After getting 1st Class at UNILAG, Lagos businessman sets up barbing salon despite Covid-19 - Paul Ukpabio's Blog


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Monday, 27 July 2020

After getting 1st Class at UNILAG, Lagos businessman sets up barbing salon despite Covid-19

Olorogun Elkanah Mowarin made his millions many years ago when he set up the EOM Business network, which has been a long standing success.

Mowarin who is the current President of the Independent Television and Radio Producers Association of Nigeria, later went back to school to study Mass Communication at the University of Lagos, where he obtained a first class degree.

The celebrated Delta state High Chief has just set up an exclusive barbing salon in the middle of covid-19. He told Paul Ukpabio why 'Style Next' is heading for success despite the pandemic.

Why ‘Style Next’ a salon at this point in time that there’s covid-19 in town? Business has rather turned downward in most places or filled with skepticism. But here you are, jumping into a new brand, what are you trying to tell us?

The reality of it all is that covid-19 cannot be contested. The virus is real. It is fatal. It has affected nations, economies, businesses all over the world; individuals have died and so on. So the place of covid-19 is established. It is incontrovertible, there’s no argument around it. Be that as it may, smart and strategic entrepreneurs business managers must be proactive and continue to look ahead because there will definitely be life beyond covid-19 so we are not going to wait till that last second when we say okay Nigeria is free of covid-19 or the world is free of covid-19 before we begin to put in place the necessary machinery for new business or keep old businesses. As long as the World Health Organization is beginning to relax safety measures to counter covid-19, economies are beginning to open up albeit slowly. America is going back to business, Europe is going back to business, Africa cannot be left behind and all that. The virus is still very much out there, but we must equally, pro-actively position equally.

But, how about our peculiar environment?

Well, here in Nigeria, the government has relaxed the lockdown at least to some extent, though there are still some conditions here and there. So what 'style next' Barbing salon is all about is basically positioning. We are putting in place state of the art barbing facilities a conducive environment that is also taking into cognizance, covid-19, offering an environment that is friendly and healthy. So regardless of the virus, we are putting in place a necessary measure that ensures that our clients are safe when they come in to us.

What is 'style next'?

It is actually not a new brand. It was opened ten years ago, but we had to slow down. At that time, it was a unisex salon for male and female and it was mainly for barbing, nail fixing and so on. But this time around, it is 'style next' barbing salon an exclusive male solution provider, to take care of cutting of hair, manicure, pedicure for men, and other related things as far as making men look good is concern. There is also provision for the ladies because they cut hair too. But we are not doing fixing of hair, attachment and so on but just hair cut for the female. There are ladies that do curls on their hair, pedicure and manicure and so on. Basically, style next barbing salon is an exquisite salon to take care of the men and women with related concerns.

You just mentioned that 'style next' is exclusive. Please tell us how exclusive?

Obviously, style next is for the A-list in the society. Definitely it is an high-end salon. It is very high class. It has room for the highbrow, elites, noveau richie, the senators, the house of reps members, the governors and so on. We also have room for the middle class, these are our targets, the high profile personalities that are looking for an exclusive, convenient, safe, healthy, friendly and professional environment to give themselves a haircut.

How about your location?

We are operating from 18 Eric Moore Road, with all the facilities in place.

It only takes a rich man to put that kind of business on ground

We are humble. We give all the glory to God. The reality is that it has been long coming. We have been around for a while too. I have been in business for more than thirty years, and that’s quite a time. And I’m bringing my entrepreneurial experience to bear on this. It is also pertinent to put on record that I was once a barber. I did cutting of hair plenty years ago, I had a salon on Old Ojo road. Yeah I was much, much younger probably in my early 20s. Having that in mind, what we are doing now is a long way different from what we have on ground now. But I am also still bringing to bear that commitment, that professionalism, that quality, that style, that finesses and creating the right environment is very important. Most people look out for the environment before they move in there to do anything.

In what way is 'Style Next' a reflection of you?

Yeah, it is a reflection of my person. The reality of it is that I like being clean and being stylish. The Nigerian media has been friendly to me all these years. They call me 'EOM big boy' or 'Fashionista!' Really, for me, I just like being stylish.

You had a first class from the University of Lagos...

