One virtue stands out amongst women who have made outstanding achievements in history, and that is their unfaltering desire to motivate others towards being successful themselves. Tara Fela Durotoye is one such woman, and her story is one of commitment to building others and empowering them to excel as entrepreneurs.
Pioneer of the bridal make-up profession in Nigeria, Tara is today known as Africa’s leading beauty and makeup entrepreneur. Born on 6 March 1977, Tara Fela-Durotoye holds a degree in law from Lagos State University.
She is the founder and CEO of The House of Tara International and creator of the Tara Orekelewa Beauty Range, Inspired Perfume, and the H.I.P Beauty range. Tara is married to Fela Durotoye, a business strategist, chief executive officer of Visible Impact, and a 2019 aspirant of the Nigerian presidency.
The House of Tara which made its debut in 1998 as the first of its kind, ranks today amongst the leading beauty brands in Africa. In 2004, House of Tara opened the first make-up school in Nigeria and has grown steadily since then to become a formidable brand, which presently has over 270 beauty products, 24 international branches, 14 beauty schools, and over 10,000 representatives all over Africa.
Recognized as one of the continent’s foremost bridal directories and makeup studios, House of Tara has not soft-pedaled on its journey towards excellence in the beauty industry. Over the years, they have specialized in providing beauty education and makeup training through seminars, community events, and panel-led discussions.
In her words, Tara Fela-Durotoye states that she was (and still is) “passionate about building a business that is sustainable and using beauty as its expression.” This desire had been her motivation since she started House of Tara at the age of 20, from her living room, whilst an undergraduate at university back in 1998.
Speaking in an interview she revealed how, her “inspiration of starting House of Tara was born out of a little girl’s interest in beauty, make-up”.
“My mum was very fashionable, loved to apply her makeup,” she said because her mother was a major influence on why she chose to become a beauty entrepreneur.
When she got into the university, she began to have some good patronage from friends, who often came around asking for her help with their makeup or seeking makeup tips and advice. Soon enough, she found out, that she could turn what she loved to do into a business by adding a little fee when she did their makeup or provided makeup advice for people. “That was how House of Tara was born”.
From the onset, her goal had always been maintaining a steady growth in the reach of her vocation. When she started the House of Tara brand, as the pioneer of bridal makeup in Nigeria, responding to how her startup brand was regarded by the public, she said, “It made us look extra special”. Branding was then a relatively new invention amongst startups in Nigeria, so the single-action spurted the growth of her business.
In the coming years, her brand experienced phenomenal growth, but the challenges they encountered differed with each level they attained. At the startup stage, the major challenge was in getting people convinced to pay for her services because then, it was the norm for brides who were getting married to “have their makeup done by their aunts, their mums, their older sisters, and sometimes even themselves”. So there was the difficulty of getting people interested in a whole different genre that didn’t exist before, and saying,
“I want to charge for this skill that I’m sharing”. That as she said, “was one of the greatest challenges of the time”.
Then came the stage when House of Tara began to create their line of products. As funding was then very limited, the beauty line started with three eye shadows and three lip glosses. But despite the challenges with finance, her patrons were excited about the product line. “They saw an indigenous brand, a brand that was owned by a Nigerian”.
Her experience is a testament to the fact that people appreciate you more as an entrepreneur when they can see that you are steadily making strides towards improving your business and satisfying their needs better.
Today, at a more mature stage, House of Tara runs with “an organogram covering the creative arm of the business, the commercial arm, and the operations, because having over 20 stores across the country now means that each store has to be managed by an administrator”.
Though her vision for House of Tara has not changed, the goals have had to change with the times, and as well as the need for creativity and proper business administration has become increasingly important. But most efforts have remained geared towards ensuring the satisfaction of clients while keeping up with the dynamism and trends of the beauty industry.
When asked how she has managed with competition in her line of business, she replied,
“I see business as one where everyone has something to offer. And so if we focus on that ‘special’ that we have to offer, then we can be competitive”.
Two decades after starting House of Tara, the competition has increased in her field of enterprise, but she has stayed true to her words, working to expand the niche and reach of House of Tara over time.
Tara states that she always believed in visionary leadership, and attributes some of her successes as an entrepreneur to the ability she successfully honed over the years, to be able to study situations and environments, engage with customers to know what their needs were, and being able to promptly respond to their needs, or her perception of what their needs were.
In 2007, she was awarded the Africa SMME Award and the Entrepreneur award in South Africa, and in 2013, Forbes listed her as one of 20 Young Power Women In Africa, for her outstanding achievements in women empowerment. In March 2020, she was named amongst “The Top 50 Most Powerful Women In Africa” on Forbes Woman Africa 2020 edition, alongside the likes of Graca Machel, Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala, Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie, and several others. This was shortly after she received the National Recognition Award for her contribution to social impact and job creation which was presented to her by the Vice President of Nigeria, Prof. Yemi Osinbajo, and the YouWIN! Connect Award of Excellence at the first edition of the YouWIN! Connect Enterprise Education Book and Awards.
Mashokane Mahlo-Ramusetheli in honor of these outstanding women wrote,
“This is a first-of-its-kind Pan-African unranked compilation of the continent’s leading women, drawn from business, politics, media, science, sports, and public life, who are challenging the status quo and creating a trail on terrain where there was none. They are reshaping history, closing inequalities and pioneering new avenues of wealth creation and in turn, lifting others with them.”
Tara Fela-Durotoye has indeed reshaped history in the African beauty industry, and has revolutionized women entrepreneurship with the huge successes she achieved, having created thousands of jobs, and trained over 7,000 professional Makeup artists (MUA) both home and abroad (Seychelles, Ghana, Liberia, the UK to mention a few), most of whom have gone on to start their beauty businesses and are excelling at it.
After her husband, notable motivational speaker, and business consultant, Fela Durotoye ran for the Nigerian Presidency in 2019, Tara recounted in a conversation with Betty Irabor (in episode 3 of Life Lessons) her experience during that period of her life.
She has always called her loving husband her hugest fan, and of him, she says, “He is more passionate about House of Tara than I am”. Sharing the biggest lesson she learned from the experience, Tara advised:
“If you’re married to someone passionate about whatever it is they’re passionate about, stand with them, support them, but it’s going to be a true test of how deep and grounded your relationship is”.
Tara Fela-Durotoye has set a pace that every entrepreneur can follow. Whatever your dreams are as an upcoming or aspiring entrepreneur, make sure you believe in yourself, and surround yourself with people who believe in you. With doggedness, determination, teamwork, and focused hard work, you too will be successful.