Who leaves the security of a career in Engineering for the uncharted course of hairdressing?
Our girl crush, 23-year-old Chinyere Okoro did.
And because of this decision, she is living her best life, too!
Unarguably one of the most sought-after hair stylists and hair care specialist in the
South Eastern region of Nigeria, Ms. Okoro, also known as the hair engineer, is the Creative Director of THE OLIVE TREE HAIR CLINIC in Enugu.
In just one short year, the Olive Tree Hair Clinic has made a name for itself and is showing no plans of slowing down. The young CEO shares her story with us below.
Read on and be inspired…
tw: Can you share your amazing story with our readers?
CO: Right from high school I had always been a creative (I made bags, clothes, shoes, beads and sold them to about anyone who was willing to buy). Looking back now, I have never been ashamed of my craft, but then none of these things ever seemed like something I would have loved to do for the rest of my life.
If I was asked to make a list of things I would love to do, hair was not even going to make the list. In my 4th year in university, I lost my dad and while I was in school. I used to treat my natural hair myself at the time and a lot of my friends would see my hair and gush about how nice and healthy it looked and would ask if I could help them treat theirs. I saw this as a means to make extra money to support myself then. I was reluctant but I never said no.
I continued with my friends and I kept at it because I noticed I was making a difference. After school, I started giving out hair care tips on my Instagram page and on a BBM Channel I had created at the time. By the end of 2015, I started traveling to make hair it was more like a hair tour, and when I was not on tour I ran a home service or what I jokingly call mobile hair salon. I would have bookings in a particular state and travel there for a week or two and make hair. I usually toured Enugu, Lagos, Port-Harcourt, and Abuja. I started to study about hair, read books on hair; I was and still am obsessed with hair. I just wanted to know how best to care for African hair so that it grew healthy and long. My first store opened on September 14th, 2016. I say first because this is just the beginning.
tw: Did you have any formal training to acquire the skill for Hairdressing?
CO: For hair styling, I never had any formal training. I’ve always been good at making things from shoemaking to dressmaking – all self-taught – and that was the same with hair. Thank God I didn’t have a breakthrough at all those other things I tried because right now, I believe failure is a good thing and an essential ingredient for long-term success. Most hairstyles I come up with, I do the creating. When I’m asleep, I dream of styles; when I’m awake, I’m thinking of styles and very eager and excited to try them out on someone. I am basically a self-taught hairdresser.
tw: Being an entrepreneur has never been easy; starting up usually requires courage. Can you tell us why you decided to take this bold step into the world of being an entrepreneur and why you choose Hair Dressing?
CO: I feel hair dressing is my ministry and calling. It is exactly where God wants me to be. For every client that walks into my salon, it is not just a regular hair appointment; I try to have a connection with them. There are people who just from a hair appointment have opened up to me about situations they were facing and I gave them advice or I just listened and that made all the difference for them.
For most of the things I tried to do, it was a constant struggle almost like I was trying so hard to force it to work out, but hairdressing for me was something that happened seamlessly because it was something God made happen. I wasn’t a professional braider when I started, but I learned on the job and I’m still learning and improving daily. For me getting people to love their hair the way God made it and reduce/eradicate the weave dependency syndrome was what gave me the courage to step out and do hair professionally.
Nothing hurts me more like when I hear a lady say “my hair is ugly please sew in this weave for me”. I also really love to serve people and that keeps me going. One of the things I do really well is to remember something about a client and use it to strike off a conversation on their next appointment. The way their eyes lit up just knowing they are fondly thought of.
tw: How have you fared so far? How has the journey been?
CO: The journey has been good. There have been good times, bad times, ugly times but mostly good times. It has been stressful too, but it is the good type of stress the type of stress you love. I work Tuesday to Sunday; on weekends when people my age are meeting up for drinks and hanging out, I’m at work. We all have to make sacrifices for our dreams and women and hair is something I’m passionate about.
Overall the journey has been great; people have been responsive to our business though most people thought it was a bad idea starting up in the east as opposed to being in Lagos or somewhere that was not Enugu. I personally believe that you attract your most dominant thoughts so if you start a business thinking that a particular location is not good and the business won’t thrive in that location, the business won’t grow because that’s your mindset. Then our thoughts become our reality and we blurt out “I said it”.
tw: Do you ever regret your decision to become an entrepreneur?
