When Esiri Ukueku-Uduaghan launched a skincare business from her home in Lagos, Nigeria, she had no idea that she would quickly gain a massive international customer base. Just three years later, Tjaimi Essentials products can be found in more than 10 countries around the world.
“Personal skin care means a great deal to me and for people around me,” Esiri tells me via WhatsApp voice note. In the past, she battled acne and countless breakouts, and just wanted to see her skin heal and clear up. She went on an extensive research journey for products and skincare pointers which would help her struggling skin. After trying a number of dermatologically tested products that proved unsuccessful, she put some skincare solutions together that actually worked, all from natural resources and herbs. This phase of her life defined her path into skincare and helped form her career.
“I can relate with my customers and understand their experiences. The passion drives me to find solutions. Even when they’re not within my product line, I still go the extra mile to make sure that I find a solution that would work for a particular skin type,” she says. With every solution she finds, Esiri creates a new product. This is what keeps her skincare line going.
Speaking from Experience
Long before modern creams were introduced to African countries, there were a number of natural skin remedies that Nigerians and other Africans alike used to treat and maintain their skin. These resources are the backbone of Esiri’s brand – from essentials like shea butter, tea tree oil, and coconut oil, to native plant herbs like aloe vera and peppermint.
Because Esiri found her own personal skincare solution using plant extracts and organic powders, she knew these would become the foundation for her products and brand. Esiri tells me that her brand doesn’t thrive on the use of harsh chemicals but instead, she invests in mild, natural resources.
Tjaimi Essentials also focuses strongly on a skincare regimen, not just individual products. Esiri strives to educate her clients about the root causes of skincare issues “Results go beyond just products. It also matters what you ingest and that’s why we encourage our customers to take a lot of water and fruits,” Esiri says.
Ensuring Quality & Consistency
Esiri also aims to maintain her customers’ trust, and to balance their needs with the needs of her business. Even though Nigeria’s present inflation and unforgiving exchange rates have affected her income, she still guarantees her customers affordability to the maximum extent possible.
“One way of keeping my prize steady for a long period of time is by buying in bulk. If I buy my materials in bulk, I know that I can use that for a long period of time and make a substantial amount of profit from it,” Esiri tells me. Her longtime customers expect consistency, so even as Esiri’s own costs increase, the quality of her products never wavers.
“At the end of the day, if the customers really appreciate the quality of the products that you’re selling to them it’s a big win,” she says. However, in unavoidable situations, Esiri increases the price upfront, although within reasonable measure and tries to make her customers understand the connection between cost and quality.
“Once you can get them to see it from your angle, in my experience, they tend to be willing to pay. They are not too worried about the cost and they’d pay because it is meeting their needs.”
On Working as a Single Mom
As a single mother of two boys, running a home-based business is incredibly taxing for Esiri. Asides the intense hard work required, single mothers are one of the most stigmatized and discriminated-against groups in Nigeria, following a long trail of patriarchal ideologies prevalent in the society. Esiri has been able to find a balance between running her business and family while making time for her rest.
“One thing that works for me is to ensure that I run my business out of my personal home,” Esiri says. “When my working space became really small, I rented a bigger apartment and created a workstation area away from my living area, but they are both in the same place. It allows me to be a mom and a business woman.”