Several years ago, the makeup industry in the country was virtually non-existent, or at least not at the level of sophistication witnessed in recent times. For early entrants into the market, the journey was tough and being a new terrain, it came with several challenges and doubts about its acceptability. However, despite the rocky beginnings, it has turned into a budding and prosperous industry.

Tara Fela Durotoye is one of the early entrants into the beauty industry in Nigeria. She is the founder and current CEO of House of Tara International, the creator of Tara Orekelewa Beauty range, Inspired Perfume, and H.I.P Beauty range. As the lady who sold dreams of beauty to the African continent, she has found fame and fortune through it.

On this week’s edition of founder’s profile, we take a look at Tara’s success story.

Early Life and Education

Tara Fela Durotoye was born in 1977 at the famous St Nicholas Hospital, Lagos. Her parents, Mr. John Sagay and Felicia Omaghomi, separated when she was just 8-months old, and the responsibility of raising her fell on her stepmother, Agnes Sagay.

She started her education at Command Children School, Victoria Island and later proceeded to Nigeria Navy Secondary School, Ojo. Tara graduated from Lagos State University with a degree in Law.

According to Tara, one of her dreams while growing up was to become a successful lawyer who specialised in International Law, could also speak French and Spanish. She also desired to study at Cambridge University, U.K, which was her father’s alma-matter.

House of TARA International

Tara’s journey into business and entrepreneurship was inspired by an advertiser who came to her secondary school to speak about being an entrepreneur. She found this lecture very intriguing and that later gave birth to her business acumen.

Tara started in the beauty business as a bridal makeup artist, going the extra mile each day to offer her services to as many people as possible, even sometimes doing it without charging fees. From bridal makeup, her clientele began to expand, and slowly it dawned on her that the beauty business was a big deal.

Coronation Research

She started the House of Tara at the age of 20 from her living room as an undergraduate at Lagos State University back in 1998 with just N15,000. That small seed sown in 1998 has today grown into a household name in the beauty industry, not only in Nigeria but across Africa. One of her products, Be inspired, is Nigeria’s first homegrown fragrance.

According to her:

“Each time people saw me do this, they complimented my works and the more I did, the more people talked about me and my business to other people and the more referrals I got.”

She launched Nigeria’s first ever bridal directory in 1999 and in 2004, opened the country’s leading beauty academy.

The TARA House has grown into a franchise with three main lines: the make-up studio, the make-up school and the TARA product line, which has beauty products and professional makeup kits.

Building the TARA Brand

In a bid to carve a niche and create a name for herself in the then relatively new beauty business in Nigeria, Tara attended several courses to give her desire and passion a direction. She read lots of books, that helped her to come up with a mission statement for her company and create structures and systems.

According to her:

“I formed a board of directors of eight persons with two of them being members of my family. I also drafted a company policy document which consisted of what the vision of the company is, and how we plan to actualise that vision, code of conduct within the organisation, the culture and the way we relate to our customers and even how we answer phone calls.”

The House of Tara takes social responsibility seriously and has over the years supported the society through fundraising efforts in breast cancer research and awareness programs.

Challenges faced at the early stage

Because the makeup industry was new when she started her outfit, there was no mentor whose footsteps she could follow for direction. Also, the fear of rejection by Nigerians was a major challenge for Tara at the initial stage.

She said:

“I also faced the challenge of getting members of my staff to buy into my personal and corporate vision for the business, so that they would not see it as a one-man business that will rise and die with the owner, without anything for them in it.”

One of the major challenges the beauty industry is currently facing is the menace of fake and counterfeit products. This she continues to fight with the help of security agencies.

Family and Personal Life

Tara remains an inspirational role model and mentor to make up artists and aspiring beauty shop owners across the continent. To date, over 1,500 students have graduated from her makeup school and have gone to start their own business brands or are working with international cosmetics brands.

Tara is happily married to Fela, a business strategist and public speaker. He recently announced his intention to contest for the office of the President of the Federal Republic of Nigeria at next year’s general election. They are happily married with three sons.

She sees Mary Kay Ash as her role model – a brand that has become one of the top 10 beauty companies in the world.

Awards by Tara

Tara made the list of 20 Young Power women in Africa, 2013. She was also nominated as a Young Global Leader by the World Economic Forum.

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