Joy Adesanya is the Group CEO at AJ Skylar Holdings, which is the holding company for subsidiaries brand Sshhh Lingerie Ltd and The Braiding Vault Ltd. The two brands are located in Nigeria, with four stores spread across Lagos and Abuja FCT. Joy is a goal-oriented customer service and business development rep with 15+ years of experience. She uses her substantiated leadership and interpersonal skills to drive cost, time, and quality measurements for brands under the holding company. With her extensive experience in sales and marketing, she has successfully been able to leverage consultative selling strategies that build relationships across all target markets. Joy uses strong skills in continuous deployment to drive productivity across both brands to ensure the vision and mandate to create a unique customer service experience through innovation is established. Her previous experience in corporate roles such as Head Event Specialist at The Nigeria Stock Exchange, Head of Corporate Communication at LAPO Microfinance Bank plus other key customer-centric roles in the U.K. has enabled her to understand and execute the mandate of globalizing the customer services experience from Nigeria to the world. Joy graduated with Honours from London South Bank University in BA Media & Marketing. She is also a member of the Association of Accredited Small business Consultants (AASBC) and has attained various training in business development, customer service, and leadership principles.
Read our Q&A with Her and be Inspired!
In Three Words, how would you describe Joy Adesanya? Resilient, Compassionate, Funny!
Please share a little bit about your background. I spent 26 years in the UK, before relocating back to Nigeria 9 years ago where I joined the corporate ladder. In 2016, I left my role with the Nigerian Stock Exchange and decided to jump on the entrepreneur ladder. My first business, Sshhh Lingerie opened in 2016, with the second location opening in Abuja, in 2018. Towards the end of 2019, I was interested in diversifying my financial business portfolio and that’s when I got the vision for The Braiding Vault (TBV). I opened the first location in Lekki, March 2020 and the second location, which is our signature salon in Ikoyi, in March 2021. My background is in customer service and marketing, so it was easy for those skills to be transferred into my businesses and take it to the sustainable stage it is now.
What do you consider your greatest achievement in your life so far? Finding a work, life balance! This is something that needs to be celebrated. As an entrepreneur, your mind works constantly around the clock. You are mapping new strategies, policies, implementing new procedures, research, and development of products, services, your team, brand, and structures. You can easily shut down from looking after yourself and just be on the go 24/7! It came to a point where I realized, that my dating life was non-existent, social life was suffering and mental health was drained. I had to step back and put trust into the team employed to navigate and carry the brand forward. Honestly, this achievement has been fulfilling and my personal greatest in life so far!
Tell us how your journey to becoming an Entrepreneur began. Well, it’s something that has always been embedded in me. In the UK, I had several short-lived businesses that impacted the results you see today. I started as a Mary Kay cosmetic sales agent, then sold Body magic shaper wears sales agent, then sold my own line of human hair extensions ‘Angel hair”, then custom jewelry, then owned my own Nigerian/continental restaurant. There was always something I was trying to sell or own. At one point I started my own online blog “modalyfestyle” which I planned on turning into a lifestyle magazine. The entrepreneurial drive came from my mother. Growing up she was resilient and a formidable businesswoman. She had her hands in many pies until she got her pastoral calling. I guess that motivated me to want more than just the title of a 9-5 worker. I found no purpose in repetition, so office life was not for me. I wanted financial freedom, I wanted a good lifestyle and I wanted to impact and influence people through services and products that were driven by my influence.
Would you say you know your purpose in life? If Yes, how did you come to this realisation? Definitely! My purpose is to impact lives through a positive and remarkable experience when people encounter me, my personality, character, and businesses. I derive pleasure and a sense of achievement, peace, and alignment when I impact other people’s lives positively. This could be financial, personal or business advice, a thoughtful act, products, or services. It’s my love language and one I have used to my advantage in my businesses. I discovered this from a young age and my parents use to say I am too kind to a fault. At times, that kindness has been manipulated and abused but I will never stop being me because of negative experiences, it will take too much from me. I’ve made a choice to allow God always to shine through me, when they see me, let them see God! That’s enough to keep me going!
What, or Who inspired you to create “The Vault”? The Vault Hair growth kit is for braids, natural hair, and protective style enthusiast who care about the look, texture, and growth of their hair. After opening the first TBV salon in March 2020, I started paying close attention to clients’ hair care needs, their complaints, and the products we were using. Through research and development, I realized the products used didn’t carry the same narrative as the vision we celebrated. We celebrated the art of braiding through our skilled techniques and African heritage, but we weren’t doing so 100% through our hair products. During the pandemic, we were at the mercy of delayed shipments and extortive shipping costs. I felt there must be a better, more sustainable way to ensure products can be produced locally and delivered with the same international quality. It was time for ownership, and it had to come from Nigeria to embody our vision of connecting generations through HAIRitage.
