Being a nail pioneer in Nigeria isn’t easy. But Adetokunbo Awogboro is blazing trails right and left, with a little help from loyal clients, and a friendly customs officials or two.
Awogboro is also proud of the way she has streamlined communication between the technicians and the front desk. Each technician’s station is equipped with an intercom, which enables the technician to talk to the receptionist without leaving her work area.
Another timesaver (and a fun treat for clients) is the salon’s mobile trolley, which contains 80 different colors of polish. “The client doesn’t have to get out of her seat to choose a color,” Awogboro says. “The technician pushes the trolley to the client, which saves time and makes the client feel pampered.”
Nails in Nigeria
Bringing The Nail Studio to its current level of success has been an eight-year labor of love – some of it tough love, Awogboro admits. A major challenge has been, and continues to be, the fact that the nail industry is almost nonexistent in Nigeria, she says. There are no nails-only licensing requirements for technicians, and no nails-only local or regional competitions where Nigerian nail technicians can show off their skills and learn new techniques. “Nigeria is quite a distance from Europe and the United States, where most of the competitions are held,” she says. “Mobilizing the staff to travel to a competition is quite an ordeal!” Not to mention a considerable expense.
In spite of the fact that the nail business in Nigeria is still in its infancy, Awogboro says the goal of The Nail Studio is “to put Nigeria on the world map in the nail care industry and to create an awareness in Nigeria about the importance of nail care.”
Easier said than done? “It won’t he easy,” she admits. “The first thing we have to concentrate on is education. Right now, there are no nails-only schools in Nigeria that teach nail care.” Awogboro, who received all her training in Europe and the United States, has had to train her entire staff herself. She hopes that nails-only schools will soon become commonplace in her country.
Awogboro herself plans to get the training ball rolling. She recently extended her salons floor space and in October 1995, she opened Nigeria’s first school for nail technicians. “I take four students at a time and the class lasts for two weeks,” she explains, noting that she places students in classes based on their previous nail experience. “If someone has been doing nails for a year or two, I try to place her with others at a similar level,” she says. Awogboro also offers one-day advanced classes that teach working manicurists and nail technicians how to master sophisticated techniques. Word of the classes is spreading fast, Awogboro says, and interest is high. “We’re booked a full month ahead of time,” she says.
Competing for Technicians
Education is crucial to raising the level of professionalism in the Nigerian nail industry, Awogboro says. But cooperation is equally important, she adds, noting that salon owners in Nigeria need to work together, not in competition. She admits she often sees just the opposite. “The life of a salon owner in Nigeria is quite stressful,” she says. “It brings more fame than fortune!” Competition for the top nail talent in Nigeria is fierce, Awogboro explains, making it an excellent environment for the estimated 100 nail technicians in the country and a tough one for salon owners. Having well-trained nail technicians and manicurists makes The Nail Studio a target for other salons, who try to lure away her staff, she says, so keeping her staff happy and satisfied with their work is a big priority.
While Awogboro declined to give the average salary for a technician at The Nail Studio, she pointed out that, compared with the average yearly income in Nigeria, her employees are well-paid. The salon offers other employee perks, too, such as a staff bus that picks up employees in the morning and drives them home after work. Awogboro also offers her employees no-interest loans, with payments deducted from their paychecks to help them buy land or build a house. “I also help them get their kids into good schools,” she adds.
So even though other salon owners try to lure away her most talented technicians, Awogboro has found her staff to be loyal, indeed. “I still have my first two technicians,” she says.