By Ebele Orakpo
Celine Momoh Sani, the Chief Executive Officer ofÂ 7th Heaven Spa, has proved that you do not have to have all you need to be able to fulfill your dreams, only be determined and the sky will not even be your limit. In a chat with Vanguard in Lagos recently, she spoke on her business, how she came about the name 7th Heaven, and the challenges she is facing. Excerpts:
The 2002 graduate of Personnel Management and Industrial Relations from the Obafemi Awolowo University, Ile-Ife, said she ventured into the beauty treatment business because she had always loved to look good. â€œI have always wanted to look good and to help people look good. I learnt body massage from my grandmother. That was my first experience in body massage.
I went to the village in 1992 and I noticed that when her friends were not feeling well, they would come over to her and she would massage them with variety of oils (palm oil, coconut oil etc). She knows how to make these oils, and she would use it to massage them. It wasnâ€™t a job, she was just doing it for free and I loved it. I even fell sick while there and she massaged me.
I liked the feeling of the massage, the feeling of her hands on my body, and I liked how I felt afterwards because I got well faster unlike when I was in Lagos with my parents when I would fall sick and they would keep taking me from one hospital to the other, she just massaged me and gave me some herbal preparations to drink and I was fine. So when I got back to Lagos, I found out that there was something called body massage and beauty treatment. I kept asking questions until I got a place to train. So it was my grandmother that actually started this beauty stuff. I started as a masseuse before going into beauty practice.â€
The native of Auchi, Edo State, noted that although she read Personnel Management and Industrial Relations, she never worked with her certificate for one day as according to her, she had always wanted to be self-employed so as to have time for her family, â€œbut I think I am practising it in my outfit, 7th Heaven, a spa where we do facial treatment, body massage, slimming programmes and so on. We also do bridal make-over and make up for artistes (actors and actresses),â€ she stated.
The second of eight children who describes herself as a typical barracks girl, having grown up in almost all the barracks in Nigeria as her father, a soldier, was being transferred from one barrack to another as duty called, said she had to work part-time and school part-time to be able to fund her education.
â€œI had to school part-time and work part-time so that my father could concentrate on my younger ones. After my secondary school education, I told him to take care of the others that I would take care of myself. I opened 7th Heaven so I was working part-time and schooling part-time.â€
On how she came about the name 7th Heaven, Sani said: â€œI am from a Muslim home and 7th Heaven actually came from the Holy Koran.
It was the place that the prophet found the Supreme Being called Allah.. So the 7th Heaven is a place of peace. Now, my Moslem name is Selimatu which means peace. When we first started, I wanted to name it Seliâ€™s Place but I just felt it would be so common and I didnâ€™t want to be among the crowd. I was wracking my brain, thinking of a name when my younger sister reminded me ofÂ 7th Heaven. She said â€˜itâ€™s a place of peace and your name means peace so instead of Seliâ€™s Place, why not 7th Heaven?â€ It just clicked. We took the name to the Corporate Affairs Commission and got it registered,â€ she said.
Speaking on how she sources materials for her business, Celine Sani who trained in Nigeria, Ghana and Mauritania, said: â€œWe make our oils. I told you my grandmother used to make oils, so she taught me.
Then when I went to Mauritania, I learnt how to make their own oils, even when I went to Ghana, I also learnt how to make oils so we make our own oils for facials and massage. We even make creams and we donâ€™t usually import. We have some imported products though, but our clients that know our products prefer them to the imported ones because they are natural and they are African.â€
Citing lack of electricity supply as the major challenge to her business, Sani noted that â€œthe Power Holding Company of Nigeria (PHCN) is not doing us good. I think everybody says the same thing. We keep changing generators because you buy one thinking everything would be ok. You have light for one week and you will be praising God and before you know it, it will break down and there wonâ€™t be light and you have to get another generator. We not only spend a lot purchasing generators,
we also spend a lot on fuel to power the generators. We donâ€™t rely on one generator, two must be ready at every point in time so that we donâ€™t disappoint clients. Another challenge is getting staff. I noticed that youths these days donâ€™t really want to settle down and work.
Most of them just want fast money so if you tell them you want to pay them N50,000 for instance, and they know that if they can sit down by a computer and do one yahoo-yahoo stuff (fraud), they will get more than that at a certain period of time, who wants to sit down and work? So for the first three months, it was just me. I was working on my own. I was the receptionist, the CEO, the manager, the cleaner, everything. So when clients come, I lock the door and go in and attend to them and when they leave,
I go back to the reception. Later, my cousin came to assist me for a while and then got married and had to leave to join her husband. That was when I brought in my younger sister from Auchi to come and stay with me. Now I have nine staff.
We started in one room though it was a three-bedroom apartment but we did not have enough money to equip the whole place so we started small. The reception was empty then,â€ she said..
On how they source for clients, the 7th Heaven boss said: â€œWe were placing adverts on television and at a point, we stopped and just focused on soft-sell magazines; and then by word of mouth. We have clients that have been with us for the past six years. We are five years old now but before then, while in school, I was doing home services. So I have clients that have been with me even before I started 7th Heaven, and because we have a good relationship with them, most of them tell people about us. We were also printing banners and distributing.â€
She said though the business is profitable but believes it would have been much more profitable than it is right now if not for electricity supply problems and rent. â€œWhen the landlord finds out that you are looking fresh, may be he just chose to visit one day and see you looking fresh, the next thing he does is to increase the rent. Then maybe he hears you have changed your car, he increases the rent and tells you if you donâ€™t want to pay, you leave and gives you quit notice.
May be you have built your clientele in that particular area and everyone has known you in that area and now you relocate, itâ€™s like starting all over again. So all these affect businesses. I donâ€™t think any business can be profitable in Nigeria with such situations but then, I thank God because at least, we are keeping our head above waters. We are still striving and I believe we will not go down, we are not even going to close down in my lifetime.