Blessing Kenneth: Revolutionising the Hair Industry
By Yemisi Suleiman
Nigerian-Canadian entrepreneur, Blessing Kenneth, is Founder and President of BK Unique Beauty Enterprise, producers of BK Unique Hair; an outfit birthed out of love and strong passion for all things beauty.
The Pharmacy graduate of York University, Toronto, followed her passion for beauty, and went on to study cosmetology at the Burnhamthorpe Studio500 College in Toronto, for an in-depth knowledge of her chosen career.
Her famous brand, BK Unique Hair, made its debut into the hair care industry in 2008 with skin wefts, and fully launched in 2011, with a mission to revolutionise the human hair industry and to serve as a tool for empowering young women. Through unwavering passion, commitment and dedication, the BK Unique brand has evolved as one of the top hair extension providers in North America and Nigeria, crowning women in all their glory.
A wife and mother, Blessing is passionate about the plights of women and has continued to show support for cancer survivors through her philanthropic endeavours.
The serial entrepreneur who also has her hands in real estate and the hospitality industry, talks about her beauty journey, survival strategy at this time and her current project.
You have a medical background; what inspired your journey into the hair and beauty sector?
I have always wanted to be an entrepreneur.
For me, hair extensions and wigs are stylish accessories that I love. I decided to follow my passion, to contribute my quota to the female empowerment campaign. Again, I love the fact that hair enhances the confidence and beauty in women. Hair extensions and wigs are fun to wear. You can be blonde today and rock a natural afro tomorrow. You can play dress up with hair, it can elevate your mood and happiness, and of course, it is a lucrative business. We also give back to society.
In what ways?
Not too long ago, we conducted a free wig giveaway and makeover for almost 40 women who survived cancer or still undergoing treatment. They were all given free BK Unique Hair wigs and dinner in a limo with our brand ambassador Rita Dominic. I paid everything 100% out of my pocket. I am here for positive impact, to support women experiencing hair loss, which is my own service to humanity. It is also intended to elevate women’s confidence, for those that wear it as accessory. It is a lucrative business too when done right.
Your hair line made its debut into the hair industry more than a decade ago, how has it been so far?
It’s been a blessing. I am happy we are still here and very relevant in the beauty industry. I will use this opportunity to say a big thank you to everyone who choose BK Unique hair. We will continue to better our craft and be ahead in the hair game, as we continue to make customer satisfaction our priority.
There has been challenges too; from unruly staff who do not pay attention to details, even after paying huge amount to train them, to some brand ambassadors we have worked with before that screwed up plans. I have not mentioned this before, I guess it’s about time.
We had plans to expand to Ghana and decided to work with Yvonne Nelson. She was cool at first and offered to help set up the Ghana store; her store which I was going to pay to take over on lease.
But, she never mentioned that she was pregnant and close to due date. My team and I planned a full-blown photoshoot with some scenes at a swimming pool. I booked a resort, a stylist, photographer and consultant, only for Yvonne not to show up and you know what that means as a business owner. Our day was ruined! After waiting hours, all the beauty experts I paid for the shoot left in anger and of course, I lost my payments.
Later on, Yvonne said she came to the resort parking lot and nobody was there. The instruction was for her to speak with the receptionist who was to direct her.
So, we rescheduled the shoot and she finally showed up with full term pregnancy! Well, as a mother with three kids, I can’t discriminate because children are blessings from God. I just had to accommodate her.
After the shoot, her posts were too vague and not convincing, the images too were not representing well. My team reached out to her that there will be need for new photoshoot after she has given birth and ready to work. She was even told to hold the payment because we just need her to be fully ready for the campaign. Yvonne actually flared up and started drama. My team informed me and I reached out to the agency that introduced her. I did not want to be involved in any drama. I understand that pregnancy hormones and postpartum can make some women react differently.
Later, I reached out to her to reason with her personally. Yvonne told me to get a lawyer. I expected her to be more realistic and professional. I even suggested signing her on to some other deals, that does not require immediate photoshoot if she wasn’t mentally and physically ready for the hair photoshoot. It all fell on deaf ears.
It’s crazy. Some influencers do not understand that the company they represent is not to be treated like the fans they give autographs to. A brand and company focus are the deliverables. We can develop a good business relationship and friendship along the way but, the job you are being paid for is priority and has to be taken care of. These are your investors. You need them just as much as they need you. It’s a trade by barter with mutual benefits.
So far, it’s not been easy , but I’m grateful and glad. I like to count my blessings and learn from the challenges.
Asides this, what were the challenges you faced at the beginning and how did you overcome them?
