Bruno Oaikhinan is the Chief Executive Officer and Chief Inspiration Officer of Bruno’s Place Unisex Salon, a beauty and style outfit at Ikeja City Mall, Lagos, and Jabi Lake Mall, Abuja. RAHEEMAH AROGUNDADE and EMMANUEL MONYEI engage this former banker who advises budding entrepreneurs to embrace mistakes as part of the bargain. Excerpts…
Anyone who reads your book, A Banker Turned Hairstylist, will not have problems realising that the story was about you. So, why did you decide to end a well-paying bank job to establish a salon?
I did not quit the bank; it was the bank that left me. I was actually asked to resign and I had no better choice than hairstyling. Today, it is paying my bills better than when I was working in the bank.
What motivated you to write the book?
I wrote the book to document my experiences so far; for others to read and run with. There is so much to learn from reading the book.
What did it feel like leaving the corporate world for free enterprise?
I thought working in the bank was the best thing that could happen to me, or anyone. I am glad I was asked to resign. Today, I am an employer of labour.
Some say that in this part of the world, it’s not so common to see male stylists; how do your customers, especially the females, see the male stylists?
What drives the beauty and fashion industry is controversy. The trend now is that the ladies prefer the guys doing their hair, while the guys prefer a good female barber. We follow trends in Bruno’s Place Unisex Salon. We have very good male hairstylists/braiders and many female barbers.
Apart from the financial prospects in this business, what else did you consider before taking it as a viable business option?
In addition to the lucrative nature of the business, I saw it as an opportunity to transform lives. I have trained and converted many cleaners to hairstylists, barbers, nail technicians, pedicurists and manicurists.
Bruno’s Place has, over time, caught people’s attention. What sets you apart from other operators in the industry?
Bruno’s Place is the first salon to operate in a mall in this country. Malls happen to be very expensive locations to set up a salon. We have been operating in malls for the past six years.
How did your business gain so much popularity? Is it the branding or advertising strategy?
I am a certified brand strategist. I utilise all the experiences I have gathered working in the bank and those I acquired training as a brand strategist to work. Bruno’s Place is not just a business, but also a brand. Business may die, but a brand lives on.
What unique feature does Bruno’s Place offer customers?
We provide a very convenient environment with competent staff who are very good at their trade.
How lucrative is the style business?
We are doing very well as a business.
To begin such business, what range of capital would be needed?
It depends on a number of factors, including your target market, ambience, products, etc. You can start with an amount ranging from N500,000 to N20m.
What major challenge have you faced in the business so far, and how did you tackle it?
The major challenge I have experienced at the start was manpower. Thereafter, I developed a system of training and employing those who desired to stay and work with us.
Most successful businessmen have role models, people they look up to and model their business after. Do you have any?
Bobby Eke is one major person that really showed me the secrets of this business.
What strikes you most about him(Bobby Eke)?
He is talented and well-packaged.
What would you say has been instrumental in the growth of your business?
My character, attitude and personality. I believe that one’s attitude reflects on whatever he does.
Given your experiences, what lessons have you learnt about entrepreneurship?
I see every seeming mistake as a blessing in disguise. Never be afraid to make mistakes or fail. If you must fail, fail forward.
What is your advice for younger ones interested in this line of business?
Study the trade before you go into it. Have a purpose. What you stand for must reflect in the products and services you render to your customers.