Learn from Clare Eluka: the Nigerian woman behind the world’s 1st Allergy-free Vegan beauty brand

It is nice to meet you Clare Eluka. Thank you, lovely to meet you!

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What do you do? What is your brand/service? Where are you present? I am a Doctor, who formulates products and a Business Beautician. I create Allergy-free beauty products, perform facials and sell my products. My brand, Premae Skincare is the world’s 1st Allergy-free Vegan beauty brand. We are 3 years into the business, 14 awards, TV, Film and over 100 magazine appearances, possibly over 1000 beauty blog reviews. We are based in London, UK and ship worldwide to Africa, USA, Europe and South America daily.

What are your recent awards/most proud of achievements? I ended 2014 winning ‘Most Inspirational Woman’ award at the Inspiration Awards. It was a complete shock! Naturally, I know I have inspired many people, both young and old, but I actually only attended the award as a potential sponsor for 2015. The event was filled with high profile celebrities and industry people, so when they read my biography- I thought it was a joke! Then they showed my picture and I started crying. I couldn’t believe I’d won. The serendipity is that I create a weekly womens event called ‘Wonder Woman Wednesday’s’ where I showcased and invited a different woman each week to my store to share her journey into business, beauty or health. I received lots of peer praise for the effort and organisation of this lovely event and so winning the award at the end of the 6 week course was Divine timing.

What inspired you? To start so early especially? I guess I’m a natural born hustler. I started a business when I was 5 years old, selling hand made chips in newspaper from my mother’s front door for 20p. I was always interested in business and creativity. Most people that have known me since childhood are not surprised that I have become the business woman that I am. losing my dad at the age of nine showed me that life is short, I don’t waste time and I don’t take life for granted. My Igbo name is Chiedozie – God’s work is done (complete). My birthday is 7th July (7th Month). I believe it is my life’s purpose and I am blessed to do what I love everyday.

Invention is not a common trend, how exactly did you achieve this? I actually started because I have Allergies. This brand is genuine. I suffer from intolerances to Wheat, Dairy, Gluten and Yeast. That combination is described as ‘Candida Albicans’. The need for my product was real for me. I realised that others needed it too. Now, people without allergies use my brand simply because the know that if it works on the most delicate skin, it will be excellent for them. Why use harsh products when you can use award winning luxury indigenous creams and foundations.

What are the barriers to invention? Funding. You need investment to be creative. I started with a small pot of money, but constantly needed more and always will do. Be willing to invest in yourself. I worked 3 jobs to start my brand. 80hours per week, barely any sleep, little food, sacrificed family time and enjoyment (shopping, clubbing, holidays) etc. But now, I can afford to do those things as the handwork begins to pay off.

What are the challenges for invention? The challenges are that today, every market is over saturated. Even in my market, beauty is convoluted. What is your Unique selling point? How can you really differentiate? Unless you are cutting edge or can afford to pay a celebrity to endorse your products, how can you stand apart? You need to look within yourself and bring your personal touch to your brand. Everyone has a story. If not, create one.

How do you advise young people to invent? What is the process?

I teach young girls how to make face scrubs, masks and cleansers from scratch using kitchen ingredients. Obviously, I can’t give them my formulations, but I give them basic ones to get started. The next thing is to collaborate with someone more experienced, I got help with my shampoo, foundations and serums because i knew my limitations.

Big issue for most start ups is capital, how did you overcome this? Work 3 jobs. Borrow from family. Approach the bank with a business plan. I also applied for small business loans. I think its good to set yourself a goal of how much you want to invest and how much real return you can get from it. ie; if you invest £10,000 into your business, after website, production, branding and admin how much can you really make from selling the product? Can you break even? Make a small profit? You may need more capital to make profit. There’s no easy way or straight cut road.

There is a Myth that it is easier to start up businesses in more developed nations. What is your take on this? I reckon that it is. Simply because of the funding available – small business grants and loans.

Entrepreneurs in developing nations can engage in online funding for small businesses, crowd funding and attending business events where investors are.

What have been your key learnings since you started? Never underestimate people. They are so deceptive. Choose your team wisely.

Be willing to do everything yourself unless you can pay someone excellent to do it. It’s not ideal but if you can’t do it well, how can you train and expect an intern or apprentice to do it for you.

What is your advice for young female entrepreneurs especially in Africa? Act like a lady, think like a man. Don’t be too emotionally involved in your brand or company. See it through the eyes of the consumer. Always think ‘Would I pay for this product or service if this wasn’t my company?’Collaborate with others in your field. Build consortiums. We are stronger in numbers.

Where do you see your self/brand in the next 10 years? I see myself selling the brand and moving on to create more brands, media businesses and life coaching and consultancy brands. I will be married with children and spend a lot of time in Agriculture.

How do you and will you remain competitive? It’s a crazy thing to describe, but after 12 years in beauty – I started when I was 17, I am always on trend and instinctively know what’s coming next. I have a close relationship with my customers and rely on them to give us direct feedback to improve.

Which other female entrepreneurs inspire you? How and why?

I love Tyra Banks, for being a fabulous serial entrepreneur. The obvious Oprah and Ngozi billionaires. I also really rate Victoria Abiola of Wowe (Women of West Africa Enterprise)

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