“Life-fulfilling work is never about the money- when you feel true passion for something you instinctively find ways to nurture it.”
-Eileen Fisher, Clothing Designer
The quote above by Eileen Fisher aptly describes the preoccupation of Mrs Tope Mayegun, the founder/CEO of Avila Naturalle Skin and hair care products.
A paragon of beauty herself, she got divinely inspired in September 2016 to delve into organic skin care cosmetics and from the passion and joy she infuses in her work, it becomes all the more apparent that indeed she found her calling. Three years down the line, Avila Naturalle products stands out distinctly in the organic beauty products market; thanks to her focus, diligence, commitment, shrewd business acumen and the prodding of the holy spirit.
Avila is not just a household name today when organic beauty products are mentioned but is gradually taking a good slice of the global cosmetic market, and with the world going back to nature, it is only predictable that, with its organic incline and its distributors – a thousand of them in all- Avila is audaciously striding into global reckoning.
As the biggest manufacturer of organically based skin care, hair care products and essential oils among many others, Mrs Temitope Mayegun is motivated principally not by money but by the passionate desire to add value to lives by offering the best products for skin and haircare, as according to her it was a vision which God gave her expressly.
“Avila is a vision that God brought to us in Nigeria. I was in a secular employment when God told me to go and start working on herbs and plants for skincare and general well being of the skin and hair.
I usually tell people the God factor can never be left out of the business. God is part of Avila. He gave the vision. I have not sold anything prior to this time. I have no skill in selling as all my life I have always been an office person. God told me to run with the vision go into plants based beauty products and that He would provide the people to market it and give us the best. So I want to believe it is the hand of God on the business that is making it prosper”.
Come November 9, 2019, The 2019 Avila Dinner and Awards will be hosted by the company to reward outstanding distributors of the company for the outgoing year, and 300 distributors are billed to recieve awards on the evening of the event. Shedding light on this, Mayegun averrs, ” the Avila awards is all about appreciating our distributors; Our major and mini distributors who have worked hard throughout the year. We feel the way to appreciate their hardwork is to reward them by giving them the awards and also other gifts. That is what Avila does every year and we’re committed to sustaining it.”
The first edition of the awards took place last year and this year’s, which promises to be more glamorous and the second edition of the awards will witness the arrival of distributors from all over the world. A training session will precede the awards, and when asked by Smile about the essence of the training, MD of the in-demand organic beauty products chain said;
“We have up to 1000 distributors both major and mini. Our mini distributors buy directly from our major distributors and deal directly with the end users. So it is important that they have product knowlwdege of what they are selling; about what Avila Naturalle is, what each product works for, to understand what Avila stands for; our vision, ethics etc, and importantly also to improve their entrepreneural scheme”.
Continuing, she disclosed that “We are looking forward to host 300 distributors. That is up by 200 from last year. Our distributors in Ghana and other African countries will be here. Others from the UK and other parts of Europe will also be here. Our US distributor called that she would not be able to make it due to issues demanding her attention at the time. From all over the country, Africa and other parts of the world, our distributors will be coming for the awards”.
Because of its synergies, Avila embarks on large scale production, which makes the prices of their products on the shelf quite affordable. Their products are also very effective due to the fact that Avila has a strict policy of subjecting products to thorough research before embarking on production, and threre’s always something for anyone at Avila.
“The synergies we have in place make our prices competitive. We have products that sell for N250, N500, and so on. Our products capture the income brackets without compromising on standards or quality”.
As a way of giving back to the society, Avila Naturalle recently embarked on CSR activities in some schools in Lagos as well as hospitals on a sensitization campaign about the dangers of using chemical based soaps and creams which bleach the skin and ultimately leaves it damaged. Mayegun spoke passionately on this;
“The CSR is basically going to schools and telling them about the importance of maintaining their natural skin texture and impress upon them that they don’t need to alter their skin color to look beautiful, you know, and also let them know about the dangers in tampering into chemicalised products that damage the skin.
We were able to reach to 10000 students and gave them free coconut oil. The reason behind the CSR is because we discover that a lot of people have bleached their skins and have issues. It is a well known fact that the market is saturated with chemicalised products, so we need to sensitize young people about this. They need to be told to appreciate their skins, as beauty has no colour.
We also went to the hospitals; many mothers would rather have these organic skin care products like ours for their children, but many do not have access to them and some can not afford them. So we gave free coconut oil to mothers, to babies, students and teachers . Its just our way of giving back to the society.”
The good thing about Avila Naturalle is that, apart from beautifying, Avila natural skin care also restores the skin bact to its natural state.
With more and more skins damaged daily by chemical based skin products, Avila comes in as a big bonus with its wide array of products, more than two hundred in all, with some currently undergoing research and development.
“People who are tired of using chemicalised products due to bleaching, sunburn, stretch marks, discoloration, pigmentation etc., and want to use Avila Naturalle. This set of people will have their skins go through a transition; a period that is not usually long. This is necessary for people whose skins have been depreciated by chemical products. The transition period allows the skin to return to its natural state. What bleaching does is to expose the skin to the sun and all kinds of skin infections. Our products will first of all restore such skins back to their original natural state before beginning the beautification process to make the skin glow. On the other hand, those who have not used these chemical products for long, with no marked visible effects, have no need of transition. Their skins will naturally begin glowing as they use our products”. She says.
“Right now we have up to 200 products in the market; different products for different people. We have our salon range which is new in the market, baby set, men range etc. We just launched 7 new products, hibiscus toner, lemon body straw, lemon face cream, lemon toner etc. We have products for everybody, when you talk about hair care, baby care, women body care and so on, Avila’s got it all”.
