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Oluwakemi, a Nigerian entrepreneur, was shocked when she learnt that one in ten women in Nigeria bleach their skin, often subconsciously, with the products they use. Insect bites can cause long-lasting scars which leads the population to using such damaging products. Oluwakemi felt strongly that she wanted to provide a safe alternative for Nigerian women, so developed a formulation for a moisturizing insect repellent. The product can be used to both soothe the skin and as a substitute for mosquito nets. After having developed this product, Oluwakemi launched her business, Crystal Skin Ventures Ltd, in 2014.

 

When Oluwakemi joined the Mentoring Women in Business Programme in May 2016 she had alreadyopened two skin treatment centres, but found it challenging to manage the company’s operations, both in terms of developing her employees and obtaining funding to grow her business. Oluwakemi was matched with Charu, a Managing Director at Bank of America, based in the United States. Charu’s diverse experience in business planning and growth meant she was a fantastic match to support Oluwakemi in reaching the next level with her business. Charu noted that the match was “perfect” and the pair zeroed in on Oluwakemi’s challenges.

 

Prior to their partnership Oluwakemi hadn’t recorded any financial information so Charu guided her in introducing sales charts, cash flow books and an inventory logbook. With a better understanding of how to track her income and expenses, Oluwakemi was able to create a budget and work with an auditor to ensure her accounts were in order. In addition to this they revised Oluwakemi’s business plan and once this was ready to share, Oluwakemi practiced her pitch in preparation for submitting funding applications to investors.

Turning their attention to employee development, Charu and Oluwakemi organised an in-house training session to build business knowledge to ensure consistent and high-quality services across company branches. Charu also supported Oluwakemi to introduce a reporting system for her staff, so even if she was away, she was still aware of the activity at both branches.

As a result of this hard work, Oluwakemi’s business has grown substantially and she feels much more confident in herself as a leader. In the first 12 months of working with Charu, Oluwakemi’s profits increased by 54%. She also successfully secured investment, enabling her to open a new branch in Lagos and hire seven new employees, including an account manager to maintain the financial processes she introduced. As Oluwakemi is now able to spend more time away from the office, she is working to increase the company’s profile and raise awareness of skin bleaching and the importance of skin care. Featured on a number of radio and television shows across the country, and through visiting local schools, Oluwakemi has become a known voice for healthy skin, and for women’s empowerment.

Oluwakemi said, “Charu is an awesome mentor. I’m very fortunate to have someone who has genuine interest in my personal and business growth. Being a mentee of the Cherie Blair Foundation for Women is indeed the best thing that has happened to me in recent years.”

Charu loved how Oluwakemi was extremely open and receptive to ideas saying,“It was great to see tangible results from our mentoring sessions. Oluwakemi leads with more confidence now and has learnt that the key skill when managing others is patience.”

Emphasising the two-way approach to mentoring, Charu also described the benefit of being a mentor. She said, “Working with Kemi and the Cherie Blair Foundation for Women has been an extremely rewarding experience. Not only was it thrilling to see Kemi’s business grow, the experience made me a better manager and mentor at Bank of America as I learned valuable lessons in patience and developing an understanding of the many challenges others face.”

Having developed a strong friendship and eager to keep up the momentum, Oluwakemi and Charu continued on for a second year in the programme together. They graduated in June 2018 and Oluwakemi’s determination for Charu to see her succeed with Crystal Skin Ventures Ltd., continues to motivate her. Looking forwards, she aims to certify her product and launch it across international markets.

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