By Busayo Sotunde
VENTURES AFRICA – Clare Eluka is a British-Nigerian ethical beauty Entrepreneur who created the world’s first 100% Allergen-free face and body brand (Premae Skincare) at the age of 26.Within 40 days of launching on December 1st 2011, the brand was nominated as the best free face product for its Eczema and Psoriasis moisturizer, Clemensy Face Balm. Since inception, the brand has been featured on Women Entrepreneur radio, Alternative Medicine Magazine and Sky TV.
The product, which is certified by BUAV and Vegan Society, has recently earned the founder an Educator of the year Award at the May 2012 Women 4Africa Awards. Clare has also been appointed as Creative Director for Young Women’s Day Foundation and Excellence Awards.
As a philanthropist and humanitarian supporting local co-operatives in Africa, Clare serves as the Entrepreneur Ambassador for the Ugandan Diaspora Bureau in Kampala.
Premae has a base in Uganda and is currently in discussion with Nigerian and Ghanaian establishments to join chain outlets for wholesale distribution.
I recently caught up with Clare, who was happy to shed more light on her business and drive for development. Below are excerpts of the interview:
VA: Briefly tell us about your product, Premae skincare.
Clare: Premae Skincare is the world’s 1st healthy beauty brand, invented and formulated by me. I launched the brand in Dec 1st 2011. The target audience is Men, Women and Children with hypersensitive skin issues such as Psoriasis, Dermatitis, Eczema & Acne. The price points range from £14 – £31 per item.
VA: You were formerly an allergic patient before you were treated as a result of your research to look for a sustainable cure, how did you come about the result of an allergy-free product?
Clare: I found out that I had Candida Albican, when I was 19yrs old, while studying at uni. This is severe allergic relations to Wheat, Dairy, Gluten & yeast. I worked in beauty as a makeup artist and manager over the past 10 years and became frustrated with brands because the products contained allergens which severely dehydrated or damaged my skin. I left the beauty world and became an A-Level English teacher. During this time, I spent two years formulating my own products. I decided that my beauty regime needed to match my Vegan diet, which had cured my Candida Albican symptoms. This is what makes Premae Skincare so unique – it is a raw food diet for the skin.
VA: What is the secret behind the name, “Premae”?
Clare: The name Premae is a blend of two key words put together, which I invented and trademarked. Those words are: Premium & Formulae. There is the unique selling point, the premium, luxury formulations I create to solve skin issues.
VA: Who are Premae’s major competitors?
Clare: A brand called Chantecaille and possibly Clinique - which are both not Allergy-free, Chantecaille is Vegan. Both brands use preservatives, emulsifiers and petroleum, which can clog the skin.
VA: You own a self-directed make-up agency (Spikes make up), do you still run it on the sideline or is it an extension to the establishment of Premae skincare?
Clare: Spikes Makeup still exists. I only do makeup for celebs or magazines when I am requested. This serves as a valuable tool to introduce people to Premae Skincare. When I turn up to shoots, people often ask me to do their foundation so it looks flawless, like mine. When I tell them that I’m not wearing foundation, their jaw drops! That’s when I tell them about my products. My skin is a walking advert for the greatness of my brand.
VA: How was it like starting a new project (first allergen free product). Has it been worthwhile?
Clare: It has been a beautiful challenge and a liberating venture. It is a pleasure and privilege to see your dreams and visions come to fruition. I have made lots of sacrifices to get to this point, and it is proving to pay off.
VA: As a vibrant entrepreneur with a new product in a new market, what has been your challenge(s) and how have you been able to cope with them?
Clare: Challanges are marketing. With a small budget, it is not as easy to spread your message to a large audience or throw lavish press parties to seduce journalists into writing about your products. Having said that, word of mouth has and will always be the best form of advertising. It is good to talk!
VA: You are already established in Uganda, with the hope of spreading your wings to West Africa countries like Nigeria and Ghana; do you think your class of product is lucrative in the African market and how has the market response been like in Uganda?
Clare: Absolutely! The main raw ingredients such as Cocoa butter and sourced from Africa. It is about time that an African woman dominate the market and educate women back home on how to tap into the natural resources that we are harvesting.
VA: Can you shed more light on Premae’s investment in Uganda and your plan to spread your wings to other African countries?
Clare: I am setting up voluntary teaching programmes to teach women and disabled children how to make soaps. Once they have the skills, they can earn for life. They will be selling to local spa’s, salons and rebuilding their communities.
VA: You are investing in green-energy and building a factory in Uganda with other places in Africa in view. Why do you think it is important to invest in this area as an entrepreneur?
Clare: Uganda was a first port of call because I visited there last year a few times and saw the amount of potential there is. It is important to invest, but only with people that have long term plans and take responsibility for their own success.
VA: Your product is certified by BUAV and vegan society, is your product certified by any indigenous-Africa agency?
Clare: No, there is no certifications bodies that I know of.
VA: Premae prides itself as being eco-sensible by encouraging people to bring in the products’ used containers and packages, do you get the same feedback in Africa as you do in the United Kingdom?
Clare: Recycling is something that Africa probably does better than UK. In Africa, clothes, shoes, beds, bottles all get washes and reused. In UK it has become a trend, something to show that you are earth-conscious. In Africa, it is a survival thing.
VA: Tell us about your role as an Entrepreneur Ambassador for the Ugandan Diasporra Bureau in Kampala
Clare: When I am in Kampala, I have office space at the bureau where entrepreneurs can come and see me for two hours to develop their business idea. I do this free of charge. I then keep in touch on email to see how they progress.
VA: You are planning to build an international mobile allergy-free clinic; does this mobile community include Africans?
Clare: My business is international; it includes everyone who wants to be healthy. Health is the key to life. Without it, you can’t go far.
VA: You were given an award as “Educator of the Year” 2012 at the Women for Africa Awards, what is the significance of the award and why do you think you won the award?
Clare: I was proud and honored to win Educator of the year. Education is at the heart of Premae Skincare. It is the reason why I started this journey – I had to educate myself on the science of plant based foods and how they can heal most disorders, diseases and conditions. I think i won because I have been an educator all my life, at school I was always ahead of my class mates, at university I got a part time teaching assistant job, at Spikes Makeup I taught junior makeup artists how to apply fashion makeup, at The Promota Magazine I have been the Beauty and Fashion Editor for 3 yrs, now moving onto the role of Health and Business Editor. Education is the cornerstone of my whole career.
VA: What is your current staff strength and what management tips do you have for upcoming entrepreneurs?
Clare: I have a small team of freelancers who are experts in their field and bring invaluable skills such as law, strategy, logistics and marketing to the table. I would advice any entrepreneur to seek advice from only business. Do not look to friends for advice, especially if they have no business knowledge, they will deter you from starting your dreams. Get ready to dedicate 24 months to starting a business. Get ready to experience failure, setbacks, rejections and stress. The pay off will be the sweetest joy and very character building. Stay positive, and be grateful for everything you have. Also, learn to laugh when things go wrong and find time to take a break (easier said than done). Never give up!
Premae Skincare is recruiting passionate sales ambassadors globally who have a large network, either at church, mothers club etc who want to earn money selling the brand. Get in touch: firstname.lastname@example.org