How This Nigerian Lawyer Built A Multi-Million Dollar Beauty Business
To have a dream is one thing, but having the courage to chase down your dream and the ability to persevere is only what will make you a winner.
As the saying goes, “It’s good to be a dreamer but it’s better to be a planner and a worker.”
This is the success story of Tara Fela-Durotoye, a woman who didn’t just have a dream to someday own an exportable beauty and cosmetic brand, but went ahead and surpassed her goals, not letting the opinions of others deter her focus.
Here is how she did it.
Early Life And Education
Tara Fela-Durotoye was born at St. Nicholas Hospital in Lagos state to the family of Mr. John Ejegi Sagay and Felicia Omaghomi on the 6th of March, 1977. Her father, Mr. John Ejegi Sagay, was a commissioner at the Federal Civil Service, Nigeria.
Eight months after her birth, her parents separated, and being born into a polygamous home, she was brought up by her stepmother, Modupe Agnes Sagay.
She started her education at Command Children School, Victoria Island, and proceeded to Nigeria Navy Secondary School, Ojo as a boarding house student. She graduated from the Lagos State University with a degree in Law, and went on to establish the House of Tara International.
Journey Into Entrepreneurship
Tara Fela-Durotoye’s early start in business and entrepreneurship was inspired by a marketer, who spoke to her about being business conscious whilst she was still in secondary school. She remembers, “I was in secondary school many years ago and a man came to speak to us and he came to speak to us as an entrepreneur, that is, as a businessman. He was in advertising and because he was creative, I found him interesting. He made me interested in business. I eventually went to university and I studied law. As an undergraduate, while I was still in school I started a business. I started with just N15,000 (fifteen thousand naira). It is less than the cost of a blackberry phone.”
Tara Fela-Durotoye started her entrepreneurial journey in the beauty business when she was still a law student at Lagos State University. She later trained as a makeup artist at Charles Fox.
Her early interest in makeup and fashion was stimulated by her stepmother, a highly fashionable and glamorous woman who used to work in the Ministry of Culture and studied Fine Arts. Tara says her stepmother was her inspiration growing up. “She was a fantastic woman, very fashionable. I used to love looking at her dressing up. On her dressing table, she had all kinds of make-up products, she would paint her face in the morning, she never missed her hairdressing appointment, her nail polish was always perfect. I grew up seeing her adorn herself and I liked looking at her through all that process. I didn’t know that a seed was being sown in my heart.”
According to Tara Fela-Durotoye, “I started at a time when it wasn’t even popular for people generally to be entrepreneurs, unlike what obtains now. Many people who were my peers didn’t even fully understand the concept. Even for me, I didn’t wake up one morning to be an entrepreneur. The focus was on doing what I loved, which is making women beautiful. This passion started when I was studying Law at Lagos State University. From bridal make-up, the clientele began to expand, and slowly, it dawned on me that this was a big deal, and it could go far beyond a few random weddings and become a pioneering movement. I haven’t looked back ever since.”
Today, House of Tara is a pioneer in the beauty and makeup industry in Nigeria and a major retailer, distribution channel, management, and beauty education centre. The company is the first to set up a beauty school in Nigeria with over 3,000 reps spread across the country and 14 stores to its name.
Pioneering a company in Nigeria comes with its challenges, and charting a new course means so much work needed to be done by Tara Fela-Durotoye. Her journey through making House of Tara a reputable venture came with so many challenges, some of which are outlined below.
- Because the makeup industry was new when she started her outfit, there was no mentor whose footsteps she could follow for direction.
- She had issues with acceptability from Nigerians, and most of the people she shared her dreams with thought it was a joke
- She faced challenges with staffing; as she says, “I also faced the challenge of getting members of my staff to buy into my personal and corporate vision for the business, so that they would not see it as a one-man business that will rise and die with the owner, without anything for them in it.”
- Another major challenge she still faces is the menace of fake and counterfeit products. This, she continues to fight with the help of security agencies.
Recognition and Awards
- National Recognition award for social impact and job creation
- Most Outstanding Businesswoman of the Year 2018 by the African Economy Business Awards
- African Makeup Icon by Ghana Makeup Awards
- Leadership Award for Entrepreneurship by Harvard Business School Association of Nigeria in 2016
- Forbes’ 2013 list of 20 Young Power Women in Africa
- Nominated as a Young Global Leader by the World Economic Forum
Tara Fela-Durotoye is also the creator of the Tara Orekelewa Beauty range, Inspired Perfume and the H.I.P. Beauty range. She is considered a major force in the Nigerian female entrepreneurship community, having created a business that has impacted tens of thousands of beauty entrepreneurs through the Tara Beauty Entrepreneur initiative that makes them economically independent while building their entrepreneurial skills for national transformation.
To Sum It Up
Having a dream is important, but being focused, precise, determined, relentless, creative, open to learning, and not letting the opinions of others deter your dream is what will make you stand out from the crowd and turn out successful.