Like the wise men from the East, Adewale Aladejana has followed a star that no one else saw to create a pacesetting perfume brand that specializes in Oud, Frankincense and Myrrh. He is a social media evangelist, CEO and Master Perfumer at Sapphire Scents, the premier producer, wholesaler and retailer of perfumes across the country and beyond. He opens up his world to us as an entrepreneur in the fashion industry.
By Damilola Oyewusi
Take us through your journey into starting your business
I stumbled into the business. It was my wife’s birthday in April 2014 and I wanted to make her feel special. I got her a phone and a gold chain. By the time I looked at my salary, I had exhausted it; I guess I got carried away with buying stuff. And as I just had a baby, I knew I had to do something. Then I had a couple of friends using this perfume called OUD. It was really nice. Though I have been a fragrance person all my life, that was just different for me. So I made inquiries. I had a friend coming in from Dubai and she bought me a bottle of OUD perfume. The idea just came to me to start selling the perfumes and that’s how we started with just four bottles. After about three months, I made like a million Naira. I was excited and I told my pastor about it. He told me to come to see him and when I did, he encouraged me to expand, go to Dubai myself and import. Then he wrote me a million Naira cheque and prophesied growth. Through leaps and bounds, we have grown since then. Recently, we started our own line, Sapphire Attar, which is concentrated perfume oil. The reception has been exceptional.
What inspired you to establish a perfumery business, considering that perfume is not necessarily produced in Nigeria?
I have always loved perfumes and had a nose that knew perfumes that could make money. I smelt what we created at Sapphire Scents and we knew we could do better than the foreign brands.
What were some of the challenges you encountered starting out?
One of the major challenges we had was that people didn’t understand OUD; they were calling it Hausa perfume. So we had to take the time to educate people about OUD. Again, packaging was another challenge we faced. But we have been able to sort out the two by God’s grace.
What do you know now that you wished your 18-year-old self-knew and other upcoming entrepreneurs know today?
Financial education and structure are very important. Keep your books and documents as much as possible.
You have a distributorship program for young people. How does it work?
We started the distributor chain for the unemployed, youth corps members, and underemployed. We work even with employed people who cannot do business because they can’t find the time. But you have these 5ml bottles of samples that you can show to your colleagues at work. And perfume is like a lifetime business because people will always use perfumes. They are to register with Sapphire Scents to get these perfumes at a lower rate. And just at your desk, you can be selling to your friends. And it is based on your circle. If my friend is selling something, I will not go to the supermarket to get it. Usually, your first clients are usually those in your circle. Some friends will probably just buy to support you and then, they become hooked. We have hundreds of people who have made a lot of profit from Sapphire scents.
What are the necessary things you think the government and other stakeholders can do to boost the fashion industry in Nigeria?
Showcase what Nigerians are doing on a global scale; not the mediocre stuff but stuff that really stands out.
Damilola is a Writer, Content Marketing Strategist, and Project Management Professional with experience in the financial, social innovation, and media sector.