'Women should have genuine passion for whatever they aim to become' – Guardian Nigeria

Candius Diallo is an entrepreneur, business strategist, consultant and founder of LaVerita Hair. With a professional experience that cuts across healthcare, aviation, real estate and the beauty industry, Diallo is best known for her competence, transparency, passion and commitment to projects she’s involved with.
Born and raised in America, she relocated to Nigeria some years ago and founded LaVerita Hair, a first-class beauty salon and hair factory that offer premium human hair and consultaon services in hair extensions. Growing up as a young lady, Diallo experienced first-hand the many frustrations and pain that accompanied getting the best services and care for her hair. She became a flight attendant and practiced for about 10 years. She also went to Nursing School at College of New Rochelle and obtained a Bachelor of Science degree in Nursing.
Through her Non-governemntal organisation, La Verita Foundation, she is engaged in training young people on hair extensions. Diallo’s desire to seek a solution to the problem of finding authentic and original hair care for the African woman led her on a journey to learn about the best practices of quality hair care and extension production. In this interview with IJEOMA THOMAS-ODIA, she shares her entrepreneural experiences and achievements so far.
You are an entrepreneur with key skills in leadership, organisation and innovation, how are you able to define these many paths?
My leadership skills have been developing since childhood, which led me to become a responsible teenager, then adult, parent and a good friend. I am super organised; I always have been. Anything disorganised drives me crazy.
My innovation comes from my environment; responding to the demands of people around me. These three skills now merge beautifully together at LaVerita. I am leading my team to a winning life. Not only teaching them skills that are theirs for life, but helping them understand career paths versus just a job. When you walk into LaVerita, you will witness just how organised I am. This first ever factory, salon, customised fine dinning project is in itself a manifestation of my penchant for innovation.
As a versatile professional who has worked in different spheres, how has your experiences shaped you?
Being at various times a mother, a flight attendant and having attended nursing school, I have learnt to focus on customer care and service at the highest levels. As a nurse, I met some people with the greatest health challenges; that kept me humble and grateful. As a flight attendant travelling the world, I learnt how to respect and adapt to different cultures. This also allowed me a different level of overstanding and appreciation for others. Then, real estate taught me how to pay attention to my client and give them what they want, not what I wanted to sell.
You currently run a premium hair brand, LaVerita, share with us what informed this venture?
The decision to start a premium hair brand came from my being a consumer of hair extensions for about 25 years now; experiencing the difficulties of purchasing hair that suited me properly. My own heritage, my own texture. I was frustrated with others giving me such limited options. So, I began thinking, ‘Candius, if you are going to do it, do it right, do it with class, grace and style.’ Something that fits the women of Africa; a place that they would enjoy visiting and worth them leaving their homes for. LaVerita was born out of wanting to create an exquisite space and service that any woman of style and grace would be completely happy and comfortable with.
Your desire to find a solution to the problem of authentic and original hair care for the African woman, how are you achieving this?
By tapping into our (women of colour) culture/heritage; making hair to fit us, not boxing us into Brazilian or Peruvian or any other ‘ian’ hair. Our hair will have our desired textured names making it our own, because it is.
What do you consider a major concern for women when it comes to hair care and its services and how is LaVerita solving this need?
I think one of women of colour’s major concerns is our hair texture. Can we find hair extensions that match our hair? What we have imagined and are familiar with taking care of. Our texture is what we are most knowledgeable about, so there must be hair to cater to us in that level. Our thick coarse hair holds the best styles and cuts better than any silicone base hair ever could.
A major service issue would be, what’s the most realistic and comfortable form of hair extensions? We have to learn how to care for our hair and not the weave. At LaVerita, we are all about education of hair. What’s your diet like? How often do you lose your edges? Are you perming your hair too much to match the hair extensions? Do you take your vitamins? Is your hair loss or thinning hereditary or due to lack of nutrients? Have you spoken to a trichologist or dermatologist concerning your hair and scalp? These are some of the many questions that we ask during your consultation with LaVerita before making your purchase. Yes, we want you to buy hair, but we also want your hair to be healthy as well.
The beauty industry is a multi-million dollar economy, how rewarding has it been for you and what do you consider prospects in the coming years.
Yes, this hair game is tight! And there’s a whole lot of money on the table in this industry. Which is why I created my own lane. In the coming years, you will see us in Abuja, Kenya, South Africa, Ghana, Senegal and listed on Wall Street one day. I see us staying ahead of the game, staying innovative. Creating jobs, changing people’s lives from workers to customers. Training and teaching facts about all things concerning hair. To eventually have an accredited cosmetology institute here in Nigeria from where our stylists can be trained to work anywhere in the world. The future looks promising and I’m just grateful to be starting it all right here in Nigeria, the heartbeat of Africa.
Have you experienced any difficult periods in your career and how did you pull through?
I mean, as they say, ‘the dream is free, the hustle is sold separately.’ There have been difficulties since the birth of LaVerita. The global industry made it difficult for me to get trained in the manufacturing business. The message was that we can consume, but we should not produce.
From that to the actual build up, it was all a huge challenge. Until now, human resource is a challenge. I’m simply determined to succeed at what I’m doing. I want to build an empire of hair factories all over Africa; I can’t do that if I give up now.
How can we get more women to become successful and rise to the top as you have done? What tips do you have for younger women?
If I am to give any advice, I’d advise my fellow females to first know what they truly want to do. In that, one should have a genuine passion for what they are aiming to become. I’d encourage her to learn everything about that which she is pursuing. Some people do business because it’s trending or the numbers add up. But when you do what you love, your approach to that business is different. It becomes really personal; you become fixed on quality versus quantity. Your customers will see it and appreciate you for putting your heart into the business and for considering the customer in every decision you take. Stay committed, focused and honest in the business that you are providing.
How do you get inspiration and stay motivated?
My inspiration comes from within. It comes from the stories I read about the women that paved the way, the Madam C. J. Walkers and the Christina Jenkins of the world. When I read about Queen Amina of Zazzau (present day Zaria of Kaduna State), Funmilayo Ransome-Kuti when she helped head the very first Egba’s Women Union. When strong women went on to form the Aba Market Women Association… There are many examples, stories I read and draw energy and motivation from; they made a change. They did it differently, they did it right. They dared to be different and so do I.
What is your life’s mantra?
My mantra is one of my beliefs and what I tell myself always, in all ways, ‘Candius, don’t ever settle for anything other than what you want, baby girl.’

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