“I started my hair business with N140,000”

Amaka Amaku wears many hats. She is a communications strategist, a serial entrepreneur, a content creator, and a social media manager. We chatted with her, and we talked about how running multiple businesses is like, amongst other things. Enjoy!

Tell us about yourself and what growing up was like.

I’ll say I grew up in the typical Nigerian home. My parents were both medics, so due to that, they were not really present in our lives. I can’t blame them because their schedule was pretty tight and busy.

Oh, did that affect you in any way?

Not exactly. Fortunately, I was very intelligent, and a lot of people around me felt that I should study medicine. I did later study Medicine but had to leave because the University I went to didn’t have Medicine as an accredited course. Because of this, I had to switch schools. I ended up studying Biotechnology at a Federal Institution.   

How did not studying your dream course make you feel, seeing that it wasn’t even your fault?

Mehn…I was sad, and I feel like my very first interaction with depression came from that episode.  Even though medicine was not necessarily my dream, I felt bad that I was a victim of a school not getting their processes right.  Anyways, I found my way to UNIBEN, and it was a different kind of struggle.

How so?

The struggle was not because I wasn’t smart enough, instead, it was because of how teaching was done in Federal Universities. When I was at Igbinedion University,  I maintained a four-point GPA for the two years I spent there. However, UNIBEN was a different story.  I had a 3.2 GPA in my first year, and this was just because I was smart. I barely attended classes or did things that would help boost it, I was basically riding on the prior knowledge I had in Igbenedion University. I was also hoping I would still cross back to medicine but it didn’t come through. I eventually sat up in my third year.

Do you think you’re missing out on anything because you didn’t study medicine? 

Absolutely not! I think my life played out the way it was meant to be. Even though I loved writing exams, I didn’t necessarily enjoy studying endlessly, which Medicine is pretty much about. I definitely knew I was going to be a sad doctor. Because of this, I started entrepreneurship at the University.

Nice! Can you tell us about that?

Basically, I thought of what I was most passionate about, which is hair. People will always ask me where I got my hair, and I would show them the place even though they will still get nonsense from the place (laughs). Then I figured I actually have an eye for good hair, so I  made a trip to Lagos to find vendors and suppliers. I got it from them and went to sell it in Uniben. There were a number of rich kids in my school so I sold a looot. I didn’t know at the time that I was laying a good foundation for myself at that time. What I started at 21 as a poverty alleviation scheme for my baby girl lifestyle became a major source of income for me.

That’s great!

Yes, it was! I later got a job at a Publishing house/NGO. Let me tell you a fun fact. I’ve always had an artistic side for as long as I can remember. I loved to read and write, but never really developed it. My parents knew this, however, they ignored it due to the fact they were both in the sciences. In secondary school, I was able to balance both Art and Science subjects, which made people think I was weird.

At what point did you know that the 9 – 5 life wasn’t for you?

I have always known that the corporate life isn’t for me. I plan to eventually retire in my 30’s. I never planned to do a corporate job, na Nigeria hard oh. I want to do an MBA at some point sha, and it became clearer when I was leaving school, that I didn’t want to build a career in the sciences.

Did your parents accept this or you had lots of convincing to do?  

When I started my business in school, I lied to my parents for a whole year. I stylishly mentioned the existence of a business idea to my mum, and she said I should wait till I finished school. It’s ironic because my mum always had other business asides from her medical job, but she felt I had to finish school with an excellent grade before starting anything. But guess what? My early customers were from Igbinedion University.  I eventually told them about the business about a year later.

What was their reaction like?

It was quite funny. Let me tell you what happened. During the End Sars protest, my account was frozen by the Federal Government for supporting the protest. I needed an account for my customers to pay into, so I asked my mum if I could use her bank account. When she saw the influx of funds, she began to see the picture. She understood how large the business could become, and even suggested we open a Port Harcourt branch together but I refused (laughs)


Yes oh,  I enjoy my business a lot. I learnt how to style hair, make wigs, treat wigs and so on. It could be stressful at times, but because I enjoy it, it didn’t feel like stress to me. I’ll keep going the extra mile for it because I totally enjoy it, that’s my brainchild right there. It’s the same mindset I have for my other businesses.

Tell us about it.

I have a swimwear brand called SwimnDream where I sell all types of swimwear for all body types. I originally started it in 2019, and it was called Teeny Bikini Ng. At the time, E-commerce businesses were easy to start. Just like I started the business the same way I started Amaka’s Hair For Days with nothing but market research and 140k, I used the same energy for this new business. But it didn’t go as planned.

Oh, what happened?

Making swimwear was an issue. I was new to making them myself and nothing from my hair business prepared me for the hurdles I faced. I went all the way to Ghana to get the right fabrics. When I got back, it was pretty tough to get a seamstress who understood how to sew with the material (lycra).  One more thing, it took a longer amount of time to make a set, so I had to quit the business in 2019. One great thing about me — I always know when to quit anything.

Wow! That must have been tough.

It was, but I knew I wanted my brand to be known for quality items. I did not want to compromise on quality at all. I didn’t sell any of the bikinis because they were below my standard. I had to take some time off the business to rebrand entirely. Thankfully, the skills I acquired in social media came in helpful. Since I had a 9 – 5 at the time, I had some level of stability. I also noticed there was a decline in the wig business due to the global economic situation, so I definitely needed another stream of income. I took a trip to Kigali earlier this year and that opened my eyes to the travelling business.

Wow…you are quite the entrepreneur!

Haha… to an extent. I haven’t started making money from the travel business, but it’s something me and my business partner have in the works.

Since you have a number of income streams, does that mean you save and invest a lot?

Yes, I save a lot, however, I am not doing as enough investments as I should, especially in terms of dollar investments. I invest a lot of money in my business, nevertheless, I am looking forward to more dollar investments. I also did some crypto investments, but I got in a little late. My boyfriend thinks I should try investing in the stock market, so it’s something I want to do in the nearest future.

Have you ever had a financial challenge?

Yes, I have

Care to share?

Last year. I needed to stock up for the festive period, I needed about 6000 dollars to get this done, and I only had 2000 dollars. I literally was looking for any of my friends who had a 2 million Naira they were not using again (laughs). If you ask any entrepreneur, they’ll tell you it’s almost normal to have financial challenges.

Have you invested in something and it didn’t turn out well?

My dear! It’s cryptocurrency Oh! I invested about 400 dollars in it, and what is left is about 80 dollars. It was a nightmare! Another investment I did that I regret is MMM. I lost so much money, and it affected my business.  I have learnt my lesson anyways, so you’ll never find me doing it again.

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