I told my friend not to establish his malaria vacine factory in Nigeria because of NAFDAC—Aima Willis, CEO, Xtreme Brite Lotion

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Lady Aima Willis, CEO, Xtreme Brite Skin Radiance Lotion, USA

Aimalohi Willis an international business woman and Chief Executive Officer cum founder of Xtreme Brite Skin Radiance Lotion, USA cocked 50 on Thursday, July 13, 2017. She marked the event with a small get-together bash with an exclusive number of guests at the upscale Shiro Restaurant by Landmark Event Center, Oniru Beach, Victoria Island, Lagos (South West Nigeria). Your Africa’s Number 1 Celebrity  Encounter Blog, Asabeafrika met the highly gifted Sabon Gida-Ora, Edo State (Southern Nigeria) born entrepreneur  for a second interview inside her Ikoyi—Lagos home few days after the bash and she told us more about her business and frustration with motherland Nigeria. She equally bared her frustration on why the National Food and Drugs Regulatory Agency (NAFDAC) has become a stumbling block to the business intention of many Nigerians including hers.  She equally shared her pain for Nigeria as a country with Asabeafrika. You will find her story revealing. Enjoy the excerpts.
How did you build your brand, Xtreme Brite Skin Care Lotion which I learnt has gained more grounds in the francophone countries at the moment? And how are you going to make it to be predominant in the Nigerian market?
Lady Aima Willis

Our distributor in Nigeria is Ancient of Beauty at the Trade Fair Complex on Badagry Express Road. We also have an outlet in Surulere—Lagos State, inside Shoprite.
I visited your website and I was quite impressed with the commendations from users of your various brands, how were you able to build the brand to such a unique pedigree?
Her Products
The product speaks for itself, it is made in France by one of the best manufacturers, and the formulation is a fantastic formulation because no matter how badly damaged your skin is, our perfecting line will give an absolute solution. We have the perfecting brightener line which repairs the skin while the Xtreme Brite brand is for extreme radiance. The chemicals are very mild, it is mostly made from vitamin C.
Do you have 100% organic brands?
Lady Aima Willis
The Clear-Quick line is more organic. But the Xtreme Brite (lotion) is mostly for radiance, stretch marks and uneven skin tone while the perfecting brightener is a repairing line, it is mostly for people that have used bad products in the past, the perfecting line actually repairs and correct all that skin damage while the clear skin line is the most unique of all the lines, I mean the clear quick line because even if you are a dark skinned person and you want to tone your skin, it gives you a complete even tone without any one getting to know that you were once dark. The Clear-Quick is amazing
And that happens without side effect?
Her star product, Xtreme Brite Lotion
Without no side effect, nothing. I mean people will see you and be like ‘wao!’
Do you have products for men?
We have a Cocoa Butter line, we call it Xtreme Brite Cocoa butter in a gold bottle, mostly for men.
Do you have a perfume line?
No, we don’t intend doing perfumes. We gonna go into other high-end products. We are in the process of manufacturing really high end products.
What about the C class, the perception is that your product is for the A class and a bit of the B class. Is that so?

Our product is affordable, I mean when you compare it to other products that just have a price tag without no result. So, I think it is very affordable.
You must have had an inspiring childhood, learnt you are from Sabon-Gida Ora in Edo State, can you tell us about growing up in that part of Nigeria?
Lady Aima with the GDA
I actually grew up in Benin, that is where I grew up and went to school. I went to Idia’s  girl’s college. And I think it was a beautiful experience. At the time we were growing up, things were a bit normal, no hassle, no fear in the society. I mean things were peaceful and you could just see the hope in the air. I think those were the good old years.
So, you travelled out to America after Idia College?
After Idia College I went to Kaduna Polytechnic before finally traveling out to the USA.
Could you recall some of the guiding philosophies your parents gave you that aided your growth?
The Birthday Gal with hubby & hordes of friends & well-wishers
I think my dad did so much in grooming me to become a better person in life, he had a lot of parables for me, yea, because it is reflecting now; all the parables my dad used to say then. He will say ‘Aima, make haste when the sun shines, aim high and fall at a reasonable level’. Dad just kept talking in parables and those things are now calling back at me and it has helped me to think strong and aim high in my various endeavors. I thank God for the opportunity to learn.
Was dad a soldier or a para-military officer?
