their expectations not minding the extra cost I have to bear at times to satisfy their hair care and style needs. Sometimes it could be terrible (I am human after all), but most times I keep my emotions in check after all we meet people with different temperament and I have to still render exceptional service whether I am being treated badly as a stylist or not.â€
If there is anything she is passionate about, it is the human hair. When asked why this is so, she says she is very passionate about hair.
â€œI like being treated right when I am being served, so I go all out to give great service at Ujinniâ€™s Hair Clinique. I am passionate about teaching everyone that comes to us about proper hair care and maintenance and also desire to share with salon owners the professional way of running a proper salon. Skills alone will only take you a little distance.â€
In the next 5 years. Ufuoma Ejiniwebi sees herself teaching in her own hair institute.
â€œMy ultimate goal is to own and operate a proper beauty school where people are taught the proper salon values, ethics, and product knowledge and hair behaviour.â€
Life, after all, seems to have been fair to all with a helping hand from Providence as she did not have to spend so long trying to solve lifeâ€™s riddles before opting out of the alluring pull of a banking.
Quote: There was no precise exit plan. I had the urge to leave and set up a beauty salon, but I had to have a proper professional training in what I was leaving the banking industry for. Settling in as an entrepreneur was scary to say the least. I was paranoid (still am) to succeed; but at the same time eager to share my new found knowledge of hair to the world but starting with my local area. The hustle is still on because I am a hands-on person, so sometimes 24 hours is never enough