Grinning in bliss, the elegance of simplicity permeates her persona. Her all-dark dress accentuates her pristine beauty. Her eyes glows in the backdrop filled with whiteness. She fixes her eyes into the empty space of the aperture. Beside her is a bouquet of flower, white with purple blossoms. Her serenity in appearance signposts her shrewdness in enterprise; young, sleek and sure-footed, Ogechukwu Alexis Obah, founder and CEO of Bodylikemilk is the winner of Forbes Africa 30Under30 2019. An entrepreneur par excellence, she has continued to push the envelope where others have stopped trying. Her essence and success are explored by Funke Olaode
She stands tall. Not in arrogance. Not in flamboyance. Ogechukwu Alexis Obah is a woman of substance. Supple skin, serene face and with a self-assured shape, Oge is the face of African entrepreneurship. The elegance of simplicity flows through her poise. Her all-dark dress accentuates her pristine beauty. Her eyes glows in the backdrop filled with whiteness. She fixes her eyes into the empty space of the aperture. Beside her is a bouquet of flower, white with purple blossoms. Her serenity in appearance signposts her shrewdness in enterprise; young, sleek and sure-footed, Oge is the brains behind Bodylikemilk.
She first crept into Nigeria’s consciousness when she featured in the entrepreneur reality TV show, The Next Titan, which aims is to nurture emerging entrepreneur to create wealth. After an intensive three months with other contestants, Oge shone brightest, emerging the winner. Her business acumen and attention to details gave her the edge.
Since then, the young lady has taken the African continent by storm with her beauty range of products –on the platform of Bodylikemilk.
In July, she was named winner of Forbes Africa 30Under 30 Class of 2019 under business category.
The skin-care entrepreneur is a graduate of University College, Ghana where she obtained a degree in Human Resource Management. She also has a diploma in Business and Marketing with advanced diploma in Sports Nutrition and Beauty from Shaw Academy, Ireland.
But she used to be a nurse and beauty therapist.
How did she feel winning the Forbes under 30 in Africa?
“I am really blessed because at first Forbes Africa you know is big. When I got a letter from them short-listing me for the category in business, I was excited,” she explains. “I was happy and just felt that I had a lot of responsibilities on my head to proof that in Africa especially in Nigeria we can bring up entrepreneurs who are hard-working. So far, I am still in the mood, basking in the Euphoria of the whole thing, I am enjoying the moment.”
Winning the Forbes according to Oge wasn’t by accident. It was a systematic planning that took two years to materialize.
The young lady states: “In 2017, I made it as a goal to go on Forbes but I knew there were some things that I needed to do to get there because the requirements are not easy thing to get immediately. I set my mind into it. In 2019 January I applied. I used the 2018 to build the brand that would bring me up. And winning The Next Titan Season Five would put me on that platform.
“In 2018 I won and knew ‘this is it’. In January l applied and they got back to me in March that l passed the second stage and then I needed to submit the other requirements. I did that and was hoping whether I would make it. But I was hopeful. Others have tried more than once, five times, six times it was my first time and I prayed for it and I made it.”
That moment was the best of her life.
“I cried when my name was announced,” she reveals. “I was like is this how far my little business has grown? I remembered when I started in 2015, how hard it was tough and I struggled so badly.”
For Oge, journey into beauty business was borne out of survival. From a relatively comfortable family, then tragedy struck. Her family became broke. Rather than wallow in self-pity, she picked up the pieces of her life by turning her adversity into prosperity.
“I had already left the University of Ghana and was trying to do something online when the beauty thing crept in. I wanted to further my studies but the funds were not there. After doing the human resources management, I went into nursing because I realized nursing was my calling. I went to a nursing school and later attended an advanced nursing school in Ghana,” Oge narrates.
“I went to St. Karol School of Nursing and later went to Health Management College where I did Public Health. I am passionate about taking care of people. I am the first born and I am used to taking care of my siblings, parents and everyone around me. Even though my parents pushed me into doing nursing but it is something I love and have a flair for.”
Continuing, she says: “After that I wanted to go further to do a paediatric nursing just for kids but due to lack of funds I couldn’t go further. At that point my father had an accident that turned everything upside down in my household. We had no money and was wondering how we went from abundance to nothing. It was a bad time in my life. In that state of hopelessness, I saw this course online for beauty therapist, beautician. I plunged myself into it.
“They would give us assignments. From there, I started making body lotion, face cream and it was working for me. At that stage I started adding our Nigerian ingredients such as mango butter, shear butter before I knew it the business side of me was re-awakened and I said I can make money from this and started selling. From there, I got one clients, it increased to 10, 50 and a multitude. In a month I would sell out 25 containers.”