No, he was an engineer. He was with National Electric Power Authority while mum was a business woman.
How many of you and are you the first child?
we are 5 (3 girls and 2 boys) and I am second to the last child.
On getting to America, how did life treated you, could you say it was a new chapter?
Lady Aima Willis
Yes, it was indeed a new chapter and I was always into business. I started with a clothing line, I had my own clothing line—Aima’s. Then, from clothing I went into cosmetics. I started making all other products popular like the Fair & White (lotion) I made it popular (among the black community) of the US. When Fair & White started making millions, they now got a distributor and this distributor wanted to be in total control of the brand and wouldn’t let people like us get hold of the product any longer after we have made it popular.
Who produced the Fair & White brand?
Yes, it is produced by a guy in France Zavie Tankom.
So, you brought the product to America?
Lady Aima Willis
Actually, I discovered the brand in France and we brought it into America and it became popular, people were asking for it and it just became number 1 as every one wanted to have a feel of Fair and White, and then, it now got a distributor and that distributor now cut off people like us as he became overbearing. Now, nobody can touch it, if you need it, come to him bla-bla-bla. And at this time, I was still getting products directly from the manufacturer. Then, it came to a time this same guy now sent out a secular that ‘nobody should buy Fair & White, that a pallet of the product was stolen in France, nobody should buy it and all that’, and I just said you know what ‘enough is enough’. After all, we blacks use this product.
Some of her products
If they can do it, why can’t I do it? I can do better and that was how I came up with the name Fair & Bright. When I came up with the name Fair and Bright, this Fair & White company now went and made a product called ‘So White’ with my same color and aesthetics and that made us to approach the court of law. By the time we got to the court, the distributor who knew some of my friends reached out to them for a settlement out of court and we now settled out of court. They asked me to ‘please change the name bla-bla-bla’. Okay fine, I now changed the name to Xtreme Brite. When I changed the name to Xtreme Brite, it picked up from where Fair & Bright left up. And they were amazed. They were so amazed.
You mean you practically took the market off them?
Lady Aima Willis
Yeah, because I walked the streets with Fair & White, I knew what the people wanted. I went store-to-store on the street, travelled to cities in the United States; so when I got mine it was easier for me because I know what to do because I have been on the street. It takes the little guys to know what is going in the business. So, that was it and when I started, a lot people used to tell me on the street, I will say ‘oh, I have a product I wanted you to try, Fair & White, it is very good’ and they will be like ‘No, no, no,  I don’t want to be white I want to be bright’. I said ‘ehen, I don’t want to be white, I want to be bright’. I said hmmm, that’s a good name—bright. That was where I discovered that ‘ooh, a lot of people don’t want to be white, it is true. We want to be bright because we are dark skinned so we want to be bright skinned. And that was it—and I used the word bright (Brite) instead of White.
What did the experience of your market warfare teach you about life, did you take any lesson away from that?
Lady Aima with her friend Princess Adeola Kamson
Yes, they just wanted to control and push you down; their philosophy is ‘you work for it, they take over and make the money’ and I am like ‘okay, we will see’. We blacks use this product, if you can do it I could do better. I know the street, I know what the people want, I am a woman. I know what women like. I know how to sit with a chemist and tell the chemist ‘this is what I want in a product’. Firming, brightening, radiance. I mean—common! you don’t know that as a guy. That was where I just beat them hands-down.
I can see the Nigerian spirit manifested in your  business acumen?
Yes, Nigerian (entrepreneurial) spirit manifested for real. Yes, we Nigerians are strong willed, we strive and we get there.
What are the challenges of being in your kind of business?
Lady Aima Willis in her element
Well, there are lots of challenges because once your brand is popular people try to fake or copy the product, that is the major challenge. So, you still need to keep up with your customers in terms of quality control and brand management. Know your products; so anywhere I go I do a lot of self brand auditing. Sometimes I just walk into a supply store and check, I know all my products, I know the smell, I know the packaging which is very important. Like our metalic can lotion, it is very difficult to copy because after Calvin Clain used that metalic can for his perfume brand…
(Cuts in) You mean the famous Calvin Clain?
Yes, Calvin Clain, he was the first guy and we are the first to have a metallic lotion bottle in the United States of America. In the world I would say. So, we wanted to be different even in our packaging; so, we were the first to produce skin lightening products with a metallic packaging.
Can we say you are the first black woman to do that?
