KL’S Naturals’ founder, Kemi Lewis, studied law at the University of Lagos and attended the Nigerian Law School Bwari, Abuja. She then went on to the Centre for Energy, Petroleum, Mineral Law and Policy at the University of Dundee where she got an LL.M in International Business Transactions.
She is also a Chartered Secretary and an Associate of the Institute of Chartered Secretaries and Administrators. She talks to Joy Ehonwa about her journey as an entrepreneur and the business of natural hair.
CN: You studied law and practised for a while; how did you discover your passion for natural hair?
I’ve always loved playing with and making hair. I was that girl in Secondary School who would make my friends’ hair. I braided and made hair as well in the UK while getting my LL.M in International Business Transactions. When I went natural in 2012, I was so fascinated with my natural curls and kinks because it was the first time in over 20 years I was seeing my natural hair. I spent hours researching hair and products. I fell in love with treating and styling natural hair and discovered how much I enjoyed it.
CN: Did you have to do a course for this, or did you learn the ropes as you went along?
I definitely learnt the ropes as I went along. Before opening the salon though, I had spent a few years researching and learning a lot about hair, its characteristics and how it responds to different ingredients. That gave me a great foundation. As time went along, I attended different courses to solidify that foundation and also broaden my horizon. I currently have a Diploma in Hairdressing from the Opral Benson Beauty Training Institute; I’m an International Certified L’Oreal stylist and have also attended the Natural Hair Training Course by Taliah Waajid in the US.
CN: You’re practically legend when it comes to natural hair in Nigeria. Did you think you would succeed at this magnitude?
Thank you!! I had absolutely no idea it would become what it is today. I was just passionate about what I wanted to do and achieve with natural hair and I was determined to put my all in what I did. I worked and still work very hard to make my vision a reality.
CN: What’s the worst thing that can happen in your line of work?
Hmmm. I’m not sure what that could be. I’ve had quite a number of ‘bad’ things happen: generator not coming on at the weekend when the salon is full; the main stylist leaving; unhappy clients; staff acting up (laughs). I’ve learnt to plan ahead and be more proactive than reactive. Also, because of things that have happened in the past, we’ve been able to come up with policies so our structure is stronger.
CN: What do you enjoy most about what you do?
I love the change in perception about natural hair. People now see the potential and versatility that natural hair possesses. At a time in our history, natural hair was something ‘ugly’ and very uncool. Now more women are embracing their natural hair, learning how to care for it, and styling it in different beautiful ways. The look on a woman’s face when I’m done styling her hair and she almost can’t believe her hair just achieved that is priceless.
CN: What inspired you to go natural yourself, and when was the last time you used a relaxer?
My last relaxer was in 2011. I was on a healthy hair journey myself and was trying to get my relaxed hair healthy. However, years of damage meant that even though it was growing longer, it still looked thin and lifeless. I was on a relaxer ‘stretch’ and by the 7th/8th month I was fascinated by my curls at the bottom of my hair and the growing natural hair awareness all around me, so I decided by the 9th month not to relax but to just cut off all the relaxed bits.
CN: Who is one famous naturalista whose hair you would really love to style?
Many! But I’d say, Solange.
CN: What’s one major misconception about natural hair you would like to correct?
‘Natural Hair is Not For Everyone’. That is how we were born. So it was clearly for you. Most people are so used to dealing with their relaxed hair that they automatically give up or believe they can’t handle natural hair. Two separate textures will require 2 different ways of handling. All it requires is some patience, learning about your own hair, and creating a regimen that you can comfortably work with.
CN: After running your Ikoyi salon for a long time, opening your Lekki salon was a very welcome move. What’s your long-term vision for KL’S Naturals?
It definitely was! My vision is to have a natural hair and beauty company with a strong African presence that is globally recognised.
CN: How do you relax when you’re not working?
I love music, reading and dancing. So I’m either listening to music at home or attending a dance class.