With an imposing height of well over six feet, the Chief Executive Officer and CEO, of Zee-Dazzle Beauty House and other Zee-Dazzle brand of Skin Care products, Mrs Caroline Ezinne Briggs is no stranger to fame and the spotlight. A former internationally acclaimed basketball star she was one of Nigeria’s brightest young sports export to the world. Today, the glamorous amazon is ”balling” in another kind of spotlight and that is the Beauty/skincare business. In this exclusive interview with THE LEAD Columnist in Port Harcourt, LAWRENCE E. PAUL, she narrates how parental training sowed the seed of greatness in her among other issues. Excerpts…
Can you tell us what best prepared you for life both as an international basketball star and now as a successful entrepreneur?
I was born and raised in a Christian home. My mother, now deceased was a great influence in my life. She was the type of mother who did not allow me to pass through any stage of my life without learning a skill or two. She always told us that we needed to acquire skills because we didn’t know what would happen in the future.
So I spent my after school hours acquiring different skills. These different skills I acquired have been helpful to me today. I apply the knowledge in all I do. So when I ventured into the beauty/skin care business, it was easy for me to stand out. I began the business successfully for several years, before travelling far and wide to acquire knowledge for other brands I own.
How did you get into the beauty/skin care business?
I returned to Nigeria about over a decade ago to coach and give back to the sporting community, which had given me so much exposure and experience. I was intrigued by the fact that so many people kept on commenting and complimenting me on the tone, texture and quality of my skin and demanding to know which skincare products I used. I kept recommending the foreign brands I used to many of them until I discovered that I could create a unique brand of products to suit the needs of the African woman and it was at this point that I realised the power of skincare.
Products and ingredients immediately fascinated me and I attained the requisite training and experience—from how to make my products, to how to manage a team, to how to make the customer’s experience memorable and positive. Now, as a business owner myself, I realise how much my foundations prepared me for where I am right now.
What kinds of products do you sell?
At Zee-dazzle skincare/beauty brand we create naturally formulated organic skin care products. Our target is based on unique and individually distinct needs and skin related issues of our clients and customers. In other words it’s basically made to suit your skin based on what you want to achieve with the products. We have a wide range of Beauty/skincare products, from products which can be used for the very young, which we refer to as children kits, to products with advanced skin healing properties, Zee-Dazzle whitening lotions and soaps and classic skincare and body repair kits. Our products come as lotions, creams, moisturisers, soaps and ointments.
How does Zee-Dazzle beauty/skincare brand do it’s marketing and advertising… and why?
I am a strong advocate of making use of the tool called Social media. Whether it be YouTube, Instagram, Facebook, or Snapchat, I connect with clients all over the country and even internationally and I make sure I own the relationship with the consumer.
I explore the far reaching impact of social commerce, user-generated content, and influencer marketing for my brand and all the signals show that this is where the beauty industry will continue to head. I am looking forward to new digital tools to help in brand advertising and marketing whether it be increasingly sophisticated chatbots or the melding of humans and machine to assist in providing product recommendations and personalised beauty regimes. The goal is to make buying beauty products a conversational and personal experience.
I have discovered that consumers will want to engage with beauty brands and their stories on a much deeper level and through the aid of social media I am able to remain authentic. This is because authenticity is an important key differentiator in the market now. If brands are looking to have a social conscience, then it must be reflected in every part of their business.
Customers value authenticity and trust just as much as the actual product. This is why you can always find customer reviews, before and after pictures and regular updates on all our products on all my social media handles.
What is your opinion about the place of entrepreneurship and white-collar jobs?
As a young girl, my mother had a business she managed. She started with one shop before she expanded to two shops. That was how she kept growing. She ensured that we always learned a hands-on approach to everything. If anybody had told me that I would be feeding from the beauty business, and not just that, but also empowering others through that, I would not have believed it.
The lesson here is that it pays to encourage people to learn a skill even when they are schooling. Going to a proper school is important but people should acquire skills. It is very important because the white-collar job is not for everyone. That is why there are so many graduates even with first-class degrees, looking for who will employ them.
