Born in the 90s, beauty entrepreneur, media personality and actress, Iheme Faith Uloma, a.k.a Ifu Ennada, is no stranger to the limelight. Bursting into our consciousness as a Big Brother contestant last year, she is also an event host and speaker and has moderated several panel discussions in various fields. Shortly after leaving the #BBNaija show, Ifu launched her beauty brand, beautIFU Ennada which debuted as a haircare line for natural hair girls. BeautIFU Ennada turns one today and, in celebration, she is launching a wig line, a line of pre-stretched braiding hair extensions called E’Zee braids, a state of the art salon, a beauty academy and store. She has also announced a reward program for everyone on her beautIFU Ennada train, 5millionaday, a platform for teaching entrepreneurs how to grow their business. In 2017, her self-produced and written short film, “Tears of A Broken Virgin”, which premiered at the In Short Film Festival won her Award for Best Actress. In 2016, she was nominated for AMAA Awards best young and promising actress for her role in O Town by CJ Obasi and has since featured in top TV Series like Tinsel, Ebony Life’s HM Travel and Tours, MTV Base Shuga and movies like Obsession by Judith Audu, The Quest by Dabby Chimere and Hire A Woman by Chinney Love. Passionate about women and a strong advocate for women who have gone through abuse, she sits down with GuardianWoman to talk about being in the eye of the storm, how poverty pushed her to do well, her soft spot for women and her plans to take over the beauty industry.
Your stage name is very interesting. Tell us how you came about it? Did you always have it or you coined it for BBN?
Ifu Ennada is actually also my official name, just not what I have on my passport, but it is recognised legally as my name and I have also trademarked it. Ifu Ennada is simply my name creatively rearranged, it’s the initials of Iheme Faith Uloma and Ennada is Adanne spelt backwards. I created Ifu when I was 17 years old and added Ennada when I was 19. I was a newbie TV presenter and needed a name for TV. I wanted something catchy but original, so that was how Ifu Ennada came to life.
Since leaving the BB Show last year, you have been in the eye of the storm severally. Is this deliberate?
Everything I say or do is deliberate, but how people react to it is not my responsibility. I’m very expressive and bold. I am also kind and respectful, so I’d never do or say anything to hurt anyone, but the media has a way of twisting one’s words and action to make great headlines that’ll bring them more traffic.
Tell us about your beauty brand in detail?
My beauty brand, Beautiful Ennada turns one today. It debuted with a line of haircare products inspired by the hair loss I suffered about two years ago. My hair wasn’t growing and I had lost my edges and every product I tried had failed. So, I started doing research and taking mini courses online and finally came up with some of my recipes. At the time of this discovery, I didn’t have the resources I needed to launch the business, but going into Big Brother changed that. We have helped a lot of women get back their hair including popular celebrities like Mercy Aigbe, who endorsed us publicly after our super hair growth oil restored her hair. We’ve also been publicly endorsed by American-Nigerian celebrity hair blogger, Naturally Temi. Since we launched, we have gradually expanded and are now set to introduce more products into the line while launching a new look. Also these products will cater to people with different hair types, natural and relaxed, textured and so on. We’re also set to launch a state-of-the-art salon, beauty store and a beauty academy.
You launched a product this week, tell us about it; what impact do you think it would have?
This week, I launched a first-of-its kind fashion accessory called the Wig Hat. It solves the problem of bad hair days by providing a fashionable Wig Hat covering. Wig Hat is basically a wig sewn to classy Fedora hats and baseball caps. We introduced it with six different styles. Everyone can preorder till August 7, when the Wig Hats will become physically available.
The beauty industry as we know is well saturated. How are you managing to break through and be seen?
In my corner in the beauty industry, it is saturated with mostly products that are hardly effective and give no value for money, but that can’t be said for my products. A lot of my sales are based on referrals and testimonials. This is what has made me successful in a short period of time. In everything, I always strive to give value even if it means making little or no profit. I’ve spent almost a year working on two major projects I want to launch. The new and improved recipes for my products and a hair extension line called beautiful Ennada E’Zee braids. Any other person could have launched quickly and made it available to the general public, but not me. It has to be 100 per cent and my conscience must be at peace with me before I can put it out for sale.
Tell us, what does 5millionaday mean and what does it do?
5millionaday is an online platform where I teach entrepreneurs how to grow and make money with their businesses. The name was inspired by a statement I made on TV. I was talking about the power of sales and how I made up to N5 million during a sales period, but people twisted my words and said I claimed I make N5million everyday. The small mindedness of these set of people led me to start 5millionaday. I wanted to teach young entrepreneurs everything I know in business and also motivate and inspire them with my work. I’ve been doing that since we started. I’m currently teaching my first online course on the platform titled, “How To Secure The Bag In Your Business.”
