Lovelyn Nwarueze & Lovelyn Bassey: ‘Having a shared vision and belief is very critical for successfully running a family business.’

Lovelyn Nneka Nwarueze and her daughter Lovelyn Bassey set out in 2019 to establish one of Africa’s most exciting and innovative direct-selling businesses, Healthgarde!

To truly empower the entrepreneurial spirit, they created one of the most rewarding compensation plans in the industry. The end result is a cutting-edge, global platform that uses technology to share innovative health products, training, and support.

Healthgarde currently operates from its Lagos-based headquarters and five depots located throughout Nigeria.

We had the opportunity to speak to them about running a family business as mother and daughter. Read our Q&A with them and be inspired.

When did you realize you wanted to start a company together?
We realized we wanted to start a company together when we found ourselves at a crossroads where the network marketing company we had a franchise to was being sold for the 4th time after being grossly mismanaged and without regard for the economy of scales we had in Nigeria, their main sustenance.

If the company was not transferred to capable hands, about 50,000 would have been left without a source of livelihood. It was a very disconcerting prospect also because starting a network marketing company properly requires a lot of competence and resources. However, this was an opportunity staring us in the face; Lovelyn had just left the law firm she was working for and we had 2 very capable female friends who were ready to join in starting this phenomenal journey. God was truly on our side.

What are some critical elements for successfully running a family business?
Having a shared vision and belief is very critical for successfully running a family business. Putting the interests of the customers first and being passionate are also driving forces. You have to work together in the same direction otherwise there will be no agreement and failure will not be far behind. There has to also be mutual respect not because you are the mom or daughter but because you respect the skills, experience, and mindset of your partner.

What are some of the challenges you encountered at the initial stage of the business and how did you overcome them?
Two of the challenges we faced were:
• Access to Finance: We had to look to family and friends for capital because the banks are quite slow to come to the party but we also offered repayment plans and kept to it. When you deal with family and friends, you cannot abuse the generosity.
• Perception:
We were repeatedly told that you are Nigerian Igbo women. Where are the white people? Only white people can have genuine network marketing companies of International standards. You want to come and use our head. The best way to respond to such is to continue upholding our high product and company standards as well as staying true to our integrity.

You also run a foundation, The Healthgarde Foundation; tell us a little bit about it and why it was important for you to start it.
The Healthgarde Foundation is really focused on helping the less privileged. We provide funds to educate children and young adults from primary school to university level. It also funds training programmes (like sewing, catering, hairdressing) and equipment for young women to empower them to be entrepreneurs in their own right and provide for their family. We strongly believe in making society a better place for everyone, especially with the empowerment of women and children.

What are some of the life lessons you’ve learned from working as a team to build a successful business?
For one, listen to your Boss Mama! hahaha. Very important is having a business structure in place, being innovative, keeping your promises to your consultants and constantly acting with integrity. We cannot overemphasize the importance of mutual respect.

If you could, what is one piece of advice you would give to yourself as a teenager?
Well it’s different for the 2 of us.
For Mama, it is don’t take things for granted, give the young ones a chance while you monitor them and you needed to be more customer-centric than profit-driven.
For Lovelyn, it is to be more patient and strategic at all times.

What are some of the Healthgarde products with which you began your business, and are they still in production?
Two of the major products we started with right from the days of being a franchise are Aloe, Buchu, and Defender. These products are still here. We have greatly improved the formulas and efficacy.

How does a first-time visitor to your website/store decide which of the Healthgarde products to buy?
Our product names and mostly descriptive in themselves. For example, a visitor who has cardiovascular issues would see Kardiogarde and relate to it or they would see Defender and assume it must be defending something so they would click on it to find out more.
Each product on our website has a brief description on it and our product guide is also on the website which allows customers and Healthgarde consultants easy access to vital product information.

What advice would you give to mothers and daughters who are thinking about starting a business together but are having trouble deciding?
They should be ready to work together and prepare for challenges. Everyone should be ready to think out of the box on how to make the business work, tap into each other’s strengths and not feel her contribution is higher or better than the other. When mistakes are made and losses are suffered, you should learn from them and forge ahead instead of dwelling on them. Being prudent is also very important in growth capital.

What do you want every customer to remember about Healthgarde after they encounter and use the products?
We want every customer to be satisfied with the efficacy of our products. At the very least, our products will make a person healthier. We indeed aim for customer satisfaction.

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