Titilolami Bello is the inspiring founder of ethical haircare brand Ori Lifestyle. We caught up with her & teamed up to offer a luxe set as a prize…
Q. Hello Titilolami! Can you tell me a bit about how & why you founded Ori Lifestyle & why it fills a gap in the market?
“In 2015, I was horrified to discover that my hair had been damaged from excessive styling and heat. Not only was it thinning, but I had lost all the hair around my edges (temple). If I didn’t stop my bad hair care practices, I knew it would get worse and I would be locked in a vicious circle of camouflaging with the exact hair practices that led to my hair loss. I decided to immerse myself in caring for my own hair. However, I was not accustomed to wearing my own natural hair, as it grew out of my head – but I was determined, no wigs, no weaves, no extensions, no braids.
For those outside of my culture of my culture this may be hard to understand. But I belong to that generation that completely subscribed to the beauty standards we saw in magazines, on TV and I was complicit in the erroneous messaging that our hair is hard to manage. Worse still I internalised messaging that our hair is not as desirable. The decision to wear only my own hair forced me to confront these biases. And in the three years that followed, I learnt exactly how to care for my Afro, how to grow it longer and I underwent a mindset shift – I embraced my own beauty and stopped trying to turn my hair into what it was not. A lot of people in my circle started asking for advice because they saw the transformation in my hair and this led to the course and the products followed.
“My brand fills a gap in the market because it is rooted in education, we adopt a holistic approach that considers our client/customer’s lifestyle. So while we sell hair care products, we are constantly educating on the role of nutrition, stress and sleep management.”
Q. Can you tell us about ethical & charity element of the business?
“We donate 50p from every product purchased from us to the UK registered charity, Path to Possibilities. Path to Possibilities sponsors disadvantaged children through secondary school in Nigeria, and in 2017 it established a resource centre in the slum area of Ikota in Lagos, Nigeria. Children in the slum community have access to the charity’s free library and computer centre. Path to Possibilities is close to my heart because I grew up in poverty in Nigeria. I was able to obtain my first degree in law and my master’s degree in public policy because my mother benefited from charitable donations in my early years.
“We pride ourself on being ethical and so we don’t partake in fear mongering marketing or make wild claims about hair growth products which simply do not exist nor do we demonize ingredients such as sulphates, parabens or silicones.”
Q. We’re focusing on education in our upcoming January special. Can you tell us your experience of school?
“I was expelled from school at 14 and I generally didn’t like any of the schools I went to. Given that I went to four girls-only secondary schools, that says a lot. I found that there was a poverty of aspiration for many black children from the type of background I came from in the 1990s. I was forced to finish my education in Nigeria which was a mixed blessing. On one hand, I was surrounded by seemingly engaged and ambitious peers, but I struggled with authority and the excessively controlled environment there too.”
Q. What is your favourite way to learn, and what changes should be made to the system?”
“I do love learning alone or though group discussions, sharing big ideas. When I was in university, I really struggled with traditional lecturers and found the atmosphere extremely stifling and boring. I did really well by studying alone and by attending smaller tutorials. I still believe lectures should be optional in some settings, in favour of something else for people like we who just wouldn’t learn in these environments.”
Q. What’s been the most rewarding part of the journey so far?
“The most rewarding aspect of my business is helping women and mums unlock the potential of theirs or their children’s hair. Unfortunately, many black women have internalised hair discrimination which has hampered them from understanding their hair, or even hindered them from wearing it out in public. When women tell me my work has helped them to reconsider or helped them to start taking better care of their hair, it makes me very happy.”
Q. What advice would you give to anyone who wants to start their own business?
“Just do the thing. Start and refine as you go along. There will never be a perfect time, you will never be ready.”
Q. Who would be your dream star or celebrity to champion your brand?
“Chimamanda Adiche, the writer. Not only does she have a fabulous head of hair, she is a vocal feminist who continues to shine a light on very many important issues of our time. Her multifaceted interests and commentary embody precisely what an Ori Lifestyle person is.”
Q. If you could make one wish for the world what would it be?
“My one wish for the world would be for us all to realise that there is an imbalance in the value we place on money. And this imbalance is the root cause of many of the atrocities we are facing as humanity, including endangering our environment.”
Q. Are you a New Year’s Resolution person, and if so what are your wishes for 2023?
“I am not a New Year’s Resolution person, I have not had any in many years. But I do have a New Year’s resolution for 2023, my resolution is to pay a little more attention to my writing, which has been on the back burner since I started my business. In 2023, I want to move closer towards marrying both the business and the writing.”
Q. Can you tell us your favourite places to hang out in the South East?
“I particularly love South Lodge Hotel in Horsham, the restaurants and Spa and the hotel itself is a delight, the service and the food are absolutely divine.”
One lucky winner can win a Drip 2 luxe hair care gift set containing Ori Lifestyle’s two-year bestselling khalila oil, cold-pressed Leccino olive oil, as well as our super-fluffy antimicrobial organic bamboo hair towel.