Production, staffing and logistics were challenging at the beginning. Big thanks to my husband and children for the support; and for allowing the sleepless nights and the many trips to different parts of the world to source hair. Name it; India, Vietnam, Peru, Philippines, Brazil, etc. I still travel there but I have my team set up there now which makes it easier.
Also, staff were more difficult to deal with; sometimes they mess up deliveries. But time has helped shape and structure modus operandi.
You recently collaborated with Nollywood’s star actress, Rita Dominic, to launch Rita’s Signature line. What inspired this move?
Rita Dominic Signature by BK Unique Hair was inspired by my interest in making luxury BK Unique Hair more accessible to everyday women who, really love to wear same authentic real human hair Rita wears. Rita loves hair. Her hair always stands out. She has been wearing BK Unique Hair prior, which many other hair vendors were claiming is their brand. Rita has been loyal to the quality of hair we provide. She would rather patiently wait for her BK Unique Hair to be sourced and delivered to her.
Why collaborate with Rita, it could have been any other celebrity?
Rita is a sophisticated and unique brand which is what BK Unique Hair is known for; a brand that stands out in the crowd.
What is the significant difference between Rita’s line and other hair?
The Rita Dominic signature hair by BK Unique Hair is the natural texture, coarse hair with lustre, that mimics African American hair. It is very hard to source. She is a curly hair fanatic so, her line has almost all the curly hair styles and textures.
How has your brand evolved over the years from when you started?
We have evolved in many ways thanks to our clientele worldwide who do not only purchase, but also refer their friends and family to enjoy same authentic quality they rock with us. My brand has more stores now and has given birth to other companies. I am also into real estate investments, luxury brands retails, and we run hospitality business, all of which we have been able to successfully run over the years, all thanks to God.
How do you stay above board in the face of stiff competition?
Staying above board has been part of my goal from the beginning; that is why my guiding principle is “stand out in the crowd.“ I cannot compromise quality just to cut corners or cheat my customers. Customer satisfaction is our priority.
My ultimate goal is make both my staff and customers happy; that is the pillar of the brand.
What changes would you like to see in the hair and beauty sector?
I like to see more brands representing quality and integrity, deliver what customers order and deliver what you advertise.
I would also like to see brands collaborating like you see with Fendi and Versace. No need for bitter competition, just focus on making your customers happy.
In the face of current economic challenges in the country, how do you navigate the murky business world?
There is global economic challenges and inflation crises which affects every sector. Just staying focused and strategic, working smart and hard too will help. We also try to be more innovative with solutions. I believe it will get better because lifestyle brand is an essential; no matter the situation people must live life and find balance.
As one who runs a business in Nigeria and the US, what would you say is the major difference between both countries in terms of managing a business as yours?
I notice accountability factor and diligence. Human beings are almost the same everywhere but, the system and structures make the difference. Outside the country, managements are more zealous and enthusiastic towards work. Here, it’s like you are forcing them. As if they don’t need the salary. Also, the standard of living over there is more encouraging too. Here, it’s like their salaries are almost not enough for them. That is why I always make sure I support my staff with medical bills, clothing and even accommodation allowance. Just a lot more when it’s possible, just to make them happy and motivated.
Over the years, is there anything you think you would have done differently?
Hmm.. I do not wish I could have done anything differently as that sounds like regret. I like to learn from whatever I experience; be it positive or tough. I hope it gets better going forward.
What drives you as a person and business woman?
Kindness and solution drives me. I’m always motivated by the smile I put on mysel f and people’s faces.
Going forward, what is the next big thing for your brand?
Currently, I’m working on expanding my luxury boutique–Dolce Luxury Brands, and I intend to kick off my official foundation soon.
What’s is your vision for the beauty industry?
My vision is to set up a beauty business training centre where it’s hundred percent free, to train women in hairstyling, makeup artistry, and everything beauty related, as part of my giveback and empowerment movement.
What important life lessons have you learnt that has impacted you and your business positively?
Not to give up on your good dreams and aspirations; keep working truly hard for it until you achieve them and achieve more. Also, be humble and kind to people. I can’t emphasise this enough. My kindness and choosing to be humble naturally makes me happy and at peace. Imagine a world with so much kindness and care.
What do you think about the women supporting women’s movement?
It’s beautiful. Women supporting women is an amazing movement that everyone should embrace. Lift each other up and stop the hate and unnecessary competition. The sky is big enough for everyone to shine and fly. You can decide to uplift the next door woman , be a part of her success and happy story or completely let her be. Supporting another woman should bring positivity and not pain.