What was your inspiration to start your hair line?
My inspiration for starting a hairline probably began long before I knew it. During my years in college I worked at my cousin’s hairdressing salon and was immersed into the world of hair and beauty. During my first year of University whilst revising, my friends and I would take frequent breaks to dance to afrobeats and watch vlogs on YouTube of healthy hair and shoulder to waist hair journeys. Little did I know what impact this all was having on me!
During my first and second year of university my hair was relaxed and I experimented with many styles, such as shaving one side and playing about with colours! During my third year I did the big chop (November 2014), but prior to then I had done a lot of research about the chemicals and ingredients that go into products and the impact it has on our hair. I also researched about natural oils and how striping the chemicals away can give your hair what it needs.
At that time I was using natural coconut oil from Nigeria on my skin, so after my big chop I started using the same oil on my hair as well and it worked really well. My hair loved it so I started branching out and trying different oils. I had a lot of family and friends who were relaxed, natural or thinking about going natural, so I thought it could help them as well. I started making my hair butter and distributing it to my friends, family and my cousin’s hairdressing clients for all to try and provide feedback.
What type of hair would you say your hair line caters for?
I would say my hairline caters to curly and kinky hair. The reason I developed it was because I was looking for a good product for my own hair which is afro (4C texture).
What 3 pieces of advice would you give new entrepreneurs?
1. Trust that God has a plan
2. Believe in your dream
3. Never lose sight of your goal
The reason I say these three is because if you believe that God has a plan for you, you will not worry or be anxious. This will allow God to take control over all situations and make a way for you.
It's important to believe in your own dream because it's your job to make people see your vision. Not all will support your vision, but it's yours! If you don't believe in your dream no one else will. This also ties in to never losing sight of your goal. Life tends to throw so much at you that you may lose sight of the future and focus on the here and now. It’s in these instances that you need to focus on the end goal and how all the little steps contribute to getting you to where you want to be.
On your website you mention Corporate Social Responsibility and your support of the Sickle Cell Society. Can you explain this in a little more detail.
When I first thought about starting my own business I automatically wanted to give back to the community. One charity that is close to my heart is the Sickle Cell Society as my late sister, as well as some of my family members have Sickle Cell. I wanted to support a cause that has had a huge impact on my life and work to stop avoidable situations from occurring.
You mention your core values and beliefs as being Creativity, Support, Empowerment and Independence. Why did you choose these values in particular? Can you go into detail about each one?
I went through a company exercise whereby you write the most important words that identify and reflect you as a business, and then eliminate words until you are left with 4/5 core values, and these were my four.
To break it down a little, creativity means constantly being creative, thinking outside of the box and being a free soul in what you do. Support means creating a network to support one another. Empowerment means empowering black females to proudly love and accept who they are and also empowering the black community to own businesses and chase their passion. Independence means the ability to be self-sufficient, to depend on yourself and being able to aid others in their personal growth!
By definition an entrepreneur is largely referred to as one who organises, manages and assumes the risks of a business or enterprise. Whilst this largely encompasses what an entrepreneur essentially is, I lean towards the following counter definition "an individual who identifies a need- any need- and fills it".
At just 22 years old Paula Okoye, founder of Eyoko observed the colossal need for more readily available, natural products void of harsh chemicals for Afro-Caribbean hair. It was the identification of this need that led Paula to research, source and experiment with natural oils and ingredients. Fast forward a year and with constant testing and customer feedback under her belt, Paula's all natural hair butter was manufactured and subsequently, Eyoko the brand was born!
I met up with the uni grad turned business woman to discuss all things business, beauty and her plans on hair care evolution!
For readers who may not be aware of the brand, what products do you offer?
Eyoko is a UK based natural hair company that provides hair care products. The first product we have available which has received great feedback, is our hair butter that has many functions and aims to nourish and strengthen your hair whilst conditioning your scalp.
How did you come up with the name Eyoko?
The name Eyoko is my surname backwards. I wanted a name that incorporated who am I, where I come from and a legacy my children (when I have them) can think about and related to, so that our culture and heritage isn't lost.
WHAT'S THE BIG DEAL?
An Interview with Eyoko Founder, Paula Okoye
by Christine @cttbeauty
05th DEC 2016
What 3 beauty (hair) products could you not live without?
1. Eyoko hair butter
2. Tea tree and cholesterol leave in conditioner
3. Gorilla snot gel
What challenges have you faced as a young entrepreneur?
There are many challenges I am still facing as a young entrepreneur. One of the biggest challenges is getting the business off the ground and turning a dream into something tangible.
Additionally, I would say both finance and time as they go hand in hand. I started my business properly after I graduated and had more time on my hands however being unemployed meant little financial backing to take any action.
Once I was able to secure a full time position, I had the capital to take action but with little to no time to execute my plans. This is a constant battle for me and will be until I am at a place where I have enough capital to focus solely on chasing my dream.
What are your views on the increasingly popular natural hair trend?
I think it's great! I love it and hope it continues to grow and gain more momentum in the UK! I love the fact that black women now realise their beauty without having to conform to the way the western world or how media tells us to look, if you want to be seen as beautiful. It's almost as if we have fallen back in love with ourselves!
hope it continues because self-acceptance is the catalyst for change, it's empowering, motivational and inspirational! I can also see that the increase in natural hair has brought communities closer together, forming self-help groups and forums for all topics besides just hair.
In your tagline you mention "this is not a hairline, this is a revolution". How do you feel Eyoko is revolutionary?
Eyoko is not just a hairline, Eyoko aspires to teach, support and empower the black community. We want to instigate a revolution in the hair and beauty industry, solidifying the statement that black is beautiful! This means helping to pave the way introducing black products into the mainstream and infiltrating the mass markets. My vision isn't just to bring hair products to the market and into homes but to bring a message that everyone can carry!
To find out more about Paula, Eyoko and her incredible products please visit: http://www.eyoko.co.uk/ and follow Eyoko on Instagram and Twitter; @Eyokohair