Ifeoma Adibe-Chukwuka, who took part in the Foundation’s Mentoring programme last year, runs a social impact enterprise in Nigeria producing a line of high quality body care products. In this blog, she reflects on the boost the Mentoring Women in Business programme gave her business and how her distribution model enables her to empower hundreds of other women.
“It takes a village to raise a child” is a proverb that originated from the Nigerian Igbo culture where I come from – “Oran a azu nwa” – which means that it takes an entire community of people to raise a successful child. This proverb holds true for me and describes the significant role Cherie Blair Foundation has played in my life.
Omaness Skinfood is an impact-driven and indigenous beauty company in Nigeria with a mission to create body care products using naturally-active homegrown ingredients that nourishes the skin and enriches the lives of women. It is the first skinfood company in West Africa operating a one-of-a-kind women-powered business model which deliberately engages and enriches women from supply through impact sourcing down to the last mile of distribution by recruiting women to run their own business as independent resellers of our products. I was inspired to start this company two years ago because I believed I could harness our local resources to create a sustainable solution that would help increase the income and enrich the lives of low-income women in Nigeria.
I was first heard about Cherie Blair Foundation Mentoring Programme through a friend in 2018. At the time, I had just founded Omaness Skinfood. My background was in the non-profit sector and I had built up expertise working with low-income women and children for ten years. I felt a desire to venture out, because I realised that the model of charity intervention and offering handouts was not enough to help the women I worked with lift themselves out of poverty.
I saw an opportunity to start packaging and marketing the produce (shea butter, coconut oil, palm kernel oil) of some low-income artisan women and this helped increase the income for the women and their families. However, it was difficult scaling the business because we didn’t have a distribution system in place to reach more customers.
When I got accepted to become a Cherie Blair Foundation Mentee in 2019, I had just come up with a unique distribution model that would recruit women to start their own businesses and distribute our products across the country. I saw this as an opportunity to work on improving the distribution model and increasing awareness for my company.
I was matched with a mentor, Subha Chandrasekaran from India, and over the period of six months, Subha really helped me to get up to par. We started working through different aspects on how to structure our distribution program, how to appeal and recruit women into the program, building our business profile and networking. We were able to work across our different time zones and even through a low moment I had during pregnancy.
When I began the application for our first seed funding from Mastercard Center for Inclusive Growth to scale the Omaness Business of Skinfood Distribution Program for Women, Subha supported me and helped me to evaluate some of the pitch materials I prepared. Her support contributed significantly to helping me secure the funding from Mastercard!
Receiving the grant from Mastercard is a big win for my business because it has enabled us to scale and to support 100 low-income women through our distribution program to start their own business as skinfood merchants. Over the next five years, my target is for Omaness Skinfood to become a natural beauty brand leader in West Africa and scale to enrich the lives of 10,000 women across Nigeria.
Without the resources, support and mentorship I received from Cherie Blair Foundation Mentoring Women in Business Programme, I doubt I would have been able to achieve the accomplishment of securing this grant for my business.
Being able to empower and enrich hundreds of women through my business is a blessing I don’t take for granted. The reason I was motivated to go through the mentoring program in the first place was so that I can be empowered to empower other women.
Looking to the future
Now more than ever I am determined to keep growing, investing in other women and making a huge success out of my business. This is my way of paying forward the support I have received from Cherie Blair Foundation and every member of the community who has invested in my growth.
I would certainly recommend the Mentoring Women in Business programme to any female entrepreneur looking to scale their business. It takes a village to raise a child and I am proud to acknowledge the Cherie Blair Foundation for Women as one of the village that raised me!
Since 2008, we’ve directly supported over 175,000 women to grow and strengthen their businesses, and in turn support their families and communities. Now, our ambitions are growing: our 100,000 Women Campaign, will enable us to reach another 100,000 women by 2022.
Be a business hero! You can be part of this incredible movement by joining the Foundation as a mentor to support a mentee like Ifeoma.
Our world-class Mentoring Women in Business programme matches employees from a partner company’s workforce with woman entrepreneur mentees in low and middle income countries for one year in a mutually-beneficial business development relationship.
This remote, virtual model stands as a bold example of how women business owners can be supported during the current crisis, and how supporting women entrepreneurs can be centred in a post-pandemic economic re-build. Find out more how your company can partner with our Mentoring programme here!