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Friday Interview

Founder of GOZI Haircare, Ngozi Ossai.

By Helen Bowman

Founder of GOZI Haircare, Ngozi Ossai tells us about her business, her passions and determination to beat negative bias in the world of business.

Tell us a little bit about yourself and your background?

I am Ngozi Ossai, founder of GOZI Haircare. I am also a Biomedical scientist and I graduated from Newcastle University and founded GOZI Haircare two years later. Apart from my business, I like meeting new people, especially from diverse cultures, and generally soaking up new experiences. I love dancing (Salsa and Bachata are my favourites), trying new food, travelling and reading historical books.

Tell us about your business – GOZI Haircare

GOZI Haircare was founded as a result of my personal story.  I used to use chemical relaxers on my hair to make it straight. About nine years ago I decided to let my hair go natural – this is simply the term for the natural state of afro-textured hair that hasn’t been altered by chemicals or straighteners.  In doing this, I realised two main things. Firstly, there was a distinct lack of specific products for my particular hair type, and secondly, there was a lack of information on how to properly care for it.

When I graduated, I decided to be the change I wanted to see. I’d done a lot of research into the type of ingredients that work for the tightly curled hair-type and created my unique homemade formula products that I was using on my own hair. These products were working and helping my hair to grow and thicken up. I had really healthy hair and my friends and family loved the products too.

A lot of women with my hair texture were impressed with my hair growth and there was a lot of interest into what I was using to achieve it. I was also charting my hair journey on YouTube at the time, on how I was able to care for my hair and retain healthy length. I emerged on social media, sharing tips and I knew there was a need for help and products for women just like me. That was when I decided to start GOZI Haircare.

There are so few products for afro-textured hair available in the UK market, so I wanted to use my biomedical experience to expand the product range available. I want GOZI Haircare to be one of the driving forces to facilitate this change and help women care for their natural/afro-textured hair. Natural Hair is a big deal both culturally and economically. GOZI Haircare provides a range of uniquely formulated afro-textured haircare products (using natural ingredients) and specialist advice in the natural haircare industry in the UK.

The primary aim of GOZI Haircare is to add value to our customers. My business is my channel to share my solutions with others that need it, nationally and potentially worldwide. I am passionate and committed to use my skills and experience to bridge the gap in this market so the future generation of afro-textured haired women and young girls, like my niece, will find it easier than I have. There is still much more to accomplish with GOZI Haircare but the journey has only begun. At the moment we are in the UK but we are looking at expanding globally soon.

What challenges have you faced in setting up your business in general?

Entrepreneurship comes with a number of challenges. The first and most important challenge I faced was market research. I needed to do in-depth market research; with a focus on the specific problems, we aim to provide a solution for. This took some time and definitely broadened my skill set. It was the most crucial step to validate GOZI Haircare in the market today. Thankfully, with our wonderful volunteers, we were able to carry out formative market research to inform our product range and branding.

Have you faced any specific challenges because you’re a woman in business?

With most of the challenges that I have faced, my strategy has been to focus on them as my individual challenges. I’ve used them as opportunities to build my confidence and develop my expertise even further.

The bias that women face in the industry is well documented and is quite unfortunate. When I read things like this, it’s all too evident that women are still not afforded the same respect as men: “According to Forbes, women’s businesses are among the leading ventures that lack financial support. It is also common for women to be denied loans because of gender and cultural biases—many institutions tend to fund male-owned businesses”.

How I choose to work around this, and any other profiling category that I would be put into, is by putting my best foot forward in such a way that it would be difficult to deny me an opportunity, given my work ethic and the results I am able to produce. After this, if there is still a bias it’s clearly obvious. It can be difficult, but I do my best to move on and not linger, so I do not get discouraged. It is the best strategy for me and has worked to push through so far. I keep hoping that the diversity inclusion changes will create a level playing field for women and other minority groups. Whatever position I find myself in, I try to do my part in supporting the much-needed reforms, consciousness or awareness. I look forward to a time where I would have more influence and resources to have an impact at a much larger scale.

What’s been the best bit about starting your own business?

Our customer feedback! Customers are delighted with GOZI Haircare products and we receive constant feedback through our social media channels @gozihaircare (Instagram, Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn) since we launched our first two products. Secondly, there is a pleasure from providing a solution to a problem that I can personally relate to. I love the freedom to be authentic and creative.

What has been the most memorable moment of your career so far?

Since launching, my most memorable moment so far has to be my first order. After so much hard work with the strategy, planning and finally launch, seeing that first order and the other orders follow quickly after, made me very proud of GOZI Haircare. To top that up, we received awards shortly after that for “Best New Business” awarded by the Enterprise and Entrepreneurship department (Newcastle University) and also “Pride of Newcastle 2019” for Outstanding Contribution to Innovation, Creativity and Enterprise.

We had gone through a very busy year after the launch and that level of recognition made us proud! We were then accepted into the highly competitive six-month business acceleration/incubator programme “Founderships” with Newcastle University in 2018. We have gone on to receive further awards with a recent shortlist from The Great British Entrepreneurship awards. We have strong momentum going and are very proud of what we have accomplished so far.

What’s amazing about running a business in the North East?

From my experience, the North East has a very supportive entrepreneurial environment. The networking pool is large and there are loads of support organisations available to boost businesses. People are friendly and always ready to help and connect.

And finally, what are your North East favourites?

My North East favourites so far, especially since the lockdown, are walks in Jesmond Dene Park, drinks at The Alchemist and Banyan bar, I also love the food from Mantra Thai Dining, La Yuan restaurant and Chaophraya.

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