The LASU Graduate That’s Building Africa’s Biggest Makeup Empire

The LASU Graduate That’s Building Africa’s Biggest Makeup Empire

A beauty mogul, lawyer, wife, mother, and teacher, Tara Fela-Durotoye is the perfect role model for young women all over Africa. When Tara started her makeup empire in 1998, she was only an undergraduate studying to become a lawyer at the Lagos State University but she has come a long way from that girl. 

By 1999, Tara had gone on to create the first-ever Nigerian bridal directory. It is for this and many more reasons she is referred to as the pioneer of the Nigerian bridal makeup industry. Inspired by a speech she heard in secondary school, Tara was determined to start her own entrepreneurial journey and succeed at it. However, her interest in makeup and fashion was sparked by her stepmother who was a highly fashionable and glamorous woman. On CNN African Voices, she told them, “She was the one who gave me the passion for cosmetics and beauty and fashion. She was really fashionable, she liked to look beautiful. She was always in the salon every weekend, having her nail polish done. Sometimes, I had to sit down as a little girl and polish her toenails as well. So I saw the power of cosmetics and I think that’s where the first interest for beauty and cosmetics came about.”

Tara’s love for makeup and cosmetics became the reason she actually began her business. She started doing her own makeup in the university, her friends liked it and wanted her to do their makeup too. She told CNN, “A friend of mine just asked me why don’t you start this as a business, and I thought, what! Is everything business? But I’m glad I took the first opportunity I had – the daughter of the Chief of Naval staff… I did her makeup for her wedding and she was super excited. I bought my kit for a hundred dollars, the equivalent of 100 dollars at the time. She was young, she just graduated from the university so her entire bridal train was 12 ladies who were all fresh graduates, many of whom were going to get married after that event and I had my first set of clients.”

But it is her tenacity, drive and hard work that has helped her build Africa’s biggest beauty brand. Over the past 21 years, Tara has dedicated her time and energy into growing her brand into many aspects spanning makeup talents, makeup products and fragrances. Since opening her first studio on Adeola Hopewell in 1998, she has created Nigeria’s first bridal directory, makeup school, makeup brand, and makeup conference. 

Tara launched her House of Tara Makeup School in 2003 and introduced Tara Orekelewa Beauty Rep Business Initiative in 2005. In 2008, she launched her ‘Be Inspired’ Fragrance and by 2009 she had started a branch network by opening branches of her business in Ikeja, Ibadan and Abuja. Since 2010, she has launched the H.I.P range and developed a Multi Brand & Distribution Channel Strategy. She organised the first-ever Makeup in Nigeria Conference (MINC) in 2014. Through her flagship business, House of Tara, she also partnered with L’oreal in 2014 to help with the retailing and distribution of their products. She has expanded the brand beyond Nigeria to Kenya, Rwanda and the United States of America.

But she did not become the mogul she is now without facing certain challenges. Speaking at the New York Forum, she said: “Access to capital was an issue for me as I grew. At some point service is great, and with service, the customers pay and you can use the money to build the business. But with products, you are tying money down in production time and it takes time before it can be delivered to you… At this stage, we need to access funding. For me it was difficult because they were asking for collateral and collateral for me was an issue. They wanted a house, they wanted something, landed property – that I didn’t have at the time”.

In an interview with France 24, she says the challenges and hard work have been worth it, “creating a business that impacts and generates income, developing micro-entrepreneurs who will grow their business and employ more people so as to make the Nigerian economy better is what’s most important.”

Tara Fela-Durotoye’s empire continues to expand every day. Her beauty school is consistently churning out top-notch makeup artists who are spreading the gospel of the brand. No longer can she simply be referred to as a makeup artist. She has become way more than that now, she is a bad-ass entrepreneur growing her own ‘fempire’ and a source of inspiration to women all over the world.

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Author: Sewa Samuel


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