The Vault, 8 product growth kit consists of, Leave-in Hair Conditioner, Edge Control, Hair Mist, Hair Oil, Scalp Scrub, Bon bonnet, Sock Bonnet and Silk Pillowcase. All these products were formulated, manufactured, and packaged in Nigeria. For the bonnets and pillowcases, we sourced the fabric in Lagos and employed a fantastic tailor house to deliver. So, all our products are proudly made in Nigeria, and that’s a narrative we want to promote.
What are some of the challenges you have faced as an entrepreneur and how did you overcome them? Owning a lingerie brand is a totally different dynamic from providing a service at a salon. I had to unlearn a lot of basic ideas of selling and appeasing clients. Therefore, training was at the top of my agenda for all stylists, managers, and myself. This came with the challenges of adapting to new practices and policies but was resolved because of our eagerness to learn and to be number one in all we deliver. There’s also the basic challenge of clean water, plumbing, electricity tariff surge, and trust with staffing. You worry about these things often but thankfully; God has been helping us to navigate through and retain a good team that delivers expectational service daily. Aside from these, the biggest challenge as an entrepreneur is fear! You always have that doubting voice especially when things don’t seem to be falling in line with your expectations. Truth be told, I’ve learned the art of feeling fear, and doing it anyways. That’s my overcoming mantra.
What advice can you offer to younger women looking to take up space in the Entrepreneurial space? Be ready to speak up and be fearless! Women have come a long way in building empires, becoming CEOs of top companies, and being the first in the class of many to achieve something remarkable. I don’t see this slowing down. We are in an entrepreneurial phase that is birthing greatness daily. However, it is important to channel that drive for positivity and growth in empowering and inspiring upcoming females to achieve their own dreams. There is a social media misconception of being a CEO and the lifestyle that comes with it. It’s not easy, it’s not Instagram pretty, those are visual aesthetics to people, please. You must be ready to work, invest, unlearn, learn, research, and submit to the process. Humility also plays an important role, the recipe for thriving in this space isn’t always picture-perfect but with dedication and the right tools, it’s worth it!
What is the most important life lesson you’ve learned so far? Understand your God-given assignment and fulfill it through God. Anything is possible if you set your mind to it and back it up with prayer! This is a lesson that has guided me and lead me to this very point. I knew who I wanted to be, I knew the vision given and I knew the mandate. That’s faith + work = undeniable results
Where do you draw strength on days when you feel no motivation to get things done? The gospel! My relationship with God is very personal and intimate. We have talks to the point I talk aloud and it is straight-up crazy looking. I lean on Him for direction, I listen to the inner voice and take time out to retreat and relax so that my focus and strength are recharged. There was a particular morning, after waking up feeling sorry for myself and allowing the air of depression to loom over me. I decided that day I am not doing anything, not answering calls, not attending to business, I just didn’t want to know or care about anything or anyone even myself. My mind had accepted that and now it was just for my body to respond to this mindset. An hour into this state of depression, my phone rang, and I picked, completely oblivious to my sworn declaration of no calls. My manager was reporting a client situation in which I felt the client hearing from me will calm the situation. This dragged and eventually, the situation was resolved. As that ended another call, then another, and eventually as I was speaking, I realized I was getting dressed. I paused and looked up with a puzzled look on my face, I said out loud, so God, you won’t even give me a day to feel depressed or sorry for myself about what I don’t have, all I wanted to do today was sulk. I heard a small voice saying, that is why I have given you work to focus on the things you do have. I started laughing out loud by myself. My maid came into the room and looked around as if this woman is crazy. This is a typical example of how my faith replaces fear and drives motivation for me every day.
What is your take on “women supporting women”? I am a believer of it. Although the notion stands that many of the greats whom we look up to or inspire to be like don’t necessarily carry this banner wholeheartedly, but I feel those are just a few bad eggs. When I look at women who have played this role positively, I think of Oprah, Ellen, Mrs. Ibukun Awosika who have been paving the way and giving back. I have friends who are huge advocates of the WSW movement and equally, I have been and still am. It brings upliftment, encouragement, and a sense of belonging when partnered with the right set of women.
Time travel or teleportation? Time travel definitely! I want to see my life in phases of how it progressed from now to the next 30 years.
What would you like to be remembered for? Living a purpose-driven life. Understanding my assignment and fulfilling it to the point it leaves an impactful legacy for the next generation.