Lady Aima with her wonderful friend, Barrister (Mrs.) Caroline Adeneye
We are the first—white or black, nobody did it before because I knew the street, I knew what they had there already.  So for us to be different, we had to step up. It was not just about branding, name sells as well. Xtreme Brite, oh wao! I want to try it, Extreme Brite?. Perfecting Brightener, Clear Quick, people will try your name because name is very important as well.
So, you equally managed your perception very well?
Yes, definitely and we convinced people and people are always convinced after a trial. You just go on and google our products and see testimonies. Look at our gel, we have an Xtreme Brite gel that works wonders, you just go online, the product speaks for itself. We worked so hard to reach our goal and we do not joke with  quality control.
How did you met your husband, he looks much like ex-American President Barrack Obama. How did you guys met?
Sandy & Aima
I met my husband at Pan American Airline, we were both working part time and that was how our path crossed.  Yes, a lot of people do say that. some says he looks like Denzel Washington, he looks like Barrack. But I really, really never looked at him that way, I see him as Sandy. (laughter)
What was the first attraction to him, was it his height, his looks or his mind set?
Honestly, I had no intention of marrying a black American—common! But we just fell in love along the line. At the back of my mind, I wanted to marry a Nigerian, you know that was the mentality and he just came around and the whole idea changed.
Can we say he charmed you with his strength of character or what really happened?
Sandy gives his Aima the 'Barrack Obama-Michelle' look
I think he is different from the normal black American, I will say that.; he is more an African in his character and all that. I think he is homely and caring.
So why did you gave your children Yoruba names?
Dad, Mum & Daughter in a blissful mood
My mum is from Ondo State.
Great, that is quite interesting madam.
I am happy for the good things of life and the affection my family gives me.
How has America changed your life?
America is a land of opportunity, I mean America gives you opportunities in life, America is a great place. You will always have the opportunity to become whoever you want to become. You have the opportunity to make it if you want to make it; and if you are not lazy. America encourages industry and innovation, it is world’s most democratized country—everything is highly democratized from knowledge to industry. It is a great America.
Anytime you are in Nigeria or you hear bad stories about Nigeria in the United States, how do you feel?
Lady Aima....Really feeling sad for Nigeria
Oh, Nigeria—they make things so difficult for you, it is a shame. They make things so difficult and you just wonder what a country is this? I am trying to bring my brand here, I am manufacturing in France, I can manufacture here in Nigeria but we cannot even be given the opportunity to do that.
How do you mean, Madam?
Even common NAFDAC number which we paid almost three million Naira, till this day, more than three years, we have not gotten our NAFDAC number. Apart from bribes and all that—common!, it is wrong, it is wrong.
So, how do we generate employments if people like you are denied from establishing here in Nigeria?
Lady Aima....'Never thought Nigeria could be this bad'
Thank you, look at our graduates that are supposed to be employed, I mean people like us can build factories and employ more than a hundred thousand people but they will not even give us the opportunity—just a common NAFDAC number, we cannot get. You know we brought the product into Nigeria with the intention of making it big in Nigeria and employing a lot of people; I mean Nigerians, we are intelligent people but it appears we have a set of vicious people in certain decision making agencies of government and their vested interest and lackluster attitude to national development is killing a lot of destinies.
If you are to seat with the President for 10 minutes, what are you going to tell him to do to change the business atmosphere of the country?
Lady Aima with hubby, Sandy Willis
We need industries—first of all, we need electricity. Then, industry. If I have to build an industry today I will not build it in Nigeria, I will rather take it to Republic of Benin or Ghana, where I know I will get a better support. Everything is made easier for you; steady electricity and a better environment because that is our life. When people like us have been in the USA for more than thirty something years of our lives and we cannot even come back home and help our country because our hands are tight. I mean we have intention of manufacturing but we are sad because it is a big problem.
Do you think the political elites have failed us?