CO: I’m happy I am doing this. I don’t have regrets in my life. If I fail I pick my lessons and move on.
tw: What is your favorite part of being an entrepreneur?
CO: It is the ability to inspire others to do same. A lot of people have dreams, visions, and goals but they never start up. So for me, being an entrepreneur is a gift to inspire as many as I can on my life’s journey and let people know that their dreams are valid. It doesn’t matter how old you are or when you start; you can do it. It’s never too early or too late to start. I can’t count the number of people who come to meet me to help them plan or navigate their business ideas.
tw: What is the worst part of being an entrepreneur?
CO: I won’t really say it’s the worst part but maybe the hardest part. It would be starting up and having to be everything for the business (I won’t say it’s the worst part, but maybe the hardest part.) My business is just a year old officially and I find that getting the right kind of staff is a challenge. I have people working for me currently but most times people want to learn your skill and just leave. They don’t have staying power. I’m really working on proper staffing; as a startup I believe that I would not have succeeded in setting the right tone for the future (when we have grown to having a Human Resource department) if I cannot get this right from the beginning. Human Resources would be the hard part because I believe having more skilled staff would mean being able to have more clients which translate to more work and then more growth and business expansion. Right now, we turn down clients because we don’t have capacity to cater for them all.
tw: What do you think about work ethics and what kind of ethics do you believe in following while working?
CO: First of all, it is not about the money, but it is about the client sitting on our chair. So we need to do what’s best for that client. We’ve had situations where we’ve had to convince clients that their hair needed a break, and we couldn’t go on to make certain styles because their hair was in a state that needed care and healing. Most times clients would even offer to pay double the price if we just ignored the state their hair was currently in and go ahead but we’d politely decline in the client’s best interest. We are big on excellence – excellent customer service, love, and care for our clients and for one another.
tw: According to you, what are the necessary skills for a successful hairdresser?
CO: You need to have the skill of hairdressing above all else. It’s not just enough to open up shop and have the money to pay salaries; you need to have the skill because human beings will naturally disappoint and you need to be able to step up to the plate if there’s a need.
tw: How do you keep up with the constant evolution of your industry?
CO: I’m big on education. I could be the best stylist in the southeast but if I decide to relax and not acquire more knowledge then I’d be left behind. I’m always willing to learn. I have mentors in the beauty industry and I’m willing to listen to my mentors and travel to different states to find out what’s new and trendy. The sky is big enough for everybody but not everybody flies at the same level. It is very important to make sure I’m always on top of my game and ‘education’ is the way.
tw: What are your greatest strengths and weaknesses?
CO: Our strength does not just lie in making ladies gorgeous with outstanding hairstyles but most importantly getting women to love their hair in its most natural state. Nothing makes me happier than having that one client that comes in thinking their hair is the worst, and when they spend 1 hour with us, they leave with an understanding of the uniqueness of their hair and learn to appreciate their hair, no matter how bad or difficult to manage they think it is. Customer education is our strongest point. We teach you how to care for your hair, love your hair, and treat your hair like the crown that it is.
Our weaknesses…wow! In all humility, we are on a journey and every day we are learning. We don’t say we have weaknesses; yes we are strong in some areas and constantly evolving in other areas and we are open to learning especially from those who have gone ahead of us in this journey.
tw: Where do you see yourself in ten years?
CO: Hahahaha! Nice one. In 10 years we see Olive Tree Hair Clinic in every state in the Southeast and most parts of Nigeria, have braiding centers with over 200+ braiders/stylists. The Olive Tree Hair Clinic will become a platform that empowers women to be more and supports them to build a career in the hair industry. We also look forward to having a training school that teaches both healthy hair practices and the business of hair to anyone who wants to start a career in the hair industry.
tw: Can you give a practical advice to women who may be looking to take a bold step in their career?
CO: Just do it! You can have analysis paralysis all you want but the truth is you have to do it. Before you do it, count the cost, prepare yourself mentally, emotionally and spiritually for the journey; have it at the back of your mind that you’re ONLY allowed to quit if it becomes so obvious it is a futile venture because this is not something you are doing for yourself but for the people lives that are going to be transformed through you. There are people whose lives would be changed simply because they met you doing what you do. Everyone was made for a purpose (Colossians 1:16 – everything was made through him, for him and by him.)
So you have to find out what that purpose is and just do it!
Follow Chinyere on Instagram @olivetreehairclinic for more inspiration.