Here on Whoot Africa, we not only showcase brands, but we also talk to the people behind those brands and have them share with us their back stories as well as give tips on how to successfully start and run a business.
Welcome to Whoot Africa’s – Questions with the CEO.
Can you tell us a little about Kehinde Smith the individual, businessperson and My Extentionz, My Celebrity Teeth and Food in Lagos as brands you represent?
I was born and raised in Chicago, Illinois, but I still count myself as a Nigerian. My parents have 2 sets of twins and I have a twin sister named Taiwo Smith who is my business partner. I love spending time with my family, exploring new places I’ve never visited, and I also love getting my hands in new businesses/Creative ideas.
My Extensionz– Our Company is well known in the U.S for supplying the highest quality of virgin hair to every day working class women, hair salons and celebrities worldwide. Not only are we recognized for supplying premium hair extensions to our costumers but we also serve them with an outstanding platter of educational customer service with regards to the investment they make with our company.
My Celebrity Teeth– My twin sister Taiwo & I launched My Celebrity teeth earlier this year in Lagos Nigeria. My Celebrity Teeth is a laser teeth whitening service we provide to clients who feels like they want to brighten their smile from shades 2-10. If one is not a coffee or wine drinker the results usually last from 1-2 years without any touch ups. Taiwo and I always believed that everyone’s teeth appearance is really an important part of your smile and your appearance. A great smile can improve your job opportunities, help you gain friends, and maybe help you find that love of your life.
Food in Lagos– I started Food in Lagos in May 2015 when I first moved to Nigeria. As a newbie in town it was a struggle for me to find nice restaurants to eat in, not because Lagos does not have nice restaurants… But because I did not know my way around, and many of the restaurants that didn’t have a sign outside looked like houses to me. Many people believe that because I’m “skinny” I barely eat, but little do they know I am a total FOOD JUNKIE QUEEN. (Chuckles) So, I decided to blog about great restaurants in Lagos and the general experiences in order to help others navigate the different taste of Lagos.
MyExtensionz was birth out an individual experience and gap you found in the market, can you tell us a little about this and how you have been able to leverage on this to create a much sought after brand?
It was really simple for us. We just made sure we followed the same exact steps and procedure we did with the company in the U.S “If its not broke don’t fix it” So we didn’t.
The appearance industry is a major cash cow in both the US, UK and now Nigeria, but despite its profitability, a lot of people still have this perception and notion that they are not serious investment worthy businesses; how do you deal with this perception especially networking for your businesses?
We have had a few networking events we’ve attended, where a few underestimated us because they believed the hair industry just sounded weird or they thought we were just “hair stylist”. We like to network with smart minded business people. If someone thinks any business is not serious, then they have no clue what business is. We never do all the talking… We like to just work hard for My Extensionz and allow the brand to speak for itself.
Your first store in Nigeria opened recently in Lagos while you have two more in North America. How do you intend to effectively manage and coordinate those two locations without either of them suffering for the other?
Not only do I have my beautiful business partner/ twin sister Taiwo Smith in the U.S to manage the business, but we also have a wonderful team in each location and online for our ecommerce. We look at everyone that’s a part of the My Extensionz team as if they too own the company. That way everyone treats the company as if it were theirs. And of course, if you want to have a great team with ambitious people you must pay them well and allow them to throw in their suggestions and ideas if needed.
You have been able to grow your business rapidly within a relatively short period of time. In your opinion, what are some of the most valuable skills an entrepreneur must possess to ensure continued growth and success?
Our clients have always been satisfied with our products so we never changed the quality of our products. My advice to any entrepreneur would be never change your “Key Secret Ingredient”.
There are quite a number of people in your type of business, how do you differentiate your business and remain competitive in the market?
We like to send our clients surveys every 3 months. Knowing what our client wants or wish to have in the market is extremely important for us. We love creating unique hair systems that other companies do not have. For example: We just released our Silk Edger. Silk Edger is great for women who suffer from thin edges. No other company has that but My Extensionz, that’s one of the reasons and ways we stay competitive.
My Extentionz has a huge following on social media, most especially on Instagram. How has social media helped your business?
Social media played a big role in our company because it allowed our superior quality products to go viral, to the point that celebrities were reaching out to us to make purchases. The reach out was commendably massive in our first year, which helped us to expand to other parts of the country and My Extensionz was finally able to ship world wide. Although social media played a great impact in our company’s growth, I would have to say word of mouth made us who we are and where we are today. There is nothing like having great quality products tied to your brand; although we have over 160 thousand followers on Instagram, that would be nothing if our quality of hair did not meet consumers’ expectations.
Your ecommerce website seems to be focused on the USA market. Do you have any plans for a dedicated Nigerian ecommerce website to sell your products any time soon?
Of course! We just wanted to study the market for 2 months before we launched our ecommerce. We are proud to say it will be launching by the end of August!
What inspired foodinlagos? Is this a startup as well?
Food in Lagos is just a blog.I started Food in Lagos in May 2015 when I first moved to Nigeria. As a newbie in town it was a struggle for me to find nice restaurants to eat in, not because Lagos does not have nice restaurants… But because I did not know my way around and many of the restaurants that didn’t have a sign outside looked like houses to me. Many people believe that because I’m “skinny” I barely eat, but little do they know I am a total FOOD JUNKIE QUEEN. So, I decided to blog about great restaurants in Lagos and their experiences.
Moving back to Nigeria to run a business is a big step for anyone, especially when such businesses have been modeled and succeeded in other locations, how has the Nigerian business scene affected your African business perception? Do you have any unique stories to tell?
Nothing has really affected my perception in this market. Of course, there are some up’s and downs here and there… But, that happens everywhere when it comes to business.
You appear as someone who is full of life and enthusiasm, sometimes when life throws curve balls, how do you handle the disappointments; especially as an entrepreneur
By speaking to my family or seeing their faces. They give me that extra motivational strength to keep going.
Unemployment is very prevalent in Nigeria, as someone who has passed through a similar experience in the past, how would you advice other people going through it right now? How can they make the best of their current situation?
By taking that leap of faith! The worst is already happening to you being unemployed already right? Don’t be afraid to invest your last dollar or naira into something you enjoy doing that can potentially bring you a small or big income. You never know where that small investment may take you.
Lastly where do you see yourself and the businesses you run in the next 5 years?
We are currently planning on opening more showrooms across Africa. We would also like to partner with charity organizations that provides educational opportunities for less privileged children at some point in our business journey, My Extensionz Company is not just about hair and appearances; we hope to play our part in line with what our various business locations require of us. In all, to see everyone associated with our brand doing well and looking beautiful and thriving too.
If you missed the previous parts of the 15 Questions with the CEO series, please click here