BathKandy founded in 2014 is an environmentally friendly, skin loving, beauty preserving, artisan bath and body company.
BathKandy creates sumptuous dessert inspired beauty treats, utilizing unconventional raw materials such as garri and chocolate, infused into beauty and skincare products.
Blondie Okpuzor, the CEO of BathKandy graduated with a B.Sc. in Business Management and Sociology from Stony Brook University, New York. She struggled with allergies from using skin care products off the shelves. Ms Okpuzor in a bid to alleviate her skin care challenges started BathKandy. She started making her own products which she soon began to sell as people noticed improvements in her skin.
Over the years, BathKandy has collaborated with other entrepreneurs such as Lola OJ, Nicole Chikwe and a few others.
In this exclusive interview with Blondie Okpuzor, she opened up on the idea behind the BathKandy dessert inspired skin care products; her inspirations; the challenges of being in the skin care industry in Nigeria; bleaching; and ended with an advice for younger entrepreneurs. I’m sure you will enjoy.
VUN: Talk briefly about your background and how you got into the skin care industry?
Blondie: I have always worked in corporate environments with a background in marketing and a love for entrepreneurship. So, I always knew I would end up working for myself, but I just didn’t know what I would end up doing. BathKandy started as a result of a personal struggle with allergies and me not being able to use products I found on the shelves. So, I had to find ways to alleviate my own suffering which is why it is very personal to me. When people started to notice the significant improvements in my skin and were willing to pay for the products I was making without me even pushing it to them, I felt it was worth exploring this route as a business.
VUN: Why dessert inspired skin care products?
Blondie: Well, first of all, I am a major foodie – a true food connoisseur. When I decided to create a business out of my misfortune as I like to call it, I had to think of a theme to make my company stand out. I didn’t consider myself a great salesperson. So, I needed something that could sell itself without me having to do much talking. Modelling my products after food seemed logical. Every happy gathering shared with people you love almost always has food as a unifying factor. Food brings people together. Coupled with the fact that a huge contributor to my allergies were ingredients in desserts which I loved but could no longer have. So, I decided to model my products to look and smell like desserts.
VUN: Asides from food which seems to be your major source of inspiration, what else inspires you?
Blondie: I believe the work I do is a gift God has given me. BathKandy was never planned, but I have developed my gifts overtime and inspiration can come from anywhere. I wake up with an idea or an idea just drops in my mind and I run with it. I am inspired a lot by what I see and read and my travels. But my truest inspirations are from God. He gives me a lot of direction. Let’s just say Jesus is my mentor (laughs).
VUN: How were you able to convince people to patronise BathKandy’s range of products made from foodstuff?
Blondie: This was pretty easy because people were already intrigued by the way the products looked and smelled. So, all I had to do was educate them on the benefits of the ingredients. It also helped that when I started, my very first clients saw my struggle with my skin but they also saw the improvements and so they followed my journey. We’ve also built a very solid and trustworthy brand where our products do what they say they would and I think people appreciate our honest approach to business. If our products won’t help you, we will tell you and refer you to places you can get real help.
VUN: From what you have learnt from the experience so far, what do you wish you knew before you started?
Blondie: *laughs* I wish I was warned about how hard it is to run a business in Nigeria. The constant mental and physical battle it takes to sometimes, get out of bed in the morning knowing the troubles that await you. I wish I knew how hard you have to work to get people to spend their hard earned money. Having a great product is never enough, you have to offer so much more value.
VUN: What are the challenges of being in your industry and how do you overcome them?
Blondie: The greatest challenge I have faced and still face to this day is human capital. Many people say we have an employment problem, but I say we have an unemployability problem. People are not ready to work and do not know what and how to function and thrive in a corporate environment. A large population of the Nigerian youths just want fast money but are not willing to climb the ladder of success. This mentality causes a lot of problems because you spend valuable time training employees who would not stay, thereby wasting company’s resources and sometimes leaving you in very dire situations.
Giving up however was never, and is still not an option for me. So, I keep pushing. Failure and hardships are part of the process so we sieve through the lessons and grow.
I have been given a gift to share with the world and with that comes a tremendous amount of responsibility, so the best I can do is focus on doing what I can and asking for the grace to take me where I am limited.
VUN: A lot of people see the Made in Nigeria brands as being inferior. How has this mindset affected the BathKandy brand?
Blondie: It is a constant struggle but a lot of people also see the quality and recognize it! One of the greatest lessons I’ve learned is that not every customer is your customer. So, the onus is on you to prove to your customer base that your value offering is superior. Everything has to align, your approach, your branding, the customer experience, the products, the after sales experience, everything. I do not compromise on quality and our total value proposition tells a single story of quality and class. Customers who fail to see value in what we offer, unfortunately, may not be our target market. And that’s okay.
VUN: What can be done to change this mindset especially now that Nigeria brands are beginning to get much visibility with their various ranges of quality products?
Blondie: Saying what you mean and meaning what you say. Part of the problem is, a value provider advertises one thing and the customer experience falls short – woefully short. You really must set yourself apart from the rest and offer value. When approaching a customer with this mindset, the product is only part of the problem, you must change the mindset of this customer by going above and beyond, and consistently delivering value and quality. Consistency, patience and persistence are the key factors here.
VUN: In Nigeria today, a lot of people, women especially seem to be bleaching (or what they’d call toning). This has also increased the number of local brands that aim to meet the needs of this set of people. A lot of arguments have been ongoing about how healthy or not it is to bleach. Can you give an expert opinion on this?
Blondie: There is a lot of research to support the harmful effects of skin bleaching. Some of which are not limited to liver and kidney damage and worse, skin cancer. It is not healthy to bleach your skin except in certain conditions, under expert medical care, skin bleaching topical creams may be administered in the right dose for a short amount of time. The shocker isn’t so much the skin bleaching but the organic skin bleaching claims and the equally ignorant consumers who should know better or research before putting things on their skin. But to each his or her own. The statistics, reviews and data are out there for anyone who is interested.
VUN: BathKandy has collaborated with entrepreneurs like Lola OJ and Nicole Chikwe. What informs your choice of people to collaborate with?
Blondie: For collaboration to be successful, you must know what you want out of it. With the various collaborations we’ve done, we look out for areas of synergy that would take us closer to our goal. For instance, if you want to break into the college student market, it only makes sense to collaborate with someone who has that market and can positively influence buying decisions.
VUN: BathKandy is one of the few Nigeria brands that have gone green, you go as far as encouraging clients to come for a refill instead of making more containers and encouraging recycling. What specific impacts does this have on the BathKandy brand?
Blondie: When you make a decision to make products that are natural and as close to the earth as possible, then you have to go all the way. It is not a fad or a gimmick but we genuinely care about the environment, our carbon footprint and the impact of our operations on the environment in which we operate in. This governs the way we do business, the raw materials we choose to use and how we choose to dispose of our waste. We know the long term impact our operations will have on our environment and since this is an organization we know will outlive us, we are determined to ensure that we leave a good example for the future.
VUN: Advice to younger entrepreneurs.
Blondie: Invest in yourself, be authentic and be true to yourself and your customers. Know your industry and know your business. Document everything, put processes and structures in place such that it leaves no room for interpretation. Finally, keep your head up. It’s not easy but it does get better.