August 17, 2017
Citi-JA 30-Year Celebration: Buki Ajimobi, CEO & Founder, The Nambuco Experience
For 30 years, Citi and the Citi Foundation have partnered with JA to ensure pathways to opportunity and upward mobility for young people around the world. To celebrate, we've launched a series of stories about JA students, JA alumni, Citi volunteers, and others who have been inspired by a Citi Foundation-funded JA initiative.
In 2015, the Accelerating Pathways global research, supported by the Citi Foundation’s Pathways to Progress initiative, featured award-winning JA alumna Buki Ajimobi. Buki worked with Young Enterprise (JA UK) to build her luxury hair business and learn the branding, public speaking, and start-up finance skills she needed to be successful. The result was The Nambuco Experience, a family business for which her sister designs wigs, while Buki sources hair from Brazil and makes the wigs by hand, often delivering them in person to test the fit.
After she lost her uncle to cancer, Buki decided to create an aspect to her business that crafts wigs for cancer and alopecia patients at no charge. When Buki subsequently entered her business plan in the 2015 Women in Business initiative, backed by the Young Enterprise Start Up program, Buki took home three of five possible awards: Businesswoman of the Year, Best Presentation, and Business of the Year, all of which came with a £6500 prize! She was subsequently featured on Richard Branson’s Virgin Disruptors blog.
We caught up with Buki two years later—now 22 years old—to find out how The Nambuco Experience is faring, how she balances school and business, and where she’s headed as an entrepreneur.
Q. When you were in JA, what was The Nambuco Experience’s business model, including the pro bono aspect?
A. The Nambuco experience was (and still is) a luxury hair company specializing in wigs, extensions, and hair services. It was a company designed to make a profit, but in doing so I wanted to give back to the people whose hair meant the most to them—those who had lost it! This is where the giveback scheme originated. We paid for the supplies out of our own profits and created tailor-made wigs for those who needed them for medical reasons.
Q. What’s the status of The Nambuco Experience today? Are you still in business? Are you still creating wigs for those with medical hair loss?
A. Yes, The Nambuco Experience is still functioning to this day. I took some time out to focus on finishing university (after all I’m not superwoman so I can only do so many things at once) but now that I’ve graduated, I’m springing back into it. All I can say for now is that 2018 is going to be our biggest year yet!
Q: Besides entrepreneurial endeavors, what has been going on in your life?
A. I finally graduated university, and I’m so happy I have done because it means I have more time to do exactly what I want to now. The Nambuco Experience is still running, and I’m in the process of starting up another business venture that will work with 10 to 25 year olds. Other than that, I’m just enjoying my youth!
Q. At the 2015 Women in Business initiative, backed by the Young Enterprise Start Up program, you won Businesswoman of the Year and Best Presentation, while The Nambuco Experience won Business of the Year. How did that impact your career direction and/or life?
A. It was amazing to actually win three out of five major awards that night. Honestly, it was a huge turning point in my career, because that was the day I realized that anything I wanted to do, I could as long, if I put my mind to it.
Q. Also in 2015, you were featured in the Citi Foundation’s Pathways to Progress initiative as a budding entrepreneur. Did that exposure help your endeavors to succeed?
A. It put extra pressure on me, but only in a good way. Being featured by the Citi Foundation encouraged me to exceed myself and see how I could do to better, as a person and as a businessperson, every year.
Thanks for speaking with us, Buki. You’re an inspiration to young people all over the world! We’ll be following your career.
The Citi Foundation and JA salute Buki and thousands of young entrepreneurs like her who are putting ideas into action, creating jobs, and making the world a better place.