For someone to succeed the person must identify his or her strength and give the best to whatever task that strength require. Young people should acquire skills like fashion designing, technical know-hows and the arts because these are all very broad.
You can be a designer, blogger, fashion marketer, and fashion event planner. There are many opportunities out there. It is important for our girls to learn these hands-on skills so that they can become independent and avoid being a liability to themselves, their spouses, or even society. These are the things I learned from my mother, and they have worked 100 per cent for me.
How do you create skin-modifying products in your brand and still make them very healthy?
When it comes to product features that attract beauty buyers to new brands, natural and clean are what they are drawn to. I discovered that more people were interested in trying new beauty products from me when they are discovered that my materials were natural and 100% organic.
Organic products are 100% made from naturally occurring ingredients with nothing artificial. Clean signifies products that are healthy and free from “bad” ingredients, with nothing artificial added. Creating beauty products to meet these criteria – natural and clean – is a particular drive for me.
So in meeting the need for natural and clean beauty, Zee-Dazzle skincare/Beauty products are a leading brand in that regard.
In your opinion what is more important quality or value for money?
At Zee-Dazzle, it is my opinion that cheap is not always an indicator of good value. Cheap may indicate a poorly constructed or low-grade product that may need to be replaced in a short space of time. Something of better quality that lasts is usually a much better investment.
Also, I understand that if the product is a good one that happens to be at a bit of a high price then it may not really be good value for the customer.
Before buying something or going somewhere, I advice the consumer to always figure out the value to himself/herself before looking at the price/cost. Also remember that the value to you will be different to everyone else.
Another consideration is the service–including the product knowledge, sourcing hard to find goods, ease of getting in and out of the store and even general helpfulness when making your purchase.
Sometimes cheap is good value but you may be prepared to pay a little more for the same product if the service attached to it is of more value to you and makes the purchase easier.
At Zee-Dazzle Skincare/Beauty brand we like to find out what your needs are so you get the best value for money.
We believe in stocking a range of quality products because we know that sometimes a client just need the cheapest product for a specific purpose or time, while other times you need the best product for a skintone that you want to last for years.
A lot of our customers come to us with a budget and diverse skincare needs and our job is to help them find the right quality product for the job within their budget.
What is the best thing about the beauty/skin care business in this part of the world?
Indeed one of the best things about the beauty/skincare business here in Nigeria is that the Nigerian beauty and personal care market is experiencing rapid and dynamic growth, providing lucrative opportunities for beauty businesses from around the region and beyond. The market is currently worth billions of Naira and its value is likely to rise to keep pace, with an increasing number of working women with disposable income as well as sophisticated youth searching for new ways to care for and present themselves.
Strong population growth–particularly of the young, urban, and female populations – means beauty and personal care in Nigeria has plenty of scope for growth, especially in terms of exciting, new products. We can see that the nation’s fast-growing middle class, young people are becoming more westernised through media exposure, and are expected to drive demand higher in the next few years.
Nigeria has become a destination of choice for investment by international companies that aim to seize the opportunities presented by the beauty and personal care markets. This is due to the expected population growth and an impressive positive performance by beauty and care products.
What has been the biggest outcome of being the brain behind Zee-Dazzle beauty brand?
Wow!! I think it must be the constant daily learning process and the ability to affect life positively. As a brand owner, you’re creating an environment where a certain type of culture will thrive. You’re creating fertile ground for your staff to flourish and bear fruit that nourishes opportunity for both the business and the people in the business.
It requires evolving your strategic activity from a traditional business strategy to a dynamic, adaptive world, where strategy making is driving the business forward. Where you become remarkable in your customer’s eyes and their ‘reviews’ draw new customers to your brand of products. One fundamental lesson I have learned is that Understanding the histology of the skin is the most important aspect. Identifying these issues and guiding clients toward the proper solutions is not only fulfilling but can have a huge impact on a client’s life.
I am constantly reading and brainstorming about new and innovative ways to achieve great results with my products and brand. Also, I am not afraid of hard work and sometimes i often work 12-hour days. But if skincare is your true passion, the hard work will be worth it!
