Farida Yahya: The Natural Hair Care Specialist

In the hair and beauty industry, it is no news that “going natural” has become a thing for women of African descent. From Kenya’s Lupita Nyong’o, to Nigeria Nse Ikpe Etim, these African beauties have certainly embraced their roots and are rocking their natural hair with pride. We interviewed Farida Yahya, the brains behind Lumo Naturals – a natural hair care salon and shop; and she shared her journey into entrepreneurship:

Who is Farida Yahya?

I am a 29-year-old entrepreneur, biochemist, writer, and mentor. I worked as a laboratory analyst with Dangote Flour Mills, Kano, and Nigerian Bottling Company, Abuja. In 2012, I founded Lumo Naturals, Abuja’s foremost natural hair salon and shop and in 2014, we expanded into manufacturing. The company now produces and packages a natural hair care range, made from the finest natural indigenous herbs, butters and oils.

In the last year, I have trained over 20 girls and women on black hair science, and basic hair techniques to empower them to successfully run their own businesses. I also organize quarterly Lumo Hair Club events and seminars to educate women about natural hair, and interact with other natural hair and skin care vendors.

What inspired you to start Lumo Naturals?

I went into the natural hair business by accident really. My love affair with my hair started in 2009 after I lost a lot of hair due to a relaxer touch-up. This led me to conduct research on relaxers and I realized that the chemicals in relaxers are linked to health issues like cancer. I decided to take care for my hair using herbs and natural oils. I quickly realized that a lot of regular salons and stylists had no idea how to care for African hair. After I successfully revived my hair, I came up with the idea of providing a hub where women, who made the same choices as me won’t suffer at the hands of these stylists. This is how Lumo Naturals was born.

What opportunities were available when you started and how did you utilize them?

I studied biochemistry in University, and in my final year, I worked closely with a professor that was very passionate about profiling Nigeria’s raw materials and natural resources. Fresh out of school, I worked at the quality assurance laboratory of Dangote Flour Mills and was able to see first-hand the manufacturing process and how it impacts the quality of life and indeed our development as a country.

Secondly, I identified a problem and decided to create a solution. There was a gap between women who were going natural and what the salons had to offer. Being passionate about natural hair care fuelled my vision to open Lumo Naturals salon. The present economic downturn also provides the perfect opportunity to look inwards and diversify our economy. Women make up about 50% of our population; and because every woman wants to feel beautiful without breaking the bank, I decided to go into manufacturing to meet that demand.

Describe the production process of one of your products

My favourite product from our collection is the Man Shanu (Ghee) Pre-Poo Mix. The main ingredient is man shanu, which we source from the local Fulani women. The ingredients include Man shanu (ghee), coconut oil and mustard seed oil. We start by heating up all three ingredients until melted and well blended. Man shanu conditions and softens hair; coconut oil moisturizes, add shine and aids with hair loss; while the mustard seed oil stimulates hair growth, prevents pre-mature greying and aids with scalp health.

What are the challenges you face as an entrepreneur and the mitigating factors?

My number one challenge is the limited power supply in the country and the minimal support offered to small businesses in Nigeria. In the short term, we generate alternate sources of power without increasing the prices of our products and services. In the long term, I aim to partner with companies who offer alternate power supply that is affordable and less harmful to the environment.

In terms of providing support to start-ups, I currently partner with other budding entrepreneurs with similar goals. I also seek out cooperatives that are genuine about their goal to create wealth and sustainable development. In the long term, my aim is to provide support to start-ups with flexible plans and affordable facilities.

Tell us about your future plans for your company and your advice to budding entrepreneurs

In the near future, I will be selling Lumo Naturals in the open market and will make it available in major cities across Nigeria. I will also campaign for more salon owners and stylists to embrace better natural hair care techniques.

My advice to budding entrepreneurs is for them to pursue their dreams with passion, trust their journey, and be patient with the different stages of growth and change. Entrepreneurs should run their businesses beyond just making profit. They should also look for ways that their businesses can push for sustainable development in Nigeria. Budding entrepreneurs must believe in their dreams, visualize and be open to learning.