In Conversation with Tara Fela-Durotoye - Building a global beauty brand

From crafting a vision, to identifying when you need help, Tara talks us through the journey of becoming a businesswoman.

Wife. Mother. CEO. All titles perfectly fitting for Tara Fela Durotoye. As founder of beauty brand House of Tara International, alongside other ventures, she has brought an open and honest viewpoint, into what it really means to be an entrepreneur. Tara recently joined us for a memorable Roundtable discussion at Magnify House, talking all things beauty and business. Check out the conversation below:  


Beautiful Beginnings


Q: House of Tara International is a globally renowned brand; can you tell us about how the business was born?


A: To start with, upon graduating I was working in a perfume store in Nigeria and the owner had some makeup she’d bought to sell alongside her products. So, I decided to try applying the products on customers every once in a while, and people started buying the makeup afterwards because they liked it so much. Following that, by some good fortune I ended up doing the bridal makeup for a very high- profile woman and through that exposure I became the ‘aspirational goal’ as it were, when it came to hiring a makeup artist. All her bridesmaids became customers and it went from there. 


Q: Many people can feel disheartened coming into a big industry as a start-up, what advice would you give during this season?


A: Well first of all, know what you want. We see what everyone else is doing and sometimes we just automatically want to replicate but I always say, God didn’t waste time creating each person with a different fingerprint. Why copy and paste when we all have such uniqueness? I spent time identifying who I was and from that I could let other people know with confidence that this was my profession and they needed to take me seriously. The minute you begin to confidently speak about your vision people begin to respond.

I had a meeting with a big beauty company and I sat at the head of the table. I didn’t mean to, but in doing so it gave the mindset that I was someone they needed. I had gone into that meeting knowing my potential and being confident in who I was.


Becoming the boss


Q: The territory of growth can be a risky one, more often the notion of investing or spending money to make money. How did you deal with the financial fear that can come with this?


I made sure to develop my skills and this involved getting training. I began to understand simple accounting principles – my annual pay, profits, losses and so on. Understanding the numbers gave me the confidence to see what I was doing well and what needed fixing. Numbers tell a story and that story should help you to make intelligent decisions about the direction of your business.

If I’m talking from a faith point of view, the Bible tells us that Jesus said ‘I want you to go into the world and dominate’. So when I am doing business I have an expectation that I will grow financially, that I will not be poor and that whatever I lay my hands to do shall prosper.


Q: Speaking on growth, a lot of us know we cannot always do our business on our own. How did you transition from solo to building a team you could trust with your vision?


A: No one is an island, so delegation is important. I began to realise as the business grew, that there were new skills required for where I was going that I didn’t have. And this meant developing myself as a manager. I was a person who had to drive others and empower them to achieve goals.

I put in the time to train them on the brand, making sure there is clarity on who we are and what we represent. This meant I could have the confidence to let them go and work knowing I’d trained them well 

Also it’s key to identify certain character traits you are looking for before interviewing people.

Boldness leading to breakthrough 


Q: There is always a risk factor when starting a business, can you tell us about how you overcome setbacks?


A: Well I’ve had many setbacks. One would be discovering they were counterfeiting my products in China. The packaging, the products it all looked the same except for the shade details. I was depressed to say the least; I didn’t leave my room for three days. I’ve had employees steal from one of my branches, clearing out the whole shop. It was hard, but I was spurred on to continue by my vision. I always remind myself that I am bigger than my problems, I have the capacity to overcome these problems. I didn’t find a solution to the counterfeiting but I moved on and managed, it didn’t kill us.


Q: Some people feel they need to compromise their integrity to succeed, how have you resisted this temptation? 

A: I think in part, it goes back to having confidence in yourself. A self reassurance behind closed doors, so that when you do step out you already have the mindset that no one can consider you too little. People will try to intimidate you and change you when they think you don’t have confidence in who you are.

I personally have a dominance mentality but not everyone does, so it’s important to go into your place where you are by yourself, and remind yourself regularly of your vision and who you are so that when you go outside you can walk in confidence and knowledge. 

Words By

Natasha Chisabingo


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Natasha Chisabingo