Tara Durotoye is a true African brand builder that is not only changing the face of an entire industry sector in her country, but is also empowering and training a new generation of young women entrepreneurs to follow in her footsteps and continue her legacy. She is the founder and CEO of the prestigious make-up brand, House of Tara International. Tara Fela-Durotoye is one of the pioneers of bridal makeup and has risen to a respected height in the makeup industry. She is a role model to most makeup artists and mentors young business owners across Africa through many platforms.
House of Tara International is a company that is spread across three main streams – The Make-up Studio, The Make-up Academy and the Tara product line which comprises of product lines and make up kits. They also specialize in the distribution, retail and channel management of cosmetics.
Tara Fela-Durotoye started House of Tara International in 1998 at the age of 20 as an undergraduate in Lagos State University. Tara Fela-Durotoye is a lawyer by education and a makeup artist by vocation who later trained at Charles Fox. Tara came to limelight when she was featured in the Ovation Magazine as the make-up artist for Jumobi Adegbesan’s wedding to Richard Mofe-Damijo. The society wedding brought her previous 3 years of entrepreneurship to spotlight.
Over the past 16 years, Tara has been dedicated to realising her vision of building a globally respected beauty company of African origin. She is the founder and current CEO of House of Tara International; the creator of the Tara Orekelewa Beauty range, Inspired Perfume and the H.I.P Beauty range; and a highly respected mentor for make-up artists and small business owners. She is a genuine powerhouse and gamechanger in the cosmetics industry in Nigeria and an inspiration for the rest of Africa.
‘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’s early journey towards business and entrepreneurship was inspired by an advertiser, who spoke to her about being business conscious whilst she was still in secondary school. She remembers: “I was in secondary school many years ago and a man came to speak to us and he came to speak to us as an entrepreneur, that is, as a business man. He was in advertising and because he was creative, I found him interesting. He made me interested in business…. I eventually went to the university and I studied law. As an undergraduate, while I was still in school I started a business. I started with just N15,000 (fifteen thousand naira). It is less than the cost of a blackberry phone.
Tara started her entrepreneurial journey seriously in the beauty business when she was still a law student at Lagos State University. She later trained as a makeup artist of Charles Fox. Tara says of her entrepreneurial experience in those early days: “I started at a time when it wasn’t even popular for people generally to be entrepreneurs, unlike what obtains now. Many people, who were my peers, didn’t even fully understand the concept. Even for me, I didn’t wake up one morning to be an entrepreneur. The focus was on doing what I loved, which is, making women beautiful. This passion started when I was studying Law at the Lagos State University. From bridal make-up, the clientele began to expand, and slowly, it dawned on me that this was a big deal, and it could go far beyond a few random weddings and become a pioneering movement. I haven’t looked back ever since”.
Tara’s entrepreneurial success story has been an inspiration to many young people. To date, over 1,500 students have graduated from her make-up school so far and many have gone on to start their own businesses, while some have become beauty bloggers. A number also work for international cosmetic brands, which like many western companies are keen to invest in the oil rich frontier economy. Tara has 80 full-time employees and over 3000 independent sales representatives across the country.
“Stay true to yourself, stay true to what you are trying to achieve, otherwise you get distracted. Side comments, how people think you should do things, and I think that everyone wants to hear their own voice so you need to stay true to yourself. Before you come out of your house you have to decide, yes this is what I want to do. You still need counsel but you should be able to apply counsel to your own decision to be able to take insightful steps.”
Tara Fela-Durotoye is an inspiration to all those African women entrepreneurs who have a vision for their own businesses and who also wish to make a positive impact on the lives of others on the continent. Tara is a wonderful example of a Lioness of Africa.