Creativity can be expressed in a lot of ways. Often times, I have come to realise there is always a story behind a brand which is what brought about Bellafricana exclusive interviews. These people inspire me and I hope they inspire you too. Janada Ladidi Kwaji identified a real need in the skin care industry in Nigeria and decided to find solutions whilst exploring her creativity. You need to read her story…
Q & A
- Brief info about who you are and what you do.
My name is Janada Ladidi Kwaji, I live in Abuja and I’m from Adamawa State, Nigeria. The middle child out of five children, I am also the second and youngest daughter. I was born in Lagos but moved to the United States when I was 2 years old and began school shortly after. I then went on to school in Lagos, Lome (Togo), Ottawa (Canada) and then finally back to the U.S again.
I got my undergraduate degree in Economics from The Pennsylvania State University and my Masters in Public Policy from Georgetown University in Washington DC. I moved back to Nigeria in November 2013, completed my NYSC (a compulsory service for Nigeria youths) a year later and started Mint Organic Care (MOC).
- Please tell us about your work.
Mint Organic Care is a luxury handmade bath and body product line manufactured and packaged in Nigeria. Based in Abuja, we use the purest and most natural ingredients from all over the world to create the best products for skin. All our products are completely chemical and toxin free.
- How did Mint Organic Care start?
MOC started out somewhat accidentally in that I never had any intention to go into skincare business. Anyway, it started shortly before I moved back to Nigeria. I have always had sensitive skin and not particularly beautiful skin. As a result I have at one point or another struggled with various skin conditions that plague a lot of individuals. After being put on countless topical medications, I decided to try organic products that were parabens and chemical free.
I saw a clear difference in the way my skin responded to these products and I truly just enjoyed the way they felt. When I moved back to Nigeria I found it difficult to find properly packaged and manufactured organic body products that I enjoyed using.
They were too raw, poorly manufactured or simply adulterated. I then had the idea to make my own products for personal use, and since they were for personal consumption I wanted to splurge on importing the best and purest ingredients I could get. I then took a class in Los Angeles to ensure that I knew what I was doing and made the best use of the ingredients for optimal health and luxury.
Eventually, friends and family enjoyed the products so much that I was encouraged by everyone around me to turn it into a business. I then took a more professional class to get certified in making the products and ensuring my methods were FDA certified. Mint Organic Care was born shortly after!
- Where does your motivation for skin care come from?
A lot of my motivation is derived from the simple fact that our skin is the largest organ on our body and is the first thing people see. While some people are born with naturally beautiful skin, many of us are not. Rather than spending tons of money on inorganic products that have no nutritive value, I found that God has blessed us with the best ingredients for our body from nature.
Above all, I have a borderline obsession with skincare products, their ingredients and how they feel! Whenever I travel to a new country, I take time out to find their most organic store, find out what products and ingredients are indigenous to that country and learn about their health benefits.
I also wanted people to sincerely enjoy and feel pampered during simple daily regimens such as taking a bath; not only relishing the experience, but also feeling absolutely confident that they are using the best and healthiest ingredients for their body.
- Can you remember the first product you made/sold?
I remember both! The first product I made was not the first product I sold. I first made cocoa butter hand soap, which turned out quite well! A few weeks later my friend ordered body scrubs and bar soaps for her company hampers for the Christmas holidays.
- What areas of concern do you see the most in this industry?
Ingredient procurement, Information asymmetry and quality control- although I think the latter two are more specific to Nigeria as a country.
- Would you refer to yourself as a skin care specialist?
No, I would not consider myself as a skin care specialist. As I mentioned earlier I “accidentally” fell into the skincare industry and had no prior specialised knowledge. I would confidently say however that I am very knowledgeable in natural skincare product making and skin health. I am learning everyday and may one day find it necessary to get the certification of a skincare specialist.
- What are the challenges you face in business?
Honestly, I don’t believe running a business anywhere in the world is easy, not to mention Nigeria. My greatest challenge is trying to run a quality business in Nigeria while keeping fair prices. My second greatest challenge is specific to the organic industry and that’s procuring ingredients. Because they are natural resources, the unadulterated versions are available in limited supply. Furthermore, I try to acquire the various ingredients from their respective indigenous countries, so importation and custom duties are definitely a challenge.
- What is your most popular item (include image)?
My two most popular items are the bath bombs and the creamy coconut bar soap.
- What are your goals for the future, both work wise and life?
I aim to expand MOC as an international brand with stores in various African cities. I absolutely will be going back to my degree in public policy and resolve to influence policy change that positively affects the way Nigeria functions as a country.
- What would people be surprised to learn about you?
My sense of smell and nose are ridiculously strong. I got it from my mother and I am very thankful as it makes my job a lot easier. God definitely had these plans for me before I had them for myself! LOL
- For someone who wishes to take up this kind of career, what kind of advice would you give them? Also, if you could give one piece of advice to youths who want to start their own company, what would it be?
I would advise that they unquestionably have the passion and vision for skincare and organic products. For youths wanting to start their own company-
“pray for wisdom and strength and then go for it”.
It may not start out as the image you had initially, yet with hard work and dedication you will begin to see your vision materialize. However, I would stress to make sure you have a clearly written out business plan prior to starting.
Once the business starts you tend to get an overload of advice and input from various people, while at the same time things may not pan out as you thought they would. Therefore, it’s easy to get overwhelmed, side tracked and confused. When you have a written out business plan with realistic timelines and goals, you have that blueprint to keep you focused and on track.
- And finally, I would like to give you this opportunity to share two to four images of your work and tell us a little about each (basically sell yourself, include the package for events & wedding etc).
One of the things I love most about what I do is the creative mobility. Each time I go into my lab to create something there is always an element of surprise with how the finished product turns out. This creativity is also often explored with customers for their events and weddings. Here are photos from a pink and gold themed wedding. I also enjoy putting together the gift boxes for customers, which are customizable by both colour and scent. Here is a photo of a men’s gift box customized according to the scent.
If you are reading this and you have sensitive skin or you know somebody that does, kindly forward this interview to them.
Kudos Janada on your achievements so far, and I’m glad you have taken up the courage to fill a gap in the skin care industry in Nigeria.
I for one will be your customer as not only am I drawn to beautiful packages but I also love organic skin products. Like come on who doesn’t like smooth fresh skin 😉
You can reach Janada via her email on email@example.com
Thanks Janada for participating in Bellafricana’s Exclusive Interviews! We wish you the very best in your business and look forward to you opening your online shop at www.bellafricana.com