In this interview with TNC, the Chief Executive Officer of Yele Natural, Sarah Traore, a citizen of Burkina Faso who is resident in Nigeria, shared some insights on the importance of skincare, why she chose this line of business and also offered tips to those aspiring to young entrepreneurs.
TNC: First, let me congratulate you on your “Yele Natural” Business. We all know it is not easy to set up a business and run it successfully. Can you please tell us a little bit about yourself, your personal life, and your company?
Sarah: I am Sarah Traore, Chief Executive Officer of Yele Natural. I am from Burkina Faso and I am married with two children. My skincare passion came a lot from traveling and also since I was a kid I always like to smell nice and play with flowers and also take a lot of tea especially lemongrass. I enjoy fragrance and that makes me feel good. And when I travel abroad also, I go to shops that sell natural things. I am often inspired to infuse them into my skincare business. I have over ten years of experience in Natural skincare and hair products. The difference between Yele Natural and other products is that we emphasize a lot on producing organic products that will nourish your skin, I mean products that are free from harsh chemicals – we know that chemicals are not skin-friendly so we try to work with raw materials that can deliver the best to your skin. Moreover, we emphasize also on your well-being. All our products are enriched with essential oil and let you feel good because we have understood that it is when you feel good that your skin will start to look better because your inner self will come out and make you feel glorious and your skin will look very attractive.
TNC: So why did you choose to come to Nigeria? How long have you been here and how has been your stay?
Sarah: I came to Nigeria as a French instructor through my company Français Direct Consultancy which offers language services to private and international companies in Nigeria. I have been here for over five years. Nigeria is a nice place; my activities have been most professional. I have learned a lot here and I have improved my English and I have discovered so many cultures and networking. Nigeria is a good place to be because it is a nice place to grow and also get inspired. It opens your mind.
TNC: Why did you choose to pursue a skincare business? How is skincare important? How long have you been into skincare? How has it been so far? Tell us about the company’s growth trajectory, including the number of employees.
Sarah: It is a passion for me. I love taking care of myself. I love seeing my skin radiant and healthy and that is what pushed me to the skincare business. I have noticed that my wellness and happiness is related to how I feel about myself and skincare contributes to that. I have been in this business for over ten years. Skincare is important because of wellness. Everybody has that thing that makes them feel well. For me and for most people in skincare, when you rub a cream that moisturizes your skin, it protects the skin against rashes and so many diseases even bacteria so that is why it is important to be applying your natural skincare very well. Skincare is directly proportional to wellness and wellbeing. The business is very tough especially when you are starting a small business and you have to provide for everything because you don’t have the means to employ enough people. Friends and recommendations have been our support and so far the growth has been good and people are getting to know us, they love our products, we are getting a lot of recommendations and we are saying thank you to all our customers. We are five including myself. The target is to launch our brand in all African countries. The company has grown well because now we have a website.
TNC: How did Covid-19 impact your business?
Sarah: Like most businesses, we are really affected by covid-19. We used to do open doors for our customers to come in to buy our products but we have not been able to do that for almost a year now. It has incredibly affected our business. And when it is time to ship in our products, it is not easy to get raw materials.
TNC: Please tell us about what keeps you motivated and focused on the business – despite the inevitable odds that anyone or any business faces along the way. What are the peculiar challenges you face in your business especially in the area of skincare? How do you connect with difficult clients?
Sarah: It is passion and also the urge to always give more. I always listen to the needs of my customers and I always have that wish of satisfying them. They have a beauty target and my goal is to help them achieve it– it is actually the challenge that keeps me in. Even though it is very hard, I love it. Getting resources is not easy. I am very patient and quiet so I really manage to understand them and know that they are paying for the services, they are expecting a kind of approach so I try to listen to them more and also to see ways to respond to them because everybody has their personal language in which they want to be addressed. But clients are never difficult, there is always a way to communicate with them and give them your best services.
TNC: Do you enjoy socializing with customers?
Sarah: I socialize but not so much because you have to keep a professional level at some point. At some point too you need to socialize because when you do, they trust you more and that goes a long way.
TNC: Please tell us of a typical day in your life as a business owner: the time you wake up, get to your office, the challenges you typically face, including with clients and employees, what puts smiles on your face on a typical day to the time you retire to your bed for the day.
Sarah: Wow! My day starts very early, around 5 am. I prepare breakfast, take the kids to school and go to my gym if I can and I will be reaching the office by 9. Mostly, 9 am is production time. I read my emails and respond to our social media comments. I oversee the production chain, check our orders. What mostly brings smiles on my face is when I make a beautiful soap or I get a beautiful review from a product or a cream that has been made is so gorgeous that all the staff are saying this cream is looking so beautiful. It is the outcome of the work that gives me smiles.
TNC: What are some of the glorious moments of the business? What is the most rewarding part of being an entrepreneur?
Sarah: The most glorious period was before the lockdown when we used to go-to firms and meet our customers and sell live. They were testing our products and buying on the spot. I miss those periods because customers could see you and relate with you and really embrace your brand which is lovely. What is rewarding about being an entrepreneur is creativity. The freedom to create, invent and that is what I love most about being an entrepreneur.
TNC: Do you have any tips for those aspiring to take this line of business?
Sarah: This business is really not easy. Sometimes I tell myself that if I knew it would be that hard I wouldn’t come in. Every day I discover that there is a long way to go and it is very tough. It shouldn’t be a hobby for anyone interested in this line of business.
TNC: Where do you think your company will be in the next five years? What advice can you offer aspiring entrepreneurs?
Sarah: In the next five years, we hope to be more known in Africa. We want to be able to penetrate more markets in Africa and be a leading brand. We want to be a household brand and we are working assiduously to achieve this. We are putting a lot of effort and commitment into this business and hope that very soon, Yele Natural will be a leading brand across Africa.
TNC: Where can people get your product?
Sarah: We are mostly online. We are not operating offline for now and we have distributors where you can pick our products. We are online on our website and also on Facebook, Whatsapp, Instagram. If you search for Yele Natural, you will find us online.