Atilola Moronfolu, 29, is a multi-skilled entrepreneur and the Founder, African Naturalistas.
What is your educational background?
I have a Bachelor of Science in computer engineering from the Department of Electrical and Electronics Engineering, University of Lagos. I have a certification in advanced cosmetic science from the Institute of Personal Care Science in Australia. I am a certified Holistic Practitioner of Trichology, certified and accredited by the American Association of Drugless Practitioners and Dr. Kari Williams Training Institute, California.
Why did you leave paid employment to pursue entrepreneurship?
How many businesses do you operate?
Officially, I have seven of them at the moment. I know it seems like a lot, but many of them fit into one another. Unofficially, it is a lot more than I would like to name.
African Naturalistas has three small business units under it. We have a hair clinic, where we treat and manage hair shaft, scalp diseases and disorders. We have a manufacturing arm, where we manufacture and sell hair products, and it is the major income earner for African Naturalistas. We have a hair care blog, run by eight committed hair lovers. Our mission is to help women and men achieve their goal of healthy hair, naturally. These three arms help us fulfil that mission.
Another business is Alolita Writing and Editing Services. It has several writing services under it, but lumped into two business units. I edit for other writers getting ready to publish, and I offer several writing services, such as transcribing, ghost writing, copywriting and many more. I write almost every day. So, this is also home for me. I have two published books, ‘Antonyms of a Mirage,’ and ‘For Laff’s Sake,’ and several unpublished ones. Many of my articles are also published on my blog. My writing and editing business gave birth to the last business.
ATILOLA is my brand name as a spoken word artist. As a spoken word artist, I get to step away from behind the computer or the manufacturing room, and talk to the world using whatever platform is presented to me.
Under ATILOLA, there are two business units – the spoken word artist, and the spoken word teaching. As a spoken word artist, I perform poetry all over the world, most especially in Nigeria, and as a spoken word teacher, I train young people on how to become spoken word artists; mostly on weekends.
How do you manage all the businesses?
Thankfully, all the businesses complement one another, rather than compete. I manage them by making sure I don’t bite more than I can chew. For example, I don’t agree to edit more than one book at a time. Once I am on a book, all other books have to wait. I also have loyal and committed staff in African Naturalistas. I have learnt that I don’t have to do every single thing. I delegate all I can, and focus on the ones I cannot.
Acknowledging that I am not a superwoman, and working around the realities of my limits has helped me manage things well. I have also learnt to rest well, and not feel guilty when I am less busy. I suffered a serious burnout last year due to work overload, and I don’t want to have to ever go through that ordeal again.
Tell us about African Naturalistas
African Naturalistas was created to cater for the hair care needs of black women in Africa and beyond. African Naturalistas started as a natural hair care blog in August 2011 after we discovered the knowledge gap about how to care for the type of hair many Africans have without the use of chemicals; thus, the prefix ‘African’.
African Naturalistas Hair Products started when we started randomly whipping Shea butter mixes for young ladies in order provide an alternative hair care sealant. By November 2012, we started selling shampoos, deep conditioning treatments, and herbal rinses in addition to the whipped butter.
After realising the growth potential in this virgin market, we decided to do a complete overhaul of the business by making our products more storage-worthy, reformulating and rebranding. After months of research, several tests and trials, the new look of African Naturalistas Hair Products was officially presented in June 2013.
With the aid of the hair care blog, which currently has an average and increasing view of over 100,000 hits per month, African Naturalistas Hair Products has moved from just whipping Shea butter mixes to developing a range of products to suit the needs of the average natural hair lady.
Now, we have a hair clinic because we also realised the lack of trichologists in Nigeria. In the hair clinic, we have a certified trichologist who treats and manages Hair shaft and scalp disorders.
What is your source of funding for the business?
I funded African Naturalistas myself. I took N3,000 I made from selling some of my creams and started it. From then, it has grown to this level. I am not a big spender; so I don’t have issues with delayed gratification. If I really need money for a new business, I take from the business it is branching out of, and make the new business pay the old business back when it can stand on its own. For example, the hair products funded the hair clinic when I wanted to start it. It paid for the training in America, the tools, the office.
For the other business ventures, they sort themselves out since they are mostly modern day service providing business, and I don’t even have to see the clients to get paid.
Most of the businesses I run are not capital intensive. It’s just the manufacturing arm that requires a lot of money to run, but for now, it has grown to a level that it can cater for itself.
What are the benefits of being a naturalist?
The benefits are innumerable. First, hair is in its healthiest state when natural. There are some hair and scalp diseases that might come as a result of chemically treating the hair. Chemically processed hair can hardly grow as long as natural hair. Natural hair grows very long, though it might not be obvious because it shrinks into an afro.
Who is a spoken word artist?
A spoken word artist is someone who performs poetry by using words to paint pictures in the minds of people. That is my definition.
How did you become a spoken word artist?
It was after I wrote my first book, which has some poetry in it. I was looking for events to read at, so people could know more about my book. I found a poetry event, and the people I saw there were doing performance poetry on another level. I was blown away by their words and the beauty behind it. I never knew that words could be crafted in such manner and spewed out.
It was art like I had never seen before. I knew I could do something like that because I was already a writer, and I have been blessed with a natural stage command and presence. At first, I just didn’t want to put in much effort because I was tired of putting words into my head like I did in my engineering days. After a while, I decided to start doing spoken word too, and a whole new world of influence was opened up to me. My spoken word journey is documented on my website.
Who are your mentors and how have they assisted you?
In spoken word artistry, I look up to Plumbline. There are a lot of things I want to learn from him when it comes to word plays and punchlines, and he helps me do just that.
In life generally, my mentor is Mrs. Olajumoke Adenowo of Awesome Treasure Foundation. She is a leading architect in Nigeria that has been featured on so many platforms including CNN, a woman with a successful marriage, a mother, media person, evangelist, prophetess, and so much more.
She is a total woman in every sense of it and she shows me a complete picture of what I want to be in future; letting me know that as a woman, it is possible to be successful in every area, such that one area does not have to be sacrificed for another.
In terms of assisting me, Adenowo asks me questions that reveal to me that I can be better than what I am at the moment. They are quite probing, and I am sometimes scared of her questions. I also report some of my progress to her from time to time.
What is your advice to entrepreneurs who are facing hard times?
There are several of them. I would say no matter how hard it is, we can always get up again. The fact that things are hard right now means it can only get better. The only options we have are either to win or to win. So cheer up.
What are the most important attributes of an entrepreneur?
Some of the attributes are focus, determination, discipline, diligence, ability to delay gratification, and most importantly, buoyancy.
Where do you see yourself in five years?
This is one question I don’t answer again. That is because I have never been successful in being where I saw myself five years ago. I always find myself being in someplace completely different, doing something totally unexpected of me five years ago; albeit in a far better place.