Funmi Namabiri: On pioneering a leading hair brand

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funmi hair

Funmi Hair is rated as the world’s number one human hair. Worn by women all over the world, Funmi Hair, which launched into the market 40 years ago, is owned by Nigeria’s Funmi Namabiri. She came into the country recently to launch a book on her life’s journey so far. She spoke with Allure on the genesis of Funmi Hair and its sustainability.

Tell us the genesis of Funmi hair. What inspired it considering that there were lots of human hair available 40 years ago when you started?

Every person on this earth is assigned to solve a problem. The genesis or birth of hair extensions occurred in 1976 as I was approached by a lady that suffered from alopecia (hair loss). This lady was about to get married. When her boyfriend discovered that she was bald in the middle of her head, he decided to call it quits.

This lady approached me innocently in desperation and I decided, in total kindness, to solve this problem. So, I got a mannequin and played around it for hours and days to create an effect to cover the baldness and also make it appear like her real hair. This act of solving the woman’s problem became the genesis of what is now known as “weave on extensions”. Off course, she got what she wanted and is happily married with the man not having a clue of what transformed his wife’s new look. I pioneered the so-called hair extensions in Nigeria as far back as 1976.

How has the journey been? Did you surpass your expectations?

I have all to thank God so far for journey mercies. Like every journey, I faced many obstacles on the way. There were people that totally wrote me off, looking at my background and class. I recollect once being taunted by a very close friend who said: “Imagine you thinking of a dryer. Where will a person like you have money to buy a straightening comb?” But I have to thank God because in due season, He gave the indelible reply as all can see today. As you will agree, in life, obstacles are natural to humans;  highs and lows. However, it is the ability and tenacity to surmount any obstacle by God’s grace and mercy that makes the difference between winners and losers. God also blessed me with a formidable husband of faith who is highly clever but shy. Our vision is to become a global brand in premium hair extensions. It’s a journey. So far, the future is looking good.

Have there been any changes since you launched out – in terms of style and quality?

As you know, women’s fashion and hair industry is in constant change. Women are now very knowledgeable about looks and styles. The world is now a small village, with a vibrant information and news system like the internet, world news like CNN etc. So, the modern woman is very enlightened in the way they want to look. There have been changes: from Afro curls to extensions, to wigs, wraps, master pattern and now, wigs etc. There is a lot of creativity available out there. What we have done is to remain focused to our market in terms of style and quality that cannot be compromised at any cost. There are things we are not called to do and we never get involved in at all. We will rather remain focused and put all our energy into becoming the premium hair brand in the world.

What are the unique features of Funmi hair? How did you come to be such a phenomenal success?

Get a copy of the Book – ‘The Secret of Funmi Hair’. Read it and dig it out.

You recently launched your book. What is the book about and what inspired it?

‘The Secret of Funmi Hair’ is, simply put, to thank God for this milestone and also encourage others that nothing is impossible to achieve in life with God backing you. Just believe and work hard at your vision. There is never a short cut to success. Our gift is to inspire others to achieve their dreams.

You are a Nigerian yet, this is the first time you are coming to do any launch. Why did you take so long to identify with your country?

Yes, it’s true. I’m a Nigerian that has been in Diaspora for many years. I have always identified with my country, with my family, for many years in a subtle way. For example, to show that I believe in my country, I can proudly state that almost 95% of our investments is in Nigeria. We bring our capital back to Nigeria while many wealthy people in Nigeria take theirs out. We have also built a network of distributors in Nigeria that have created business opportunities for those willing to venture into self-determination.

We are engaged in many charitable acts like university scholarships, equipping semiskilled workers by getting them tools for their trade, providing free boreholes and street lights for my town people. All these in a subtle way. We are simply a UK business owned by Nigerians. We had our 30th anniversary celebration of the business in London 10 years ago. Right there, the directors agreed that the 40th anniversary will be in Nigeria.

How is patronage of Funmi hair from Nigerian women?

Patronage by Nigerian women has been great and encouraging. I want to thank all our great women and men from Nigeria who have been our support in building this brand. God will bless and enrich them all.

Funmi hair is one of the most expensive in the world. Why does it cost an arm and a leg for a bunch?

It is untrue that Funmi Hair is the most expensive in the world. Very untrue and it’s a fact. There are far more expensive hair extension sellers in the UK that are ten times more expensive than ours.
The perception of our brand being more expensive is basically because many Nigerians see us as fellow Nigerians and must not compete in prices. I know of some Nigerians that are willing to part with their money to pay for less quality product by a White  man without complaints at all. Simply, they perceive that the White person is entitled to charge more than their fellow Nigerian.
Secondly, like every product in the market, not all are the same in quality and production. For example, cars do the same function of taking you from point A to B but not all cars are the same in terms of quality, production systems, market and costs. The price of Bentley, Rolls Royce, Mercedes and a Toyota or Volkswagen Beetle is not the same, yet they do the same function; it’s same with the hair industry. Funmi Hair is a premium product like any other, so prices cannot be the same at all.

Yesterday, in a shop at Victoria Island, Lagos, I priced a material that cost $800 per yard. Think about this in Lagos. So, premium products attract premium prices. Funmi Hair brand is selected from the finest quality of 100% grade AAA human hair available in the world. Our suppliers are few because of our stringent demand for the quality of our products so, they also ask for higher than normal prices per kilo because of the process of selecting what we want. If you want the best, you must pay for the best in the market.

Secondly, our wefts are all hand-made, from beginning to end, by a team of dedicated workers. It is a very hard job that demands total concentration in line with company standards. Funmi Hair is not a mass produced product because no machine is involved at all. The hair also undergoes a secret processing system in line with quality late into the night and early hours every day; 365 days in the year.

All these overheads cost money as we are also a UK based business, where minimum wages are regulated by the law. All these cost money.
Again, our suppliers do increase their prices every year. For instance, one of our long standing suppliers just increased their prices by 60% but we cannot afford to pass that on to our Nigerian customers due to the constant weakness of the naira to major currencies. Yet, we have continued to maintain the quality of our product and even better on controls. The biggest factor is the longevity of the Funmi Hair brand of extensions and wigs. Many customers have used our products for over 5 to 10 years. There was a case of woman that had our brand she bought 14 years ago. These are all facts. You will agree with me that the price issue is a perception of a few Nigerians. If you want the best, you must pay for it. It is a matter of personal choice.

How did you find home coming – the people, attitude and development?

I have always come home every year with my family. This event is not home coming but just to celebrate our 40th anniversary in business with our friends, family and dedicated customers.

Apart from hair, what is your passion? What is your style passion?

Anytime I look at a fellow woman, I focus on the hair alone. That is my life’s passion. I sleep and think hair; just my passion to see a woman look good from the head.

Finally, you have a husband who is also your pr manger. Would you say that he is behind your phenomenal success?

My husband, Prince Isaac Namabiri, is not a PR Manger. He is actually a co-director and CEO of Helena’s Hair Care Limited. We are both directors in the company. Helena’s Hair Care Ltd is the owner of the brand, Funmi Hair. You will agree with me that a business of this magnitude needs a strong operational back office to fuel the engine of the ship. He is also in charge of our internet sales team, adverts, public relations etc. Without proper paper work in places like the UK, a business will suffer. So he ensures that all paper work is in place. You hardly see him in the shop front; but always busy behind the scene. We are a team.

Glamsquad

Glamsquad magazine is an independently operated online fashion, beauty, style, entertainment, and health blog. Its features are both inspirational and accessible, giving our followers a scoop on what's trending now in the fashion, beauty, style, and entertainment industry.

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