Lady Aima in a fun-filled mood
You look at Ghana, Ghana 15 years ago and Ghana now is not the same thing. I mean a country has to progress but in Nigeria there is no progress. There is no progress in Nigeria. You know if given an opportunity to meet the president I will suggest industries—you need to be all out. A lot of us in the US want to establish here but our hands are tight. I have a friend in the US that wanted to come here and build a pharmaceutical company, I told him ‘don’t do it’. Yes! Because you are going to ruin yourself. First of all NAFDAC will give you the run around and embezzle most of your money. You cannot bring in your chemicals because you could be frustrated by any of the government agencies. I told him ‘go do it in Ghana’. He wanted to manufacture Malaria drugs right here, he is retired from NOVARTIS a global company in Switzerland that produces malaria drugs. It is a big multinational company in Switzerland. When he called ‘Aima, this is what I want to do, I want to come home, I mean, look at my people’. I said ‘Please, we all feel for Nigeria but Nigeria does not feel for itself’. So, that was it.
What you actually said is what Virgin Airline founder, Richard Brandson said about Nigeria and the political class, so, what do you advise we do now in the area of leadership since you are equally a victim of bad leadership?
Lady Aima with a god-daughter
Nigeria is the only country where you cannot partner with nobody, you will get yourself killed because of greed. It is the only country in the world where you can not partner with nobody, because of greed. It cannot work, because even when they swindle you or cheat you in business you cannot even talk…
(Cuts in) You think the Police can be bought over and your case dead on arrival?
Not even the police, forget about the police, you are frightened and because you consider your life first, so you just let it go. I am sorry, it is a shame. It is a shame. (Looks so forlorn and bitter over her submission). Nigeria is not it at all.
But was it like this during your growing years?
No, things were different. So we don’t even know what happened. I mean, during the era of Gowon and Murthala Mohammed, things were different.
You left Nigeria which year?
1984
Quite a long time.
Lady Aima with one of her god-daughters
Yeah, but I am sad. Things have gone so, so bad and it appears that the leaders are handicapped and unable to sort things out. I mean how can we have a country like this and you cannot establish anything and unless you move to Cotonou or Ghana where power seems to be more steady and life is okay for human living. If you go to Ghana and you are to start a factory, the Ghana Food and Drug Board will welcome you politely, they will fill out your applications, make thing easier for you, and they will welcome you and make things work right from your first day in the country. So I told my friend, if you really wanted to succeed with you factory initiative, go to Ghana and establish and from there, he can network to all other countries and supply other countries. And the same Nigeria that gave you crisis when you wanted to establish will come and buy from you in Ghana.
If you find yourself in a ball room with 1000 young women, what would be your advice to them?
Lady Aima with daughter & god-daughters
Like I say and I will always say, start something. Start something. Be your own boss. Yes, start something I don’t care what it is, start something. In as much as it is legitimate, start something. The best life is the entrepreneur’s life.
Tell me your best fashion designer?
My best designer is Roberto Carvali. I wear most of his clothes.
What about your best fragrance?
Kilian—love don’t be shy. It is from France, he produces for men and women.
What is your best tourist city in the world?
Best tourist city is France, Paris. That is my best holiday city in the world.
Who is your favorite music act?
Global or Nigeria?
Nigeria
In Nigeria it is Olamide (Laughter)
In America?
I used to love Whitney Hauston
Your role model is Oprah Winfrey you told me in an earlier interview. What do you love about Oprah?
Lady Aima & hubby, Mr. Sandy Willis
I love her boldness, her determination to succeed. Yes, you have to be determined. Like my father said ‘aim high’. I always tell tell the little friends that I have, I have them from age 17, 18 upward to 25, when they come around me, I say ‘listen, when you have money, you command respect with that’. So, start something. There is nothing too big to achieve, you just put your mind to it, you can do it. Yes, as a woman, yeah. There is a time for everything; a time to laugh, a time to cry, a time to smile, a time to work and you work hard. I tell them when you work hard you play hard.
Do you have a global leader that inspires you both in Nigeria and elsewhere?
Lady Aima, family & well-wishers during her 50th birthday bash
In Nigeria, it will be Yakubu Gowon, he was focused and principled. Globally, it is Bill Clinton. And I equally like Donald Trump because he is very direct. He is blunt, he tells you as it is. He doesn’t bullshit. He doesn’t tell you what you want to hear because he is not a politician. So, he is real. I like Trump, he is not a politician he is a business man and he is real.
What is your favorite international TV channel?
I like BBC, they are more current and more real. BBC is more real.
Will you be going into politics later in life?
Never. I am not interested in politics because I am not a politician because I tell you as it is. What you see is what you get.
Give a word to lovers of Xtreme Brite product around the world?
I will tell them there are better days ahead. The brand will continue to grow stronger and satisfy their needs.

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