As someone firmly entrenched in both the beauty and entertainment industry, how are you marrying both worlds and making it work?
I am very passionate about beauty and entertainment. When I have a very demanding project in my business, I don’t take on any demanding acting jobs, but I do a lot of MC work because that is easier to execute.
You revealed that you suffered abuse in the past, how are you using your experience to help other women?
I counsel and speak to women when I can. I try to be there for them and help them get through it all. Also I connect them to some of my influential friends who take up the case and try to bring the abuser to book.
If you hadn’t gone down this line, what do you think you would have been doing now?
If I wasn’t in my line of businesses, I would have still been a creator in another capacity. I’m a creator and I love to bring things to life.
What do you think of mentoring for women, is it important especially for women-owned businesses?
Over the years, the society we live in has constantly dragged women to the back of the line and made her feel she’s not enough when she’s the very giver of life here on earth. Women are so powerful, but we live in a world that has been made to feel like it belongs to men. A lot of ladies have been brainwashed into thinking that only men have the capacity to make wealth. This is why it’s important to continuously mentor women in business, especially the young ones just starting out and to make them understand the limitless power in them. I truly wish more women would be supportive of women. It’s truly sad that when you look around, you find out that there isn’t much unity amongst women, but I’m here to change all that in my own capacity as a public figure and celebrity entrepreneur.
Both industries you are presently in are billion dollar industries all over the world. In your opinion, what can Nigeria do to become a major player?
Reduce the taxes paid by businesses in these industries and invest in these industries. Make very low interest loans available and generally just give us a survivable environment to operate in.
Doing what you are presently doing cannot be easy; what are some of the challenges you have faced and how did you pull through?
Getting the right staff, people who share your energy and goals is a challenge. Also, not being able to control certain factors, which are just beyond control, is another challenge. Business can be very frustrating, but the joy of fulfilling someone’s need by giving them good value makes it worth it.
Tell us something that has influenced your life and career positively today?
My past, growing up in extreme poverty, watching my sibling die in front of me due to lack of money to get good healthcare, reading other people’s stories and so on; all these have influenced me positively and made me the woman I am today.
How are you using your voice to help and encourage other women?
Everyone who knows me personally and follows me online knows I have a soft spot for women. A good number of my following online are women who are inspired by me. I try to be there for them when I can and if there’s a cause that needs my voice, I lend my voice to it, by all means.
If you could influence change, what change would you effect for Nigerian women?
I would change the way the average Nigerian woman thinks; how she sees her fellow woman as competition. I would make them know that wealth is not exclusive to men. We women are so powerful but we don’t even know how much power we have and possess.
What does your typical day look like?
My typical day starts with me not wanting to wake up from sleep because I barely sleep for three hours and have a lot of work to do. After I get ready for the day, if I’m working from home, I dive right into work and also monitor my staff. Sometimes I forget to eat till late into the night. I always end my day with prayers and thanksgiving to God Almighty who made and makes everything possible. I usually go to bed by 2:00am or 3:00am, sometimes even 4:00 am.
Wow! So how then do you relax and de-stress? What is your guilty pleasure?
I haven’t had time to do anything for pleasure or leisure in a long while. For now, I just sleep when I can because I’m always working, so I spend time resting my body and mind when I can.
Who and what inspire/drives you?
My past inspires me to work hard. My father inspires me. He’s my biggest cheerleader and supporter. When I have no faith in myself, my father has faith in me and never gives up on me. He tells me that I can do anything if I believe I can.
Tell us what the next five years would look like for you and your brand?
Growth, growth, growth; that’s all that’ll happen. Having more business partners and taking over the world. I’m presently partnering with a Kenya business woman, Nasieku Ellein who’s also the CEO of The Merakii beauty salon and studio and jointly, we’re taking over the East African market. I’m also partnering with the CEO of Adaora Beauty Supply, Los Angeles to take over the US market as well. I have a number of key partnerships that have been executed and more to come. In the next five years, my businesses, my business associates and myself will be regulars on the Forbes List.
What last words do you want to leave with those that have been inspired by you?
Less than two years ago, there were days when all I had on me was just N100, some days I had nothing, but today my story is not close to that. Keep pushing and never give up, always know that nothing is impossible, this I believe is the meaning of Ifu Ennada.
Interview by Tobi Awodipe for Guardian