Have you won any awards for your products or have you been endorsed by any major beauty brand?
Yes I have. In 2018, I was a recipient of The award of recognition and excellence in the maiden edition of the Women supporting women in Rivers State for the growth of my brand and empowerment of women in the state and also Zee-Dazzle beauty house is one of the official partners of the Eunoia Foundation, which is internationally recognised for its humanitarian works.
Would you say that patronage of your brand/type beauty business is becoming popular culture?
Oh Yes! Yes! Yes!! It’s gradually becoming as popular as Coca-Cola. If my guess is right, you very likely used soap in the shower this morning and applied some hair and body lotion afterwards.
Maybe you didn’t stop there. You probably put some deodorant under your arms and sprayed some perfume on your ready clothes.
For the women, it gets more interesting because they may have used some makeup – lipstick, face powder, mascara, eyeliners and a host of other stuff.
Why do we all do these? The answer is simple: Looking and feeling good is a basic need in our lives and a huge deal in today’s modern society.
The volume of cosmetics (personal care and beauty products) you personally use every year should give you an idea of how popular the skincare/beauty products business is in Africa. More women, especially in the middle class, now have more spending power. Higher education is allowing many middle class women to pursue promising careers (like men) in the workplace. As a result, more women around us have the extra income that gives them the spending power to ‘invest’ in the latest fashion trends – and a significant chunk of this spending goes to beauty and skincare products.
In addition to this, there is also a ‘male support factor’ at play in creating more popularity on beauty products. Many women are wholly or partially supported by partners (husbands, boyfriends, uncles and brothers) who spend directly and indirectly on beauty products either by giving cash or buying these products as ‘gift’ items.
As long the nation’s economic growth continues to look up and the size of the middle class continues to grow, these direct and indirect sources of female spending power will get stronger and the business brands and products more popular.
What are some of the challenges you face in running Zee-Dazzle beauty house?
Of course I must start with the proliferation of quacks and inexperienced people into this business. As I mentioned earlier, the trends towards natural and safe ingredients in making our products have resulted in an organic beauty boom. This has also inevitably resulted in a steady rise in reports of firms engaging in green washing.
What this means In the beauty/skincare industry is, some companies are utilising marketing messages and labelling created by other brands to somewhat mislead customers into thinking their products are organic and safe. Unfortunately, many so-called organic products in the industry are not as health/skin-friendly as they may seem. In some cases, products touted as natural can contain up to a large percentage of synthetic ingredients.
Another incident that mostly occurs is quite amusing. It happens when a couple of our existing customers in our beauty brand essentially stocks up on several months worth of products just so that their personal supply doesn’t run out. It is indeed reassuring to see the tremendous loyalty and love for our products that our existing customers exhibit through these mass quantity purchases, but we don’t usually encourage it, as it is unsustainable for the brand.
Another thing to keep in mind are challenges on how limited the availability is with ingredient suppliers, getting of the raw materials used for production, keeping an updated inventory, creation of packaging and, most importantly, our fulfilment drive. It is sometimes very daunting to be able to always have adequate stock of products for sale, available and ready to go because to us at Zee-Dazzle, the worst thing is having items purchased for use or as gifts and having to explain to the customer that, unfortunately, it won’t be on time.
Any word of advice for so many out there that want to tow the same line as Zee-Dazzle beauty/Skin care brand?
Definitely… To the aspiring beauty brand entrepreneurs out there, your contacts are everything. Build relationships from the start of your career. Care about your client’s lives and what they like to do outside of work—that kind of attention to detail is so appreciated and goes a long way and always get relevant feedback from clients.
Working as the owner of a beauty brand company requires a lot of energy, understanding, and patience. If you don’t like people, you won’t get very far in this line of work. I learned so much about people just from asking about their skin or what skin tone they were aiming for. At the end of the day, if you understand people and their myriad of personalities and meet their needs, you can earn their trust. Once your earn trust, the sky’s the limit.