Bruno Oaikhinan, a banker of over 12 years left the comfort of the boardroom to set up shop as a beauty and hairstylist. Few years down the line, the 1990 graduate of Economics from the Ambrose Alli University, Ekpoma, Edo State, who is the Chief Inspiration Officer/Chief Hairstylist of Bruno’s Place, has not only made good but is living his dream as well as empowering youths. He spoke with Temitope Popoola. Excerpts:
Why did you leave the comfort of banking to hairstyling and beauty care?
This happened about eight years ago. Then, I was working at the then Prudent Bank. There was turbulence in the industry and I was affected. I told myself that I needed a plan B. So in the process, I was looking for something I can be doing with my hand that will fetch me money. I remembered that when I was courting my wife, I used to take her to salon and I noticed that there were some things that they are not doing right. This was coupled with the fact that while I was growing-up, I used to make use blade with comb on my hair.
I said to myself that somebody can actually go into that and will generate money. Later, I got a teacher from Elegant Twins who used to come to my house to teach me. After the lady had taught me for a year, I perfected it. Shortly after, I was called back into the banking industry and this time around it was Skye Bank. I just decided I needed somebody who had gone far in this business that would be able to run with my own vision. And that was the reason I met Bobby of Bobby’s Signature.
The first time I went to his office and told him I wanted to learn, he almost fell from his chair, because that day I was wearing my suit. Immediately he said, you a banker, and burst into laughter. So, he decided to teach me free of charge. That was how I started.
In 2013, I went into partnership agreement with Bobby’s. We opened a branch in Magodo, which is doing very well, and another one in Omole. Here in Opebi, I decided to use another name so that it will not be Bobby’s. I just decided to give it another name so that I will not put all my eggs in one basket. With the knowledge I have acquired in the banking industry, I want to grow Nigerian economy. We need to invest in the small scale industry. We have successfully created eight saloon outlets, two of which were under the tutelage of Bobby’s Signature.
How was the transition from the world of banking to the world of beauty?
I am fulfilled in it; because it is something I enjoy doing. I find so much joy when I hold woman’s hair. I came into the banking world just because I wanted to make money, I knew from day one that I could not last as a banker because I have passion for fashion. I knew there is something inside of me, I am a creative person, and banking was just like a platform for me to make money. I can’t say I am making as much money that I made in the banking industry but I have so much time, and if you convert that time into money, I can tell you that I feel fulfilled in life than when I was in the banking industry.
Tell us about Bruno Place
Some people think Bruno is a dog’s name and I almost believed them and started acting like a dog until I found out that the opposite of a dog is a god. I’m a god born of God Almighty. So I’m a god, what a good thing to know that you are a god! My brand is founded on this revelation. A good god, transform lives and provides a convenient platform for people to maximise potentials and be satisfied. That’s the Bruno’s brand and this is manifested through Bruno’s Place Unisex Salon presently at Ikeja City Mall and Jabi Lake Mall.
How did you manage to scale up?
When I came out of the bank, I was referred to as a banker-turned-hairstylist. That really made me laughed. But today with all sense of modesty, I can say I’m a successful entrepreneur transforming lives and giving hope to our community. Soon we are going global. I packaged myself and my brand and we are very strategic, intentional, passionate and expressive.
What is your advice for people who want to build a lasting brand but are still struggling at the slippery stage?
Let them have a purpose tied to their business or brand or whatever they are doing. Values are carved out from purpose. Purpose is what you believe and stand for.
As an entrepreneur and a brand specialist who has been through all the stages, how will you advice people who want be on their own?
My advice is that they should simply be packaged and strategic, be intentional as well as be passionate and expressive about what they do.
What is the motive, innovation behind your current venture, training young pre-university set?
There is a difference between schooling and education. Not everyone has the opportunity or wherewithal to go to school but while waiting for the opportunity they can learn one or two skills to keep them busy. The good thing is that if you are educated on a particular skill like hairstyling, it can send you to school later. You can use your skills to make money while schooling. We have received many testimonies from students we have trained so far.
How do you see Nigeria in another five years, as an entrepreneur and a brand strategist in terms of our positioning and our value in the eye of the world at large?
Nigeria is a very expensive place to do business or build a brand but if you are successful in Nigeria, I guarantee that you will be successful anywhere in the world.
Do you think the government is doing enough to help SMEs?
Nigeria is a growing economy, we have the population but upcoming business needs the support of banks, government, NGOs and also the people to patronise and appreciate our own. We are lacking in these areas in Nigeria. We are praying for a better government who is business minded, interested in transforming lives and also interested in what the international thinks of us.
What do you think is more important, the content or the package and why?
The content is more important. Without content what are you packaging? The content is the offering while packaging is the story behind the offering. They complement each other
How did you come about the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation (UNESCO) alliance?
When you find favour with God by being diligent in your duty, He will announce you to those who could patronise you and also be of help to your brand. That was the case with UNESCO. It is a partnership with the Nigerian Commission for UNESCO under the Social and Human Sciences Sector of the UNESCO Youth Desk. The whole idea is to encourage as many youths out there as possible to learn a vocation under my organisation. The August Project (TAP) requires that I train learners on cosmetology and beauty therapy for a period of about six months or more.
What are the benefits for Nigerian youth who participates?
First the participant gets a UNESCO certificate after the training and the successful ones are entitled to a grant of N500, 000 and above to start up their own salon.
What motivated you to choose youth development goal?
The youths are the leaders of tomorrow. Success is not just making money but the ability to make others successful. Youth empowerment is my own way of giving back to our community
What has been your main challenge as an entrepreneur?
The major challenge confronting entrepreneurs is how to convince people about your values, vision and goals. You cannot do it alone; you need committed, sacrificial and passionate like minds to birth a vision.
Of course, the other critical challenge one must confront is the cost of doing business in Nigeria’ which is very expensive compared to other parts of the world.
How did you summon it?
You have to really work hard if you don’t have the grace, mercy and favour of God. Grace is God’s given ability to do; mercy is getting it effortlessly while favour is getting what you don’t really deserve.
Recently you put your children up for training at your salon, will you think that as a coercive measure?
No, I will not call that coercive, it wasn’t coercive rather it was a stimuli. What really happened is that last year we were in Texas, America. This year, I told them the only way I can take them to the United States of America again was for them to learn a skill. They really love Houston, Texas so they had to start learning how to barb.
There is a new slang word in circulation ‘serialpreneur’ what is your opinion of it?
This is one who starts a business, grows it, establish it and moves on to start another one. Business is about multiplication.
Do you really subscribe the idea of having many streams of income at the same time?
Yes I do. Don’t just see it from my multiple stream of income but see it as creating more platforms for further youth empowerment. With our branches we are concurrently giving out jobs to over 100 staff, thereby reducing the unemployment gap and reducing poverty in our own little way.