W4A: Clare, Please introduce yourself to our readers.
Clare: My name is Clare Eluka and I am the creator and formulator of luxury skincare brand Premae Skincare. Premae Skincare is the world’s first all natural, allergen free beauty brand. The business was born out of my personal struggles and frustrations with a condition called Candida Albicans. As they say, frustration is the start of innovation and I am a living example of this! In my journey to find remedies to symptoms such as acne and eczema I discovered that certain foods such as wheat, milk, nuts etc were aggravating the condition so I decided to become a vegan and follow a gluten free diet.
I found that the change in my diet had healed my internal systems, and I now needed to focus on my biggest organ (my skin) and began analysing my skincare products. This was the beginning of Premae. I soon realised that though many skin care companies will brand themselves as natural skin care brands, when you actually look at the ingredients in their products, this is not the case. I decided to produce my own pure natural products, and the key message behind the brand is to ensure we feed our skin its 5 a day, just like we do our bodies.
(Check out www.premaeskincare.com).
W4A: Winner of the Women 4 Africa 2012 Educator of the Year Award, describe yourself in 3 words.
Clare: One word that people have used to describe me is resilient. With my childhood and my background in care, in people’s minds, I wasn’t supposed to be anything or do anything. Before hearing my story, people assume I come from a rich or affluent family, whereas this is the complete opposite. When I tell them about my journey they are like “wow”, you have done so well to endure what you have and get to where you are. I have sacrificed a lot to make this happen; time, food, money. Yet for me to have the resilience to find my way without anyone else there to show me, and inventing this skincare brand out of my own frustrations, is a testament to all.
I would say I am also creative. I am a natural creative, always have been from a young age. I remember at the age of 4 turning my brother’s radio into a homemade karaoke machine. When I was about 9 years old, a friend and I took £1 from her mum, and used the money to buy a tub of ice cream and cones, and we were selling ice cream to our neighbours in direct competition with the ice cream van on the estate.
Finally, I would say that I am bold. When I first started Premae Skincare I had people questioning, who am I to come up against these major brands? Well, I believe bold people make bold choices. Furthermore, I knew there was no other luxury skin care brand in the market that was doing what I am doing.
W4A: What did it mean to you to win the Women4Africa award?
Clare: This is my first award as a business woman and to be completely honest it was one of the most moving moments of my career. People have known me previously as a Journalist or a Beautician and so they were quite surprised to see me up for an education award. But I believe this award is so well suited to me and I was very proud to receive it. Because in everything I have tried to do in my career, education has been the cornerstone. I believe education is the cornerstone of change, and for me being a change maker, being a thought leader and an educator is very fitting. The Educator of the Year award has also forced me to raise my game as people know me as a health educator through my business and social media sites like twitter. To now be recognised and awarded for this is just amazing.
W4A: Do you see yourself as a role model for African women?
Clare: Absolutely, I am an advocate and role model for young African women in particular. There are many African women in the care system, and beautiful young women who have migrated to Britain who have never been given encouragement or counselling to work through their life experiences or talk through the vicious trauma’s they experienced through civil war etc. So, for me I am a role model in the sense of it doesn’t matter where you have been, it’s about where you are going, and we can do anything. What I would love to see is more collaborative working amongst women, from all colours/races/backgrounds. Let’s support each other and celebrate each other’s successes.
W4A: Tell us one thing you love about Africa or Nigeria in particular?
Clare: One thing I love about Nigeria is that we are innovators and we are bold. Look at the success of Nollywood, the world’s 2nd largest film industry. Also, our women are a force to be reckoned with. When I look back at the history of Nigeria, and times such as the Biafra war, it reminds me of how powerful Nigerian women can be. There is a story that always resonates with me of a group of women who protested against the widower’s tax. What they would do is stand outside businesses and meetings and they would sing! They would sing for their voices to be heard and the men to listen and take action, and through something as simple as this, they won the battle!
W4A: Who or what inspires you?
Clare: A mixture of people inspires me not just African women or men. I look up to big sisters like Oprah Winfrey. She is a great example of the American dream. She has inspired about 3 generations of women to say that if I can do it, we can all do it. I listen to a lot of motivational speakers such as Tony Robbins and Les Brown, who both have rags to riches stories. I am also very inspired by music. Without artists like Marvin Gaye and Gil Scott Heron I would never have made it through my days training as a teacher.
W4A: Does Premae Skincare work with or support any African businesses
Clare: Yes – for instance, two of our core ingredients; avocado butter and cocoa butter come from a co-operative of women in Uganda. It has been a good relationship, even though sometimes it is difficult because you are dealing with people that are so far away and you cannot maintain control. I have also been in discussions with a Ghanaian supplier to source some ingredients from Ghana. There are opportunities out there and someday I would like to have my whole factory, production and manufacturing out in Africa. First we need good leadership and management skills, and people of integrity. I noticed that if there is no one on sight to oversee this, because you are so far away its hard. However if they were to step up their game and deliver a better class service I would like to give all of this business to Africa.
W4A: As a young African woman, what are the biggest challenges you faced as a business woman?
Clare: The biggest challenge is marketing. I know there are ways of marketing through online forums etc which are cheaper, but when you are creating a product that is going on people’s skin or into their mouth, people want to sample and ideally you need a premises. Having a premise or a retail unit in a good location means people can come in and test your products and visualise the brand. For this you need capital and as a start up, finances are hard to come by.
W4A: You have combined your teaching skills with your business by holding skincare master classes for young girls in East London. Is it important for you to give back?
Clare: Definitely, philanthropy is very important to me. I know the young girls that attend these classes look up to me as a big sister and it makes me proud. There is a gap between education and employment for young people today where many young people are not sure how to identify and use their transferable skills. I hope to help bridge this gap through such classes.
W4A: Thank you for granting W4A this interview
For more info on Clare go to www.premaeskincare.com
Follow Clare on twitter: @premae_clare