Vanessa Obioha writes that beauty expert Ayo Bassey is keen on grooming a generation of beauty entrepreneurs that will take the global beauty industry by storm
At the beginning of the year, beauty expert and coach Ayo Bassey was confident that her laid-out plans will be executed. It involved taking her students to Dubai, China, Morocco and Istanbul for training. The students only made it to Dubai in February before the mysterious COVID-19 pandemic made its entry into the country. Other plans were shelved, pending when normalcy returns. Nowadays, Bassey spends her time adjusting to the new normal, studying new trends and keeping motivated despite the strains of the pandemic on the economy.
The young entrepreneur has always evinced an interest in beauty, fashion and music, although she is a graduate of mathematics and computer science. She dabbled into fashion where her pieces were featured on multiple runways. However, the certified cosmetic formulator, herbologist and perfumer needed no crystal ball to show her that her true calling lies in the beauty industry. With her supportive family and an unwavering faith in God, Bassey embarked on a journey to fulfill her dreams, but the search wasn’t anything she imagined.
“In my quest to launch my dream beauty product line, I searched for where to learn all that I needed. I couldn’t find any standard place in Nigeria. I had to learn from several specialists in different countries,” she said.
She bagged different diplomas from different institutions including Institute of Natural and Modern Cosmetech in India, Perry Romanowski in the U.S.A, Formula Botanica in the U.K, Sandir Perfume School in Spain and multiple online certificates. Overall, she has accumulated a 10-year experience in cosmetic product formulation.
Having garnered enough knowledge to start her beauty product lines, Bassey was motivated to provide education to others who may be interested in toeing similar paths.
That decision gave birth to COC Beauty School, a Nigeria-based institute that offers training in skincare product formulation, makeup, haircare and perfumery.
“I noticed that not everyone had the excellent environment I had growing up; not everyone had people to tell them that success is possible. Not everyone was privileged to have a support system that motivates, inspires, fills in the gap, and shines the light. I decided to build that environment in any way possible, for as many that come in contact with me. This is one of the primary reasons why I’m more passionate about COC Beauty School than my other products. It was inspired by my desire to create the type of school I wish I had while starting.”
In its few years of running the school, Bassey has trained quite a number of people who are now running their beauty empires. The flexibility of the school curriculum which allows for both online and offline classes have seen 300 graduates bagging certificates while over 500 are still studying. To see her students excel gives the beauty guru an inexplicable joy. You could tell her excitement from the way she gushed about their successes.
“There’s Nma Arua, founder of Classic Organics. She came to COC Beauty School with no prior skincare formulation skill, a blank slate. Nma attended our Skincare Product Formulation Course, completed her course on November 30, 2019, and in less than a month, precisely December, she launched her kids’ care range. By December 30, her kids’ care range was sold out! She made over N2,000,000 from her first launch with standby orders waiting for the next batch of products. She’s been doing a great job since. Nma produces 100 per cent organic kids’ products using USDA certified organic ingredients. The value COC Beauty School gives is priceless,” she enthused.
Nma’s story is similar to that of Queen Eke and Amina Ahmed, both graduates of the beauty institute.
“Before I started my course with COC Beauty School last year in Lagos, Nigeria, all I had in mind was to learn for personal use, because I love to look radiant and healthy,” said Ahmed who specialises in herbal-based skincare products.
“After my course in Lagos, I knew I had to join them for the masterclass in UAE. I went on COC Beauty School’s Dubai tour and it gave me insight on how to merge my prior academic knowledge in botany with product formulation. It has helped me to create beautiful herbal-based skin care products that produce that natural glow and healthy skin. Learning at COC Beauty School provided me with business strategies that I have used to secure partnerships with organizations that I supply products to.”
Before joining the beauty school, Eke who is the founder of Qrush, a brand that produces effective beauty products and herbs for vitality was a laidback beauty entrepreneur. She merely attended classes just to get basic knowledge, Her attitude changed after she encountered Bassey.
“COC Beauty School did not just perfect my formulation skills; it also fine-tuned my way of thinking. It gave me what I needed to stand out in life, and I carry it wherever I go now. I gained confidence. I can confidently and boldly defend my products anywhere. I am more positive now, and I look forward to having one of the biggest beauty production factories in Africa.”
More than anything, these testimonies are proof to Bassey that she is on the right path. At the same time, she is worried about the numerous myths surrounding the beauty industry in Nigeria. These misconceptions, she fears, are responsible for the bad reputation given to the industry which is valued at an estimated US$3 billion according to Euromonitor. She shared some of these false theories.
“One of the misconceptions making rounds is that organic products do not cause reactions. As much as organic products are nature in bottles, there are lots of ingredients from nature the skin reacts to. Natural products are not necessarily safer than synthetic,”she explained.
“Another false theory is that toning is mild bleaching of the skin. In Nigeria, people believe the word toning implies bleaching the skin mildly. In the professional world of beauty, toning is a different process entirely and has nothing to do with skin bleaching. Toning is deep cleansing, removing dirt from the pores on the skin, and shrinking these pores back to promote an even skin tone, correct dark spots, discolourations, balance the skin’s pH and more.”
Perhaps, the biggest misconception is the effectiveness of organic skincare products within a short period.
“The huge lie hovering on social media is how organic skincare products can brighten the skin in 5 days. 100 per cent organic products take a minimum of four weeks to begin to show brightening results. They need to understand what is certified as organic and what is not. It is wrong to label a product as organic when the ingredients used to produce the products are not certified as organic. There’s so much misleading going on.” Nevertheless, she acknowledges that the black skin which in recent times have become a racial subject is a shoe of resilience, strength and depth.
As the pandemic rages, consumer behaviours towards beauty products have been altered, but not in a negative way.
“I noticed that consumers are more aware of how essential personal care products are. They now stock up their supplies in bulk in case a lockdown comes up. Consumers have also gone more digital in their shopping behaviour. You find more purchases being done online. I also noticed a newfound appreciation for beauty product formulation. More consumers have seen how huge the market behind personal care products is and have made moves to learn personal care product formulation online,” the beauty expert disclosed.
She added however that the demand for nice-to-have products have plummeted drastically compared to need-to-have products. The shard decline in the latter is one of the significant impacts of the pandemic on the beauty industry, according to the specialist. She disclosed that face masks have replaced the need for lipsticks.
“Hygiene products are doing very well, especially the hand soap and sanitizer category, so most retailers have shifted focus from makeup to hygiene to stay afloat. It’s also been challenging for local manufacturers; some have been able to balance out by diversifying. I believe the key to recovering is diversifying, being innovative, and going virtual until the uncertain times are over,” she advised.