Yes, the reality is that I graduated from the University of Lagos with a First Class in Mass Communication which is about communication, it is about transferring information from one end to another. It is about sending a message. A salon too is an arm of communication like people say, looking good is good business and you also hear people say, the way you dress, is the way you want to be addressed. So the way you look will communicate a lot about you to the people that you come across. So to a very large extent, m there is a lot of correlation between communication and a salon. In Unilag, a major part of my course was entrepreneurial studies. We were also taught entrepreneurial skills which also prepared on how to handle business. As a matter of fact, mass communication is all embedded. A mass communicator is an entrepreneur. A mass communicator can run any business.

With this business, when are you targeting to start reaping profits considering the times that we are in now?

Business is life and just like any other business, there is going to be the gestation period but of course there’s going to be growth and then returns and then positioning. We are not pushing a business that s looking at overnight profits. We are looking at a business that will penetrate the appeal of or target audience and we believe that if we can get our targeted people to come, the business will go into auto pilot. We are not in a hurry to make profit, we are not desperate. We are professional entrepreneurs and adequate research has been put into this to take care of the first year of the business and so on. It’s a long haul that we are looking at.

You have been in business for long, what does it take to stay up there for so long?

The reality of it all is that doing business in Nigeria and surviving or succeeding is not a text book matter. It has to do with the individual business person. In Nigeria it is not out of place to hear that a bank has gone under or a company in oil and gas sector of the economy has gone under or struggling and you also hear of a small scale company crashing. So Nigeria is a peculiar environment. But fundamentally for every business there must be a vision what you intend to achieve with the business and the major element of doing business in Nigeria is patience. You must persevere because to a large extent, it is friendly and at the same time unfriendly. It is seemingly challenging and can be frustrating. We are faced with all manner of government policy somersaults so it can be very challenging. For instant a major component of business all over the world is electricity and Nigeria is not the best place as far as electricity is concerned. So here you have a situation where you have to be a country to yourself to be a successful entrepreneur. You have to supply yourself electricity, water, create your market, build the roads leading to your workplace, and it is quite turbulent operating business in Nigeria. The tax [policies are not friendly. But be that as it may, once you have a purpose, vision, you are hardworking, resilient, focus, committed and never say no then you will stay there. Those are the things that have kept me going all these years. They were days that I almost closed shop and call it quits. But that staying power kept me going: The Nigerian factor that stands up to any factor regardless, kept me going. Winners never quit and quitters never win.

You hit limelight with television, are you still in that business?

Yes, I’m still the current President of Independent Television and Radio Producers Association of Nigeria, the national chapter and we have our programme EOM Business Network that has been running on television for close to 30 years. We started with NTA, moved to TV Continental and now we have it online too. It is the longest running independently produced business programme in Nigeria. And it is authoritative and most consistent.

You have watched companies come and go on the stock exchange market. What can you say about success?

Success is not a textbook element. You can apply some of the empirical, tested solutions as far as business is concerned but the reality of it is that the environment is important. I have watched so many businesses come and go and a lot are managed by smart CEO’s but they go under because they can wake up one morning and the government has closed the border with no definite date to re-open it. No warning! The government all over the world creates an enabling business environment with adequate regulatory policies allowing entrepreneurs to move in and excel. Right now the government is doing well with the view of anti-corruption but whether it is doing it in the right direction I don’t know. Right now everywhere is enveloped with fear. EFCC is chasing everybody. It is now on record that the Nigerian economy is going into another recession. It just came out of one recession, and no thanks to covid-19, it is going into another. But beyond covid-19, the government must create the right environment. Leadership too has much to do about critical thinking.

Three years ago, you were celebrated with the chieftaincy title of Olorogun in Delta state, meaning a High Chief, have you been able to capture that style of life and what has it meant to you three years down the line?

Olorogun Elkanah Mowarin is a title, an office in Agbarho kingdom in Delta state by that office I am supposed to complement the administrative profile of the king, an adviser of sort to the king. It was something that came to me as a pleasant surprise, over the years, I have been working and doing my thing in a corner, little did I know that I was being watched by my people. I got a message from my king that the kingdom had been watching as I supported children education, building roads in Agbarho kingdom, building schools and they thought it necessary to honour me. It was humbling and gratifying and it has also brought a greater challenge of visiting the palace from time to time, getting more and more involved to do new things for the kingdom, for Delta state and do more for humanity as a whole.  The experience as Olorogun, a High Chief, has been quite interesting because there is nothing as fulfilling as being documented as connecting with humanity. I live for humanity.

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