Self-employed since 2001, Olabisi Waller identified a major gap in the gift industry for unique useful gifts for special events and businesses. After consistently receiving inquiries from people wanting to make purchases for various items to send to Nigeria, as well as an increased demand for event styling, decorative lighting and event consulting services, she started the gift and souvenirs business, Elise Charles Company with her husband, Charles Waller, in 2007. A year later they launched EC Cosmetics with the goal of providing unique products that truly enhance a woman’s beauty. The companies moved online the following year. An astute business woman, currently enrolled in the Wharton Business Development Program at the University of Pennsylvania, she got her entrepreneurial inspiration at a young age when she would buy affordable goods at a local market and resell it for a profit to her schoolmates. In this insightful, exclusive chat with BN Editorial Assistant, Gbenga Awomodu, Olabisi Waller talks about growing up in Nigeria, her beauty and special events business, marriage, and relocating to the United States.
Meet Olabisi Waller
My name is Olabisi Waller. I was born in Delta State, Nigeria over 3 decades ago and grew up in Lagos with a large family of nine sisters. My mother is a strong, inspiring petite woman who constantly reminded us, her girls, to never allow anyone tell us we couldn’t achieve whatever we wanted. Because of this, I quickly became a very determined, strong willed person. No wonder my pet name while growing up was “manpower”! I had my primary education in Lagos, attended Federal Government Girls’ College, Oyo, and the University of Ado Ekiti, where I studied Business Administration. I am currently enrolled in the Wharton Business Development Program at the University of Pennsylvania. I run a company called Elise Charles. We offer Gifts for special events and Event Consulting services. We exclusively provide in Africa sophisticated lighting designs by Blachere who have created lighting for the Champs Elysees, and the Eiffel Tower, to London’s West End, Walt Disney, Cartier, and more. We also have a cosmetics company EC (Elise Charles) Cosmetics. An exclusive distributor of unique peak performance beauty products such as Divaderme Lash Extender, Brow Extender, Lip Extender, Stimulash Intenso, Model in a Bottle and a variety of other products.
What other various services does the Elise Charles Company provide?
The Elise Charles Company provides a variety of services with a focus on Special Events & Festivities (www.elisecharles.com) as well as the Beauty Industry via EC Cosmetics (www.eccosmetics.com). With Special Events, our services include: Event Styling & Decorative Lighting, Event Consultation, and Gift Solutions. We offer turn-key event consulting services which includes the total organization of your event or we can simply assist with the scenic elements such as decorative lighting, and more to make your event truly one of a kind. We are your Event Partners – Our team can provide you with as much or as little help as you need. Elise Charles (EC) Cosmetics is a distributor of peak performance beauty products internationally and exclusively in Africa through salons, independent sales representatives, beauty professionals, and select retail stores. Elise Charles started in 2007 with EC Cosmetics following a year later.
Why and how did you start the company?
The company started because we identified the gap in the gift industry for unique useful gifts for special events and businesses. I was consistently receiving inquiries from people wanting to make purchases for various items to send to Nigeria. Then came inquiries on event styling, decorative lighting and event consulting services. Elise Charles was created to cater to this increasing demand. We launched online about 3 years ago with a decision to focus on special events and named the company after my kids Charles & Elise. EC Cosmetics started simply from the desire to share effective beauty products that I use myself and are proven hits in the U.S to my fellow African women.
In what ways have your previous jobs impacted your business thus far?
To be honest with you I’ve only been employed twice in my life and realized very quickly that I was not suited to a 9-5 corporate job. I got easily bored and did not feel creatively challenged at all. Working as an employee served its purpose within that specific time frame and then it was time for me to move on. I learned about work relationships, teamwork specifically, and being somewhat structured. Running a business is challenging, but it’s a challenge that I look forward to everyday. Your brain is always working; you are continuously pushing yourself to learn new things about the business, learning how to interact with various people – that’s where the teamwork came in handy.
*Read full interview here: The Serial Entrepreneur – Olabisi Waller, CEO, Elise Charles Company.