Nimah Yusuf-Ali How I Transformed Brain, Beauty into Successful Business

1

You’ll be forgiven not to give a second look at her. If you did, you would see beyond her modest and often religious attire: a young revolutionary mind with an enchanting spirit. She seeks the inner peace that transcends the outward excitement.

If you looked closer, you would see the tranquility, understated beauty of her persona. Adventurous and gregarious, she took a leap off sitting atop a billion-dollar portfolio at The Infrastructure Bank (TIB) and dived into the world of beauty -the beauty industry. Meet Nimah Yusuf-Ali, the CEO of Le Hammam, an exquisite and exclusive Abuja-based beauty centre. Funke Olaode writes about why she and her centre stand out

Her physical appearance understates her intellectual prowess. You’ll be forgiven not to give a second look at her. If you did, you would see beyond her modest and often religious attire: a young revolutionary mind with an enchanting spirit. She seeks the inner peace that transcends the outward excitement. If you looked closer, you would see the tranquility, understated beauty of her persona. Adventurous and gregarious, she took a leap off sitting atop a billion-dollar portfolio at The Infrastructure Bank (TIB) and dived into the world of beauty -the beauty industry.

Nimah Yusuf-Ali is the founder/CEO of Le Hammam, an exclusive female beauty, fitness, and wellness centre, located in the heart of the Federal Capital Territory, Abuja.
But beyond her foray in the beauty industry, those who have been following this amiable mother of one’s entrepreneurial trajectory were not surprised by her unrelenting spirit to redefine what has been in existence and make it look like something out of the ordinary.

From Nigeria to the United Kingdom and faraway France, Nimah attained many academic heights. But her heart and head wanted something more and a visit to a wellness center reawakened the entrepreneurial talent in her. There was no hesitation.
A well-grounded individual, Nimah is an alumna of the University of Ilorin, Kwara State where she studied Accounting. She holds an MIB (Master in International Business) from Grenoble Graduate School of Business (GGSB) in France and an MBA from the University of Wales in the United Kingdom. She is also an associate of the Association of Certified Chartered Accountant (ACCA), a non-executive director at Yusuf Ali Foundation and managing director of Nimahcollections – a fashion outlet based in Abuja.

Over the years she has gained a wealth of experience holding key positions with different organizations in five different sectors in Nigeria. She previously held the position of a business analyst at The Infrastructure Bank (TIB); managed a portfolio of billions of Nigeria aimed at the commercial mass transit sector of the transportation industry; served as an accountant to a Nigeria Inter-Faith Action Aid, managing billions of naira of donor funds. Also, prior to setting up Le Hamman, she worked as an independent consultant to various organisations.

Today, she has channelled her interest where her passion lies through the establishment of Le Hammam. What could possibly make a chartered accountant to become a beauty therapist?
“Firstly, it’s important to state that the beauty industry is a large and vast one that spans from looks to clothing to skincare to hair and beyond,” she says.

“That said, I had a flair and eye for fashion ever since far back as I remember growing up in the town of Ilorin. I remember I used to pay attention to how well I combined my outfits as far back as a primary school there is a picture of me in a sparkly yellow dress and brown turban in my dad’s office that I love to date.
“However, the practicality of getting involved in the industry started in 2013 with a fashion business idea with main focus on fabric sale both wholesale and retail. Then by the second half of 2015, the idea of a spa arm of my business portfolio started to slowly gain momentum.”

‘Le Hammam’ is literally translated to “the bath”. Hammam is a common beauty service offered in Arabic-speaking countries and it has made its way into Nigeria. It’s logical for Nimah, therefore, to choose a name that easily resonates with the client familiar with the service she offers.
If being an entrepreneur has been a hidden talent, the desire to embrace it wholeheartedly emanated two years ago with her desire to establish a beauty centre during one of her travels.

“I believe taking care of our health and wellness is paramount for lifetime longevity. Failure to look after both of the above will result in undesirable issues in the future. That said, I’m always interested in keeping healthy, fit and well,” she explains, adding, “this interest peaked around 2010 and since then it’s been taken much more seriously. My discovery of the true art of Hammam (bath) on one of my travels and the particular one I visited was coincidentally a one-stop spa dedicated to women only with a range of different beauty services offered all under one roof. It is a place you can come to in your nightwear and leave red carpet ready.”

According to her, that was the first point of inspiration for the spa business and the eventual move into the industry. Her interest was driven by the realization that there weren’t many female-only spas around Abuja. While interacting and engaging with many women (especially Muslim women who wear the hijab), she realized that one big challenge they struggled with were conventional unisex hair salons where men could be customers or stylists.

