Akande Boluwatife Oluwatobi is a professional make-up artist based in Lagos better known as Ti imza. ROTIMI IGE caught up with the finance graduate to ask about her decision to become a fashion entrepreneur and how she has fared over the years. Excepts:
TELL us a bit about yourself and what growing up was like for you?
I was born into a family of four. Growing up for me was simple and fun. As a child I can remember experimenting a lot with mixing colours, designs and especially head ties as far back as when I was seven years-old. I would take my mum’s head tie and scarves and try them in different styles. I developed interest in make-up artistry at an early stage, but I always wanted to be an accountant because I was good with figures.
I have a B.Sc in Finance from the University of Lagos. I’m also on the pathway of being a member of the Association of Chartered Certified Accountants (ACCA).
What influences would you say shaped you?
I would say my parents encouraged the artistic element in me, especially my mum. She never complained about me littering the house because I was always collecting and piling up fashion magazines, sometimes the whole edition and sometimes just a page, and she never discouraged me. Sometimes when she was going out, she would ask me if her head tie was okay and I would tell her yes but let me help you adjust this. I could also remember making my mum up and tying her head gear for her 50th birthday when I was 16 and my aunties kept on saying ‘Tife, you should learn this thing’.
When and how did you develop professional interest in your craft?
I attended a skill empowerment programme on make-up briefly in 2013 for a week. I think it opened up something in me. I started getting interested in the world of make-up and I found myself watching more make-up videos. I practiced more on myself and my friends, though sometimes we looked like clowns afterwards. But that was just the beautiful beginning between make-up and me. I was 16 and I always found myself doing make-up in the polytechnic and later on in the university.
I would say I’m blessed because anything I put my mind to, as long as I enjoy doing it, I achieve it. So, the fact that I was in school and doing make-up for people didn’t affect my studies at all. I would say for a fact that it made me put in more effort and I graduated with a very good grade.
I enjoyed painting people’s faces and everything that has to do with beauty I knew I wanted to do more. It became natural to make a business out of it. So, as time went on, I figured I was saving money from what I was doing.
What challenges did you face?
The truth is I just wanted to do make-up and make people beautiful. There’s this joy that comes with it for me. I wasn’t really thinking of anything else when I started. One of those challenges would be standing my ground on my rate especially with people I had worked on for free when I was just doing it without a business motive. My biggest challenge so far is customer relations because the customer is always right and you have to satisfy them. There was a time when I first started, like five years ago. Someone requested for my service while working on a client, her neighbour. After the session and agreeing on the charge she disappeared claiming she was in a hurry and wanted to change, and came out after almost one hour and asked me to look at how she was sweating. The make-up was ruined and she didn’t pay me. I cried, I was unhappy. She created a tantrum. It did hurt but that was a challenge to make me better. This gave me the drive to research more, understand skin, chat with my clients that their state of mind matters because if you’re relaxed it puts you in a better position. It was also a drive to work hard and get better products that would survive our weather. I later got to know from her neighbour that found out all the drama arose because she didn’t have the money to pay.
How have you managed the situation to evolve into a brand today?
Well, I have grown to understand that nobody is an island of knowledge and I’m always open to learning. The difference between an amateur and a professional is the time, effort and consistency the professional puts into it. So, the drive is to be better, consistent and to inspire more people. This has helped and motivated me to never stop learning.A positive and calm mindset goes a long way with managing any situation. I have a lot of amazing clients. The feeling that they chose me because they trust me with their beauty and the smile on their faces is enough to make you want to do better. There’s more to achieve in the future.
Seeing that your industry has evolved so much in the last couple of years in Nigeria, how have you adapted to it?
I have gotten to understand that no two hands are the same. Don’t try to be someone else. Own and enhance your skills and keep getting better. I‘m constantly working on myself, reading books and getting better. This has helped me in adapting to the changes.
What’s next for you?
I’m still and will always be a work in progress. I’m still learning and growing. I see myself owning my own make-up brand, a brand to be reckoned with internationally. I’m also looking forward to training more people and investing in them so we can all win together.It’s a great thing to be able to make people feel confident and beautiful.