Ogechukwu Marycynthia, the graduate of Public Administration from Godfrey Okoye University, Enugu is the brain behind Marycynthia’s Concept. She makes Pearls organic soaps that clear pimples and spots; Pearls laundry soaps; Pearls balm and Pearls petroleum jelly. She had wanted to be a teacher but had fallen in love with soap making after making her own soaps to clear pimples from her face. The employer of two part-time staff identifies as a bitter feminist. In this interview, we discussed her sojourn into soap making and the challenges she has faced ever since she started her self-named brand, Marycynthia’s Concept. I’m sure you would enjoy this.
VUN: So, what inspired Pearl Soap?
Ogechukwu: I was used to having pimples, that very annoying kind of pimples. In the bid to find a solution after trying out virtually everything that was recommended. I began my own research and eventually found out about honey, aloe-vera, turmeric and milk. I read somewhere about using a soap that is rich in all these. I began to search for a place where I can learn how to make bathing soap. Before then, I already knew how to make laundry soaps. I eventually found someone who taught me, I made my soap and started to use it. Wow! It worked, the pimples began to clear gradually until there were no traces of it. My face change advertised my soap and I began to make organic soaps. I loved the fact that I’m able to produce what I use and even sell them. After NYSC, I thought about going into soap making full time, I did. I started getting orders and was making a little cash out of it. I wanted more and so I decided to dust my tutorial books, I began producing both laundry and bathing soaps. It has been great. So, do I say the quest for money and love for soap production inspired Pearls soap? Yes!!!
VUN: So, before you began soap production. What were you planning to do after graduation and service?
Ogechukwu: I love teaching. I wanted to go into that field. I even submitted my CV to two schools then. I applied to be a graduate assistant.
VUN: So, do you still plan on teaching?
Ogechukwu: No, I don’t.
VUN: Is that how successful the soap business has grown?
Ogechukwu: Well, we are still nursing it and to achieve a greater height, it needs my attention. Sometimes I get orders that tie me down for a whole week, and sometimes for two weeks.
VUN: From the period you have run your business, what have you learnt that you wish you knew all along?
Ogechukwu: Marketing. I was used to thinking businesses that entail production is all about sitting in a place to produce; while people just come and buy. I only learnt on the job. After my first month, I sat to pin down the names of people that patronized me outside Facebook. I noticed I was lagging behind, I sort for a solution and learnt that I needed a good marketing strategy. I began to do my little best and it has been paying.
VUN: How does the feedbacks make you feel?
Ogechukwu: I feel good most times. I want to top the market someday and I can only do that by getting people to criticize and offer suggestions. With their suggestions, I improve. For example, Pearls soap used to come in 4 different colours: white, blue, yellow and pink. I started getting negative comments about the blue and yellow. Then, a lot of people go for the pink. According to some, it’s unique, you don’t find many good soaps in that colour; unlike the yellow and blue ones. It landed me on producing just 2 colours.
VUN: Asides from not understanding marketing, what other challenges have you faced so far?
Ogechukwu: Finance. Then, sometimes I get orders but because of the time, it’s going to take me to deliver I lose.
VUN: That must really hurt. How do you hope to handle the finance issue cos you can’t continue to lose?
Ogechukwu: I am working on it. I get contacted by people who want to invest in my business but I am more interested in those who would want to take both the marketing aspect of the business and investing. That’s my major concern.
VUN: Don’t you think with more money pumped into the business, you can employ people to do the marketing?
Ogechukwu: Yes, I do know this; but, like I said before I want to give production all my attention. I need an active partner. Someone who would not only invest money but also time to oversee the success of the business, especially in the sales aspect.
VUN: A lot of people believe that Made in Nigeria products are inferior, has that mentality affected you anyhow?
Ogechukwu: Of course it does. Especially in my organic soap business.
VUN: What do you think should be done to correct this impression as it tends to affect almost every business?
Ogechukwu: I think as entrepreneurs, we should keep doing our best, proving them wrong. Work on packaging, people value products with good package and then improve quality too.
VUN: As you have discovered that funding could be a challenge for entrepreneurs. Do you have any suggestions on how to improve the situation for entrepreneurs?
Ogechukwu: Asides from bank loan which is not an option as far as I am concerned, the next option is a partnership. One thing I’ve noticed about people showing interest in investing in a business is the quality of your product. A person shows interest in partnering when he has used your product and is convinced it’s worth taking the risk for. So, I think we should work more on the quality of our products, with this getting investor becomes easy.
VUN: What plans do you have for your brand in the next five years.
Ogechukwu: That by then, I’d have distributors in all the 36 states of Nigeria; have a physical factory location, have a machine and do mega-productions.
VUN: Who are your role models?
Ogechukwu: Every independent woman out there that Is doing great for herself is my role model. I get my inspiration from all of them.
VUN: You identify as a bitter feminist. What does that mean?
Ogechukwu: *laughs* In the heat of almost every argument concerning gender equality (feminism), you always have anti-feminists address us as bitter people who are retirees of toxic relationships. I decided to wear the tag already so that they see it doesn’t get to me at all.
VUN: That’s funny, but it does make a lot of sense.
Ogechukwu: Yeah. It does.
VUN: What advice would you give to other budding entrepreneurs?
Ogechukwu: Setting up a business normally isn’t easy, let alone doing such in a country that has little or no plans and encouragement in stock for her young entrepreneurs. The focus should be on your dreams, set targets for yourself. Persist even when you’ve not counted the complete letters of the word “success”. They drop one after the other. Keep pushing, once you have a clear dream, allow it to lead you. Don’t allow anyone to discourages you, not even yourself. In the end, we will all succeed.