With their sales team, Avila is spreading the sensitization message and getting more people to embrace organic based products, given the gravity of the damaged skin syndrome caused by chemicalised skin products. The company has also embarked on extensive PR activities still in light of the aforementioned on TV stations, radio stations, etc., Referrals are another way which many people have come to know the products with good testimonies following.
The vision of the company does not end on skin and hair products, as it looks forward to diversify into food supplements by the first quarter of next year.
“We also hope to begin the production of food supplements by the first quarter of next year, so its not just about cosmetics but also healthy bodies.”
Every enterprise has its peculiar challenges and so does Avila. Speaking on some of the challenges the company has gone through and some others still subsisting, Mrs Mayegun disclosed that;
“When we started, people were just being introduced to organic products and as I told you, the market is saturated with chemical products and people just don’t see why they should maintain their skin complexion. So acceptance was a challenge; getting people to undertand that organic products do not work the way chemicals work, getting them to know that organic products are best for their skins and general welfare. There were other challenges, like having the right staff. There was no company as big as us now, when we began, to have perhaps got mentoring from. In terms of the vision that we have, I looked around but there was no company that had gone ahead, from whom we could learn. The few then were not running theirs the way we intended to, since ours is a big vision. We had to depend on God, do a lot of research, share the vision to staff so we all can work with the same passion and frequency, and get people to see the vision the way God gave me.
Another challenge is in the area of raw materials. I have always said this and will continue to. Our soil does not support the plants we use, many of which are imported, so right now I am looking to begin the production of indigenous plants, which hopefully should set off next year, that is our ‘vision 2020’. We have six acres of land where we work with local farmers but even so, we still need access to raw materials as almost all the plants for essential oils are imported. Another challenge yet is that of space and a good challenge you’d agree. Right now we are working on a new and bigger factory. Access to funds is another one. However, the biggest challenge is getting people to accept organic products. The long time effect of bleaching is cancer, and the increase in cases of breast cancer results from skin bleaching”.
On the unique angle of Avila, the beauty entrepreneur enthused;
“We are truly natural. We follow good manufacturing practices. We use standard operating procedure in all our formulation and we do not compromise. We are not just all about making profit but also concerned about customers’ skins. Avila is a well structured company with different departments; a standard factory, raw materials department, packaging department, media, administration departments and so on. We ensure that every product is safe to use. We try to give the best always because all our raw materials are 100 percent organic. Many today call chemical products organic, but organic starts from farming. We do not add fragrance to our oils. There are a lot of adulterated cosmetics. Avila harvests its products and processes them into what they are. We do not add chemicals to our products. A lot of people who have used our products see the positive effects and speak for us. Many companies are trying to compete with us but we are not moved because we are original and we care. We have 1000 distributors as we speak, We have about 70 staff, while 26 of our products have gone through NAFDAC analysis. So we are not a one-room company, augmenting its credibility with the internet, but a unique company, unique in every sense”.
Having cultivated virtues subservient to result-oriented entrepreneurship, Mrs Mayegun places premium attention to sound working relationship. This explain why the staff of Avila Naturalle buzz with enthusiasm, as they go about their work. There’s an air of commitment and dedication to work that is not exactly commonplace and one does not readily notice who the boss is. She explains it this way;
“Its an observation many have made. I believe there should be a good working relationship between the MD and the staff to allow for a free work flow. I don’t believe that workers need to quiver before their MD’s. When a conducive atmosphere has been created, the work flows well. You can easily get ideas from them because they can easily relate with you. There are errors you might be at the verge of making which, owing to the good working ambience, they could help avert, otherwise they’d probably just watch you get into the ditch. However, I am a stickler for correctness. I do not joke with due diligence. Whatever the company achieves is a collective achievement. It also helps them add value, because once they notice that their input is recognized and appreciated they would do more”.
With plans to get Avila Naturally quoted on the Nigeria stock exchange in the nearest future, Mrs Mayegun is of the belief that the multiple effects of government help of the industry will be a win-win for all concerned.
Her words; “The government of Nigeria needs to support the Natural skincare products sector, seeing that people are now going natural. We have taken our products everywhere around the globe and also meaningfully contribute to the GDP of the country. We’re a pride to the nation. So it will go a long way if the government can provide fertile lands for us, on which organic plants can be grown. With that we would cover more grounds, get bigger and provide more employment and business opportunities”.
“We have products that you cannot see anywhere else in the world. For instance, our organic leather cleaner, you cannot find it anywhere else. I did a research on it and it is a hundred percent organic. We also have Bitter Guard Oil which is good for pile. Excepting one Egyptian company, that also cannot be found anywhere else. Apart from these, we also have our bar soap for laundry which is purely organic and not the type of chemicalised ones you see in the market. This also maintain the colour of clothes, as it contains no harmful chemical.”
“So government support is needed. NAFDAC has been supportive. They gave a lot of advisory services when they were here; telling us what to do to maintain good manufacturing practices, ensuring that our products are free from micro-organisms. I believe they are trying, but can do more.”
Her advise for potential customers of Avila products;
“Organic beauty products are way different from the chemicalised products. Organic skin care products do not work as fast as chemicalised products do, but in the long run, organic based products will promote their general well-being as their skin and hair will not age on time. Most of our products promote collagen. We don’t just dabble into products. We have right now products that are still going through research and development. As it were, some customers are asking for snail serum and it is not as if we cannot have that in the next 24 hours, but as a matter of policy, we subject products to research in order to ensure that they do not have long term negative effects on the skin. They should know Avila is here to give them the best. We are the best organic skin care brand. Avila cares”.