Yummie O of KOSA Professionals: “Women make the best founders because we are natural nurturers”

Women make the best founders because we are natural nurturers. We listen and we care! The need to listen to your consumer’s needs early on in business will help grow your business faster than you can imagine. Additionally, our need to always help others serves us well in the area of customer service, which is […]

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Women make the best founders because we are natural nurturers. We listen and we care! The need to listen to your consumer’s needs early on in business will help grow your business faster than you can imagine. Additionally, our need to always help others serves us well in the area of customer service, which is also particularly important in growing a business. I can go on and on…..

As a part of our series about “Why We Need More Women Founders”, I had the pleasure of interviewing Yummie O, a Nigerian-American Entrepreneur in the beauty space. She is a wife and a mother to 4 girls, one adopted and three biological. She has a background working in IT Management for 10 years and loved what she did however she knew she was called for something bigger. After her second daughter was born, her namesake hair extension collection, Yummy Extensions was birthed out of the desire to build a legacy for her girls. Yummie then set out to expand her brand by creating a professional hot tool collection that is inclusive to every woman’s hair type. KOSA Professionals includes hair straighteners that keep your hair safe from any heat damage. The brand prides themselves on educating, empowering and providing high-class hair tools for the hairstylist in everyone.

Thank you so much for doing this with us! Before we dig in, our readers would like to get to know you a bit more. Can you tell us a bit about your “backstory”? What led you to this particular career path?

My name is Yummie O, I am the CEO/Founder of Yummy Hair Extensions and KOSA Professionals. I am a wife and a mom of 4 beautiful girls. I had a remarkably successful career in information technology, but my passion could not be ignored no matter how much I tried to. As a result of this passion, I launched my hair extensions brand YUMMY EXTENSIONS in 2012. During my journey at Yummy Extensions, I was blessed to be able to get firsthand access to the needs and pain points of my consumers. One of those needs was to develop elegant-looking heat tools that are safe for the hair and extensions. Again, KOSA Professionals was born in 2020 in response to this experience with my consumers!

Can you share the most interesting story that happened to you since you began leading your company?

The story that comes to mind occurred when we started off without a physical location and was meeting up customers at random locations. I had delivered some hair extensions for a customer and was getting ready to collect the cash only for the customer to zoom off. I was dumbfounded and could not think of what to do, as I did not have the opportunity to write down or memorize the plate number. This incident led us to put plans in place to open a retail location.

Can you share a story about the funniest mistake you made when you were first starting? Can you tell us what lesson you learned from that?

I would not particularly refer to this as a funny mistake but more of a pure mistake. I started off by bringing people on board to join our team based on emotions and personal references. While the latter was not a bad idea, I realized that they both ended the same. People were not able to see the vision and therefore I had to make tough decisions of letting them go. What I have learned ever since then and that I continue to learn is to hire based on merit and qualifications as opposed to emotions. We have seen fewer turnovers as a result of this over the years.

None of us are able to achieve success without some help along the way. Is there a particular person who you are grateful towards who helped get you to where you are? Can you share a story about that?

I am grateful for my Mother. After my second daughter was born, my mother spent a few months with us to help take care of the baby. During those late-night feedings, I would be on my laptop researching hair and particularly hair extensions. I originally did that so that I was equipped to offer recommendations should any of my relatives asked this of me. So, one night, my mother said to me “Why don’t you make this a business?” to which I replied. “Hmm No.” I proceeded to remind her of my dreams to be a Technology Executive and how hair was not remotely related to that! If you know my mother, she is not the one to give up on an idea. She constantly fed me with the idea night after night. I finally gave in; I placed my first wholesale order with 2,000 dollars!

According to this EY report, only about 20 percent of funded companies have women founders. This reflects great historical progress, but it also shows that more work still has to be done to empower women to create companies. In your opinion and experience what is currently holding back women from founding companies? That is a very good question. I would have to say fear and time.

As women, we wear so many hats and do so much for other people and fail to find time to invest in our passions. I remember when I first started my brand, I had to do it all. I had to be a wife, a mom to two young girls, work a full-time job and then find time out of all of that to manage my business. There were many times, I felt like quitting because I could not physically do it all. Thankfully, my husband is incredibly supportive and helps fill in those gaps. In summary, we often do not start businesses because of the fear of failing and /or lack of support at home.

Can you help articulate a few things that can be done as individuals, as a society, or by the government, to help overcome those obstacles?

I would say we need to start teaching entrepreneurship early in the school environments. Women should also be prioritized when offering business funding to help encourage them.

This might be intuitive to you as a woman founder but I think it will be helpful to spell this out. Can you share a few reasons why more women should become founders?

Women make the best founders because we are natural nurturers. We listen and we care! The need to listen to your consumer’s needs early on in business will help grow your business faster than you can imagine. Additionally, our need to always help others serves us well in the area of customer service, which is also particularly important in growing a business. I can go on and on…..

What are the “myths” that you would like to dispel about being a founder. Can you explain what you mean?

“You are a founder because you had a lot of money to start.” OR “You got successful so quickly.” People who see the success of our brands automatically think I am “lucky” because I had loads of resources to start or that the success came so quickly. This is nothing close to the truth at all! Yes, money helps but your resilience and passion are so much more important in founding a business. I know so many people who have founded their businesses with tons of funding but were not able to sustain it because they did not love what they did and therefore gave up the moment they faced an obstacle. The second myth is that our success was fast. Many successful businesses, including mine launched years before they became known. I would say it took 4 years of hard work to finally gain major traction in our industry. Overnight success is the biggest myth ever!

Is everyone cut out to be a founder? In your opinion, which specific traits increase the likelihood that a person will be a successful founder and what type of person should perhaps seek a “regular job” as an employee? Can you explain what you mean?

Not everyone is cut out to be a founder or a creator of something new. If you are the type that thinks you know it all, you will not make a good Founder. To be a good Founder, you have to be open to learn from absolutely anyone. Other important traits will be: Adaptability, Confidence, Solution driven, Self-aware, persistence and so on.

What are your “5 Things I Wish Someone Told Me Before I Started” and why? (Please share a story or example for each.)

  • I wish someone told me to separate personal and business affiliations. An example is trying to hire someone just because they appear nice and professional.
  • I wish my Mother urged me to start earlier. I would have learnt my mistakes earlier and capture the social media space sooner.

How have you used your success to make the world a better place? I am very passionate about building women entrepreneur.

I mentor female entrepreneurs to help navigate their businesses. My husband and I also have a foundation that helps to fund the education of young girls in Africa.

You are a person of great influence. If you could inspire a movement that would bring the most amount of good for the greatest number of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger.

I would create a business school for girls. The school will be geared towards educating girls on how they can navigate life and business.

We are very blessed that some very prominent names in Business, VC funding, Sports, and Entertainment read this column. Is there a person in the world, or in the US with whom you would love to have a private breakfast or lunch with, and why?

That would have to be Indra Nooyi. She is a wife, mother and a business mogul. Amongst others, I would like to know how she has been able to manage her time, treasure and talents.

Thank you for these fantastic insights. We greatly appreciate the time you spent on this.

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