From a parlour business, through dedication, commitment and ingenuity, Oge didn’t only court loyalists to her cosmetics, the allure of her products have captured both African and European markets.
“We keep expanding. My customers’ base now is broad and that is why we have to put ourselves online by having a website where people can order for the product. We have a physical space in my Lagos office but our vision it to capture global markets,” Oge discloses. “We have our online website bodylikemilk.com. Anyone or anywhere in the world can purchase these products. Before we launched our website people were already ordering for the products from South Africa, Germany, Holland, Zimbabwe, and Kenya. We even have a partnership with DHL now just to send products outside the country.”
In a saturated beauty products markets, one may wonder what gave a budding entrepreneur an edge above the competitors. It is simple.
“I think authenticity. I also feel our formula,” she says. “People like to get what they trust and what they can relate to. I always have this strong bond with my clients. I always make sure that I use my products. My family use the products: their reports and review are online they also see that the products are genuine. They have tested it since 2015 and it keeps growing.
“We are not doing it for bleaching or lightening that is rampant. We just want people to have good skin and be confident in skin whether you are dark, fair white. So we have products for different skin types. Some of the products are chocolate tone a lotion with a shower gel.”
Speaking further, Oge noted, “We have toning body lotion and milk for people with lighter skin. We also complement it with face cream and soap. We also have pure essential oils that have been mixed to give you radiant skin. We have our sun screen which I am passionate about. We released it this year. It protects us from harsh weather and keeps out complexion radiant.
“I studied it, I know what I am doing and I am proud of it. We also cater to pregnant people and after giving birth they come back to us because they want to get their skin back. They trust us and what we are doing.”
Like a grateful heart who wouldn’t despise days of little beginning, Oge said winning Next Titan has helped to push her dreams.
“The Next Titan really helped. Apart from the money, the training in the academy helped. After winning the show, I was empowered with N5 Million to build my brand and web store where people can pay and get their products. The funds helped me to achieve this and helped me to push my products out there. It is now global. Now, I can get somebody in UK to buy it,” Oge admits.
The 30 under 30 list, according to Forbes, represents people who will grow their business and has the potential to employ thousands of people to help the growth of the African continent.
What are her plans on wealth creation?
“Apart from manufacturing skin care and cosmetics,” she says “in 2017, I started doing training on Business Summit on WhatsApp and later on I started doing offline training. After winning the Next Titan in 2018, the money helped with physical space and I started more training.
“Like I told Forbes, my goal is to training 20,000 women by 2023 and also empowers these women to start making their own products. They beauty industry is growing very fast especially in Nigeria and I feel that we Nigerians can dominate the market in Africa and increase our potential when it comes to money.
“Today, Africa has only 3 percent and the skin care company is a multibillion dollar brand and we don’t have enough. So we need to empower ourselves and other women and men. In this way, we are creating jobs and create zero poverty, these are my goals. My goals are not only to make money for my brand but to empower my people that will capture African markets.
“Again, I source for my raw materials locally in Nigeria. And I make sure that everything I do is from Nigeria. I have my own factory and also work with other people who have factories in Lagos and we collaborate. I can use the machinery to do mass production while I can also use my own factory too. My factory was inspected by NAFDAC in early 2018 before I went for The Next Titan. We still want to expand and move forward. So everything is local: the container, the packaging, and the labels everything is made here. I am always concerned and worried when people go to China to make their products and send it down. I am like how do we grow our economy if we take the money outside. I always make sure I make it here.”
To many start-ups capital to fund business many belief has always been a problem for emerging entrepreneurs. Oge is of different view. “Getting funding is not a problem but amenities such as electricity, and without power we can’t move forward. The major problem I observe is that people start the business without drive. So you have to drive passion and embrace hard work.”
What does it take to stay beautiful?
Without mincing words, Oge states, “To remain beautiful are inner and outer beauty. You have to take care of yourself in and out. You can be using beauty products and don’t take a lot of water, you don’t rest enough you will come out looking tired. Eat right, drink water, take care of yourself, and mind your own business because rest of mind is key to healthy living. Do what makes you happy, laugh a lot and take care of your skin.”
For her, life has gone full swing. She relishes the moment and reflects on the past. She understands the blend of past and present; envisioning the leap of opportunity
“I learnt a lot to be content through hunger and pain. I learnt to look for something that would make me happy. At the end of the day, people shouldn’t allow the current situation to weigh them down and don’t allow that current to put thoughts into your end; female, young and attractive. Be grounded and what helped me was my home training.
“During my lowest moment I stayed grounded, cried more, prayed and at the end I kept on going because I knew the phase would pass. I have already reached my lowest point and the only way is up. In that state of despair I stayed strong because I know the best is yet to come and is always in front.”