“For an even larger group of women,” she argues “the thought of using unisex spas was unfathomable because they just will not feel at ease. Therefore, it was paramount to create a safe sanctuary for women to enjoy, relax and let their hair down.”
It’s Le Hammam to the rescue; a brand that aims to serve women.

“It’s been a journey of over two years to get us here,” she notes looking back on how Hammam started.
“After returning from the trip mentioned earlier, loads of actions were taken but the first and most important issue which I tackled was working on the business plan to evaluate the viability of the spa business. Once the decision was made to proceed, there were interesting times hunting for a suitable space to house all the services we offer. Then came tradesmen and contractor issues then sourcing funds and so on.”

There is no doubt the beauty industry is a multimillion-naira business. Although it is becoming an all-comers affair. Nimah assures that her Le Hamman would stand the test of time because of its standard and quality service.
“The beauty industry is an ever-evolving one, so there are always parts of the industry that can be carved out as a niche until others catch up. That said, there are a couple of things I have lined up to do different and I will share with you two.

These are customer service and quality service. If you notice both have got the word service in them and are similar because Le Hammam is a model that is heavily based on service provision.”
Reeling out the services in its signature treatments, she said the multimillion-naira beauty haven has what it takes to make its customers feel at home. Le Hammam is all-encompassing.

Nimah adds, “We offer classic treatments that are exclusive to us. Our Queen Sheeba Hammam has all shades of royalty about it. This can be combined with any facial and massage of your choice to fully enjoy the full Le Hammam experience. Facial machine, aesthetic room, swimming pool, café, unisex boutique, massage room, steam room, Sauna room, relaxation room, cosmetic whitening machine, laser machine, etc. And given today’s hectic lifestyle where one is always stressed – our specific services and therapies range of services and treatments are essentially tailored to rejuvenate the body.
“We have packages that have been carefully selected which all combine Hammam treatment with a mud wrap, facials, and Swedish massage. All three in a package are put together to experience the ultimate rejuvenation experience.”

As a new entrant into the industry, Hammam offers a range of specialized facial treatments with the state-of-the-art facial machine, as well as laser treatment machine to deliver treatments such as microdermabrasion, warts removal, anti-aging facial, brightening facial, acne facial, laser hair removal, spot removal, skin tightening, cosmetic teeth whitening and loads more.

Nimah can be described as a chip off the old block -that’s her father, Mallam Yusuf Olaolu Ali (SAN). He’s no doubt one of Nigeria’s most successful, brilliant and respected lawyers.
Despite her string of degrees acquired both home and abroad, going into beauty business according to Nimah was welcomed by his father with open arms.

“I truly wish everyone has a supportive father and family as I have been fortunate enough to have with mine,” Nimah admits.
She says further, “My father, Mallam Yusuf Ali, SAN, is a father who is one in a million. He champions my siblings and myself ‘s decisions and at points where he has observations or concerns, he seats with us collectively or individually to talk them through so it is a nice democratic system we run. Most importantly, he used to say, ‘it is your life and decision’ so that when any of us look back, we know no one forced us into anything and that includes marriage.

“So he wasn’t shocked especially when I started the fashion portfolio of my business. At the time I was working and after I had explained my plan to him, he was puzzled on how I was going to finance and manage an investment advisory job that demanded 8 am to whatever time of the night closing hours as well as working almost every day of the week as the need arises.
“After explaining in more detail the fashion business model to him, he was supportive onwards. So by the time the beauty business portfolio idea was been formed, he was in full cheerleader mode (he even went space hunting with me several times).”
In a way, Nimah couldn’t deny his father’s attributes rubbing off on her. Ali is hard-working, focused and thorough.

Nimah shares what it was like living with him, saying, “I grew up seeing him work every day of the week, from morning to evening without expecting anyone to pick up his responsibilities. He has always excelled in his work and everything he set his mind to. He came from a humble background in a then small town of Ifetedo, Osun State in South-west Nigeria to become one of the respected lawyers in the legal profession today and worked his way painstakingly to the highest rank as a Senior Advocate of Nigeria.

“This process of growth mimics my humble story growing up in the city of Ilorin, working for some years with other organizations before setting off to be self-employed and aiming to make a difference in the different sectors that I’m operating in now as well as those to be operated in the future. So witnessing all of those growing up and to date has helped shaped my business mind, attitude to work and general outlook as an adult.”