Like every entrepreneur’s story, ASHMAD COSMETICS started with a passion by its founder, Aisha D. Yusuf, who had always nursed the idea of producing skin care products that had no adverse effect to the human skin. A self-described beauty junkie, Aisha then took advantage of the abundance of shea butter in her state to create a range of beauty care products which she started selling locally to family and friends.
The Nigerian Export Promotion Council (NEPC) played a key role in her business. In the early years of the business, she was invited to participate in a programme tagged “from zero to export”. She leveraged her attendance at that programme into an opportunity to exhibit her product at NEPC’s “zero to oil growth” fair in Texas, United States.
Aisha thrives on challenges, taking critiques about the business and finding ways to improve on her products. During one of the visits to NEPC, a staff made a sarcastic comment about her product’s poor packaging. She incorporated this feedback into improving the packaging and rebranded her products to what it is today: “ASHMAD COSMETICS”. She also recalls the challenges she faced in trying to secure funds for the business as a start-up. She had difficulties purchasing containers to package her products, registering the business with the Corporate Affairs Commission (CAC) and registering her products with the National Agency for Food and Drug Administration and Control (NAFDAC). She tried to secure funds from her family, friends and government MSME support agencies. When those avenues failed, she sold off some of her personal valuables and invested the money in the business. Aisha D. Yusuf applied for the SME Loop and in August 2017 was selected for the 2017/2018 cycle.
The Impact of the SME Loop
Major changes achieved during the SME Loop:
- Ashmad cosmetics has successfully utilized and integrated technology into its business operations, leveraging on digital marketing tools and strategies learnt from her coach during the SME loop. This led to a wider market reach. As a result of this growth, the business has increased in sales volume and gained online visibility. Ashmad cosmetics now owns a production factory, showroom and sales centre. This business was initially run and operated from her living-room..
- Participating in the loop for Aisha has brought to the fore the need to formalise her business. This made her to complete the outstanding company/product registration with CAC, NAFDAC and Standard Organization of Nigeria (SON).
- One of the challenges Ashmad cosmetics had before the SME Loop training is poor product packaging. With the training, she was able to apply the skills of branding and packaging to improve her product package. Ashmad Cosmetics now wears a new product package.
- Aisha, who found it difficult to keep business records before joining the SME Loop has, adopted the templates for record keeping provided by GIZ. She is also able to write a business plan.
- Peer learning from the SME Loop has further exposed her to other experienced entrepreneurs who inspired her to remain committed when confronted with business challenges.
Impact in Figures
- She recorded a 874% increase in income from baseline
- The business had a geographical spread of six (6) states in Nigeria from one state of operation.
The SME Loop
The SME Business Training and Coaching Loop (SME Loop) is a combined approach of basic and advanced entrepreneurship trainings and individually tailored business coaching, spanning over a 6 months period. The SME Loop approach was developed by Deutsche Gesellschaft für Internationale Zusammenarbeit (GIZ) GmbH in Sierra Leone and further enhanced by GIZ in Benin Republic. It was conceptualised as a mix of tools from various institutions including the Financial Literacy Toolkit from GIZ Nigeria. In Nigeria, the Pro-Poor Growth and Promotion of Employment in Nigeria Programme – SEDIN, implemented by GIZ and funded by the German Federal Ministry for Economic Cooperation and Development (BMZ), aims to foster employment and increase income of MSMEs. This is done through financial systems development as well as private sector development. In April 2017, SEDIN started to adapt and apply the SME Loop approach with a thorough application process and a total of 252 enterprises (about 30% headed by women) certified in 2018 for successful completion of the SME Loop.
“The coaching session effectively brought out the latent potential in Aisha for business. She showed the will to learn and improve and I am glad to have coached her to such a landmark success in her business.”
Statement by Coach Babafemi Oyediran