Story: Cosmetics remade with artificial intelligence

28 October 2021
ITC News
Abimbola-Kofoworola Oladeji and co-founder Oluwaferanmi Ogundipe in Ghana created an innovative software based on artificial intelligence that collects data on skincare for a much-needed niche market.

Coming up with a unique business idea is the meat and potatoes for any successful, long-lasting trade. As much was clear to Abimbola-Kofoworola Oladeji once she finished her programme at Meltwater Entrepreneurship School of Technology (MEST) in Accra.

The one-year programme on Software Entrepreneurship helped the Nigerian entrepreneur develop an innovative idea which has now turned into a thriving business.

“BARE is a web application using artificial intelligence to deliver smart skincare advisory and recommendations to men and women,” explains Abimbola.

The 27-year-old Nigerian originally studied quantity surveying. Instead of working in the field of construction, she combined her passion in fashion and lifestyle with her second interest: business strategy – and turned this original mix into an unprecedented tool for people around the world.

“We were four women who wanted to develop skin care products,” says Abimbola. “However, our research showed that there wasn’t enough information and products for skin with a darker complexion.”

This is how the entrepreneurs decided to provide more resources to individuals who needed to make an informed decision for their skin, for example in case of acne. Now, their main markets have expanded from Ghana and Nigeria to the United States.

“Many people try many things in skincare – but they need a guide and professional diagnosis. Products exist but there’s a high chance you don’t know which one is best for you,” says Abimbola.

The BARE founder emphasized that she is not a health-care expert and in complex cases refers clients to vetted dermatologists: “We approach the products from a cosmetic point of view. Evidently, our analysis has been developed through a collaboration with dermatologists and aestheticians.”

Cosmetics and skin care products do have huge market potential.

The global market share stood at $148.3 billion in 2020 and is projected to reach $189 billion by 2025.

Given this potential, it seemed logical for Abimbola to make the BARE software available for large-scale businesses, too, next to individual customers. Since March of this year, businesses can now integrate the software within a private dashboard on their own website. 

“Our business clients can capture data and offer customized solutions for their customers with their own products that you wouldn’t normally get if you went to a shop.”

Ultimately, BARE is like a one-stop shop for cosmetics and skin care businesses.

Getting this far since the business registered as Adi+Bolga Ltd in 2019 was not a given for Abimbola and her co-founders.

“Building the programme from scratch without a benchmark and knowledge, was hard. It is still hard. Obviously, you need talent, and you need to pursue finding solutions as customers’ needs continuously evolve.”

The software is new in a very traditional industry. Next to customers, investors also have a hard time understanding, and thus trusting, the AI-based software. As with each business globally, finance and capital are the top challenges.

How can BARE ensure it remains competitive?

With the software being quite new in its development stage, Abimbola and her co-founder are trying to integrate their customers’ feedback while developing the software further. 

The company also received support from the International Trade Centre through its SheTrades platform, which connected the team with online resources and networks, as well as provided tech- focused advice and resources on being an online business using artificial intelligence.

COVID-19, however, has left a mark on their business profits since skincare is not a top priority in a global crisis.

“COVID-19 was a training ground for us. We used the time to do research and adapted our business line,” explains Abimbola.

Looking forward, Abimbola has grand plans as she has seen BARE’s success rate this year: “We are working on a more customizable dashboard and providing our services globally. This would mean expanding our team to develop new product lines, such as make-up, in partnership with businesses.”

For this, Abimbola hopes to get investors interested in the company’s new product development.

Given the boom of artificial intelligence in the cosmetics industry, especially since COVID-19, Abimbola’s dream will hopefully turn into reality.