Smart, focused and taking the business world by storm. Ade Hassan is the CEO and Founder of the Nubian Skin brand. Nubian Skin is a line of Lingerie birth out of the frustration of not finding lingerie and hosiery that matched her complexion as a black woman. Ade Hassan has not only stepped into a blooming market dominated by the major players, she has also garnered support from Hollywood’s A-list celebrities who endorsed her brand a few months into the launch of Nubian Skin.
In this short interview with Whoot Africa, Ade Hassan shares about her journey since starting Nubian Skin and her plans for the business road ahead.
Outside of the press write-ups, mentions and accolades about Ade Hassan and Nubian Skin. Who exactly is Ade Hassan, the individual, the businessperson and the brain behind Nubian Skin brand that you represent?
That all sounds very grand. Ultimately, I’m just a woman who had a goal and is working very hard to achieve it.
What inspires a woman like Ade Hassan?
My family. They are wonderful. I have an incredibly supportive husband, and my siblings and parents are just amazing. My mother is an incredible woman, and my father cannot do enough for his family. They are both entrepreneurs, and they’ve set a great example for me.
Your African roots? (Name – Ade Hassan)
I was born in the UK and my family is Nigerian, and I lived and spent a lot of time there growing up. I’m Yoruba!
Nubian Skin brand has grown tremendously since it started, can you share a little about the journey so far? The lessons, challenges and what set Nubian Skin Apart?
The biggest hurdle to overcome at the start was finding a good quality manufacturer. As a new and small business, a lot of manufacturers simply didn’t respond to queries, and others were looking for incredibly high volumes, so it was tricky. Once you actually secure a manufacturer, it’s always a battle to manage expectations. When I first decided on a manufacturer, I thought I’d be able to start selling in a few months, and we actually launched one year later than I had expected.
I think what set us apart at the start was that we were the first brand to offer this kind of product – it wasn’t something that was on the market so it was a game changer and has made an outsized impact on the industry.
When you entered the lingerie market, you were stepping into a field that only the leading brands and competitors have been able to survive in the lingerie business, what were your thoughts when you were stepping into this market, especially with the fact that your market was targeted at women of colour. Were you afraid of the backlash since it seemed Nubian Skin wasn’t targeted at all women?
There is always an element of fear when you’re starting something new, but I wasn’t really afraid of a backlash as I was creating something that was filling a need for a much-ignored section of the market.
You have been endorsed by some of Hollywood’s finest even before your brand cut its tooth in the market? What was that like? Impact? What do you think you did differently considering a new start up like yours wouldn’t have been able to buy that kind of press?
One Saturday morning, I woke up, and the American actress, Kerry Washington had retweeted an article about Nubian Skin. That was definitely a “am I dreaming?” moment. I think the campaign was fun and honest. It spoke to women in our target market in a way they hadn’t been addressed before. We have been incredibly lucky, and social media has been amazing for us, it’s how we got the word out. After sharing an image from our initial campaign on social media, it went viral and we went from 50 to 20,000 followers on Instagram in just a few weeks. The impact was amazing, especially as a start-up with no budget for media!
You mentioned the US as your largest market so far? Do you have any plans for the motherland market (Africa)?
We certainly do and we are currently stocked at Lulu Lingerie in Abuja and Enugu in Nigeria, and we will soon be stocked at a lingerie boutique in Lekki. There are more plans in the pipeline, so keep your eyes peeled!
Let’s talk funding, how were you able to finance Nubian Skin? Any advice to upcoming businesses on raising funds and pitching one’s ideas?
The company was self-funded. I put all my money into it, and had additional investment from family. My advice would be to save as much as you possibly can! I went back into a job in finance to save the funds I needed to start Nubian Skin. With regards to pitching to investors whether you know them or not, firstly I’d say, put your money where your mouth is. I wouldn’t invest in a company with a team that hadn’t put a huge amount of their own net worth (however large or small) in, so why would any investor? Secondly, make sure you believe in your story and have the data to back it up.
Moving from the management world to entrepreneurship, what has changed about your perception of entrepreneurship while you were in employment, what are those things you wish you were told about entrepreneurship?
It takes a vision, and then it takes a lot of hard work – more than I ever could have imagined, and the work takes a long, long time. We’re two years in, and there is still so much work to do before we’re even close to being where we want to be.
Who are those who inspire you in the business world and why? (3 people)
Women like Eunice Johnson and Iman, who took the steps to create make up since they couldn’t find what they needed. From more of a business perspective, Sarah Blakely who created Spanx…she just killed it and changed the market.
If you were to sum up the last few years of Nubian Skin in 8 words what would they be?
Fun. Tiring. Unbelievable. Passionate. Creative. Frustrating. Exhilarating. Worthwhile.
If you had to address a room full of enthusiastic and young career and businesspeople like you, what are those things you would like to share with them from your experience so far in both the career and entrepreneurship field?
Firstly, it’s really important to research your idea to make sure that whatever it is, it’s valid. Make sure you really believe in the idea especially if you’re working in another job. If you’re up at 4:00 a.m. or 2:00 a.m. working on this, then you want to believe in it. You also need to be willing to work really hard. Everybody who is going to start something anticipates that it’s going to be difficult, and that it’s going to be hard, but it will be so much more difficult and so much harder than you can prepare yourself for. And also – have faith in yourself. If you don’t believe in yourself, then who will?
What more should we expect from Nubian Skin? Are there any plans to capitalize on the success of Nubian Skin enough to get you into the Lingerie business (colours and other aspects of lingerie) like the likes of Victoria Secrets et al?
We have a quite a few exciting things in the pipeline so watch this space!!
Lastly, 30 years from now, what would you want the world to remember when the name Ade Hassan is mentioned in the business world?
As someone who revolutionized the industry and created a long-lasting brand and company.