The CEO of Zaron Cosmetics, Oke Maduewesi is one business woman I personally admire. Not only do I use a few Zaron products myself, I’m truly inspired by her story and I’m truly honoured to have interviewed her for our Beauty #WCW this week.
The widowed mother of two worked as a manager at Zenith bank in Port Harcourt before starting Zaron cosmetics in Lagos, an experience she strongly believes laid the foundation for the success of her beauty brand today.
Oke sold everything including her house to start what is now a beauty empire, empowering women all over Nigeria with the annual Zaron Widow’s Day and contributing to our fast-growing beauty industry. Her story is proof that where you begin doesn’t always determine how you finish, just make sure you finish strong.
BellaNaija Style: Tell us about your first encounter with makeup?
Oke Maduewesi: OMG!!! Island Beauty hot chocolate lipstick. Felt like a hawt babe then but seeing those pictures today is absolutely hilarious.
BNS: When did you decide to turn your interest into a business?
Oke: It was not exactly an interest but a strategic business decision. I had done banking for a couple of years and in 2000 I began to feel like there was more out there so I left a guaranteed paid job to go do an MBA which was one of the scariest decisions ever.
BNS: Did you study business formally?
Oke: My first degree was in economics. I had absolutely no idea/interest in starting a business so the career path seemed to be the smartest choice.
The MBA programme opened my mind to so many possibilities and opportunities and knowing Nigeria is a growing market made it even more interesting to explore.
One of the smartest choices I made was to use my business plan in writing my dissertation and scoring an ‘A’ made me even more confident that I was on the right track.
The richness of building a career especially in the financial sector is that it helps you build a network, which I leveraged on in raising capital.
BNS: What is your signature look?
Oke: My signature look would be “Barely there” lol. This is solely because my favourite look is as minimal as minimal can be.
First, I spray my latest obsession, which is the Zaron Perfect Finish Spray all over my face as my base. Then I use a small quantity of the Zaron Healthy Glow Liquid Foundation to even out my skin tone. My Zaron Maxi Blend Compact Powder comes in next to set my foundation and further even out my skin tone.
Next up is my Zaron Eyebrow Definer, which I use to fill out sparse areas on my eyebrows. I usually require very little as I have full eyebrows already. I typically use “Mocha” which is a Zaron Uno Eyeshadow all over my eyelid to give a very soft smokey look. Then I line my eyes using Zaron “Black Velvet” Eye Liner Pencil, finish up my eye makeup with the Zaron Volumizing Mascara. My go-to lip combo is the lipstick pen in “Mist” & Lipliner in “Vivid” topped with the Zaron Gloss in “Sugarplum”.
BNS: What is the biggest highlight of your career? How did you achieve it?
Oke: Winning the bank-wide award as an Executive Assistant (very first banking level) for the highest deposit mobiliser over a period.
Really, I think the only thing I did to get it was being a pain to my customers, lol. In Nigerian banking, we call it “being aggressive”. However, in all, I learnt a whole lot that comes very handy in running your own business and I never fail to acknowledge the fact that I might not be able to do what I do today without my previous experience.
BNS: In the course of your career, tell us one accomplishment you had with Zaron that inspired you to know there was so much more.
Oke: Having Nigerians (knowing we are very hard to please) embrace and buy into the Zaron brand as soon as it was launched gave us the confidence to forge ahead.
BNS: Who is your favourite African style icon and why?
Oke: Style Icon??? Not sure who but I know I’m loving the “owanmbe” look right now. It is such a rich expression of African beauty and it’s amazing how makeup artistry is being expressed through the looks.
BNS: What’s your favourite thing to eat?
Oke: I am a foodie. Love it all (at least most of it). Local and international. It is sad I cannot eat as much as I would want because am constantly on a diet.
BNS: Where’s your favourite city in the world?
Oke: Lagos. It gives me that feeling of home after a trip. It’s crazy but I rather enjoy the madness and vibrancy sometimes.
BNS: What do you do to de-stress?
Oke: Loads of series. From Games of Thrones to reality TV.
BNS: What advice would you give to anyone struggling to balance a 9-5 with launching a business?
Oke: Don’t try too hard, just try to integrate both but you have to accept the possibility that one will suffer in the process so sometimes it is better to weigh your options and trade one for the other.
BNS: What advice would you give a new business owner/entrepreneur?
Oke: I call this the “3 road” map:
- POWER OF THE MIND: Positive attitude is key as research shows that 80% of an outcome is the power of your mind and only 20% is what you do.
- TAKING ACTION: The difference between a dream and a goal is timelines so make sure you put those goals into action.
- MAKING IT WORK: It is a going concern. There is never comfort zone. Especially when you are running a business in Naija, every day relives fresh challenges. You have to be resolute but it is consoling to know that you have higher returns on investment in running a business in this country. In addition, because Nigeria is a growing market, there are numerous opportunities.
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