My Life In Tech is telling the stories of Africans making a difference in the world of tech.
As our interview drew to a close I asked her what dreams and goals she had. “Essentially, I just want to be happy…” This was how she began her answer.
The other part of her answer that stuck with me was her plan to sell natural hair wigs to “black women everywhere.”
With her business Natural Girl Wigs, she now ships to black women in over 65 countries.
We talk about growing up in Lagos and falling in love with her hair. Her story takes us from building a community on social media to later growing a successful tech-enabled business with that same community.
Her name is Oluremi Martins-Areola and this is her life in tech.
It’s all about hair. Black hair.
“I’ve always had a very interesting view of my hair.”
Many Nigerian millennials remember where they were when Agbani Darego won the Miss World Pageant in 2001. I remember a lot of rejoicing on my street when the announcer said “Miss Nigeria.”
For Oluremi, the pageant was one thing to be excited about but Darego’s iconic hairdo would be the thing with the lasting influence.
“My father would indulge me during the weekends and take me to go do the Agbani Darego style,” she said.
By Monday she had to return to whatever hairstyle her secondary school had assigned. But for those weekends, Oluremi’s hair could do whatever she wanted it to.
She went on to study history and diplomatic studies at the University of Lagos but for her, deciding on what to study was not something she had bothered about too much.
“It was actually never about what I was going to study. I always knew that school would be a stepping stone to whatever I wanted to achieve. I felt I was going to go into some type of media or doing a business that had an impact so I felt like it was okay to do anything in school.”
While at the university, she became active on social media and started learning about digital marketing through online courses. This would help her land a job as a social media manager for a consulting firm right out of school.
She changed jobs a few times before finally working at Image Boosters, a digital agency where she would begin to form the idea for her business.
“It was a personal awakening for me because I had this beautiful natural hair and anytime I wanted to buy wigs or protective styles it was always these European or Indian weaves.”
Oluremi’s business started with an Instagram page where she built a community of black women who wanted to care for their hair but also get access to wigs made just for them.
“I thought, why shouldn’t I have wigs that look like my natural hair…”
She soon began selling wigs sometime in 2018 and eventually left her job after six months of running the Instagram account.
Looking back on her decision to leave paid employment and face her business full time, Oluremi tells me it was tough. She had just gotten a promotion that came with more money and deciding to leave at that time felt scary.
But by the end of her first year, she had made revenue of up to six figures in dollars – and she hadn’t even set up her website yet. Her dream of reaching black women around the world was slowly starting to take shape.
Building Natural Girl Wigs
Before the pandemic, Oluremi already ran a remote workforce. Save for the actual making of the wigs, there was no need for her staff to be physically present for anything. She counts this as one of the reasons the pandemic didn’t disrupt her business too much.
Natural Girl Wigs is currently in its third year. After making impressive sales in the first year, it became important for the company to have its own solutions available on a website and not just a social media account.
The business now caters to black hair in different ways. Of its features, The Hair Quiz stands out. With the quiz, customers are able to answer questions about their hair and are provided with recommendations on hair care and products.
The website also provides hair tutorials and content tailored to black hair.
One of the toughest parts of running an e-commerce business anywhere in the world today has to be logistics. To ease the strain of shipping to one of her biggest markets – the U.S. – Oluremi had to start manufacturing the wigs in the U.S. as well.
“Logistics is a serious challenge we’ve faced. We currently work with a third party entity that handles delivery for us.”
With Natural Girl Wigs now delivering to countries all over the world, Oluremi points out how a community was key to growing.
“The theme for the initial Instagram page was just me posting things around beauty and lifestyle to a great community of people that would be interested in the product I was going to launch.”
The community has continued to grow and Natural Girl Wigs currently has close to 60,000 email subscribers.
Looking to the future
For Oluremi, the future for Natural Girl Wigs involves scaling manufacturing. A lot of the materials being used are currently being imported from China and other countries.
“When I was doing my research, I realised that most of the manufacturers of hair are Chinese or Asian and a future I would like to explore is one where I have a factory where we make hair from scratch in Africa.”
Away from work, there are a few things Oluremi enjoys: hanging out with her husband, going to restaurants, attending events in Lagos. She hopes to continue to do these things that make her happy.
She would also like to help people realise the paths to their own goals and dreams.
Whether through her Instagram videos on growing your business or any other medium she may use soon, Oluremi is keen on letting people know that it’s never too late to go for the things they want because as she puts it, “whenever you wake up is your morning.”