Dr. (Mrs.) Quincy Sumbo Ayodele is the MD/CEO, Quincy The Herbal Slimmers. A respected and renowned name in her sector, the good-hearted mother and grandmother hosted YES International! Publisher/Editor-in-Chief, AZUH ARINZE, to an unforgettable evening on Wednesday, September 12, 2012. The venue was her colourful and lovely office on 8, Odunuga Street, off Opebi Link Road, in Ikeja, Lagos. Always fun to be with, Mrs. Ayodele who is unarguably the most successful woman in herbal medicine in the country today took time out to explain how it all began for her as well as why she has continued to remain relevant. Enjoy…
When did you come to the realization of the fact that herbal business could sustain you?
It’s not a matter of when did I come to that realization. I had always been in herbal medicine anyway, even though not for commercial purposes in those days. That was what my grandfather did and my grandmother who sent us to school and trained my mother. I’ve always known that even though I didn’t start on a commercial level, definitely I cannot be processing the herbs with my money and be giving it out for free since I didn’t intend to open a charity organization. So, I knew it would still end up on a commercial basis and that’s how it started.
With how much seed money did you take off when you eventually made up your mind to make it your source of livelihood?
I started Quincy Herbal Slimmers with N5000! When I wanted to start, I went to a lot of people to come and assist me. I used to know a lot of people and I still know them. But when it’s time to start a business, that’s when you will realize that people who you think you know, they are not there for you. So, I made up my mind that I wasn’t going to go to anybody anymore, let me just start with whatever I had, and move on from there. So, I had to now start with something that wasn’t in my line of what I knew I was going to do, to raise money to get into my business and that was what made me to start selling puff-puff in those days.
At inception, what was the greatest challenge you faced and how were you able to overcome it?
The first thing that I encountered was me talking about herbal medicine in those days. Talking about herbal medicine then was like you being possessed. They tagged me with all sorts of names. Is she possessed? Is she a Mammy Water and I am unfortunately light skinned (Laughter). How could she be talking about slimming down with herbal medicine? Then some people were talking about witchcraft and all sorts. But I just realized that it was because of lack of knowledge; they didn’t know the efficacy of herbal medicine, they didn’t know that for every disease there’s a cure in nature. They didn’t know that nature is the only thing that can cure you and cure you perfectly. So, I made up my mind that I wasn’t going to be shut down by anybody because I believed in what I was doing. I was seeing results in what I was doing and I persisted and I knew it was because of lack of knowledge, so I kept on creating awareness, I kept on talking and people like you, the media people, actually were not allowing me to keep quiet. They were always coming to ask questions. What is the meaning of this? And I was ready to answer all their questions. So, they also helped in creating the awareness and letting people know that herbal medicine works and we thank God for the results.
The sector was populated mostly by men then, how were you able to hold your head high and even still be around today?
Yeah, herbal medicine is a man’s profession, so when I started, I knew I was in a man’s world and because I knew what I was talking about; there’s not even a single herb that grows in Nigeria that I can’t recognize and tell you what the uses are, dosage and the rest. So, when we talk, we are colleagues. They see me as their colleague, even though some of them used to call me Quincy The Baby Doctor (Laughs). The fact still remains that even though we are in the same profession, I respect them a lot because they are men and in my own way, I respect men. Again, that’s what the Bible says. That we should respect men, and because they know I respect them a lot, they also honour me, they allow me to be, they welcome me into their midst and in most cases, they even allow me to lead them, because at some point I became the Secretary General of the umbrella body of our practice and if they didn’t want me there, they wouldn’t have put me there. So, they allow me to lead them, they see me as their mother, even though I’m young or very young compared to most of them.
Why do most women fail in business?
Ah! I think in my own opinion, it is focus. If you start a business, you must have a mission, you must have a vision and you must be focused. You must not allow anything to derail you. For some women, when they start their business, after like three, four, five years, they lose it; they begin to do ‘big man’, acting big man or acting big woman behind the successful business. What they used to do by themselves in those days, they stop doing it. Me oO! I’ve not stopped anything, I’ve not even changed from what I used to be. Instead of them doing things by themselves, you find them telling people to run errands for them. Yes, I have staff that work with me, but even at that, we work as a team. I don’t sit down like the MD (stresses it) and allow my staff to do most of the work. They do theirs, I do mine. So, if women can just focus and make sure they don’t lose it somewhere along the line, they will remain in business.
Why do some women excel in business and fail in marriage?
That’s a very serious question and I will tell you from experience. When you succeed in business as a woman, you must not lose your head. If you lose your head, you will lose your marriage. And is it marriage you want or your business? You want to have both. The meaning of a successful woman is not to fail in any. You have to be able to succeed in everything you do. Your marriage must not fail, your business must not fail. You must not even fail in rearing your children and all your social functions, you must also be able to be there. It’s stressful, but your ability to cope with all these responsibilities that actually come with success is what makes you a successful woman. So, once you are successful in business and you are a woman, you must continue to realize the fact that you are still a woman; married woman. Meaning that when you are at work, you are that successful woman, when you are at home, you are…Like me, when I’m at home, I am Mrs. Ayodele (Laughs), mother of children and now grandmother. When I’m at home, whatever it is I’m putting on as Quincy here, when I get home, I tie my wrapper, I put my scarf on and stuff like that. Maybe my grandson is on my back, I have to back him, I’m in the kitchen cooking, serving my husband food. So, you must be able to balance the two so you don’t lose out.
What is the greatest ingredient needed to succeed in business?
I would say it’s humility and truthfulness. It’s more than one. And of course, consistency. You must be consistent in what you are doing. There’s an adage that says Jack of all trades, master of none. Once you are consistent, people will see you, that okay, this is what she’s been doing and she’s still doing it; she’s still succeeding. Once you now begin to sell biro, sell pen, when you are a doctor, then you’ve lost it. And of course you must be truthful. You must be clean enough to show them what you are actually doing and then you have to be honest with yourself and with your clients.
Why do some people attain success and they are not able to sustain it?
Because once they attain that status, they have the money from it, they now spend the money on something else. You can never see me spraying in front of Onilu (the drummer). I can, maybe occasionally. But that has to be from my salary, not from the business money. Because that business money is not my own. It is for the business, made from the business to be put back into the business for expansion and development of the business so that the business can continue forever; even if I’m no more. You understand what I’m saying. But God will let me be there for a very long time. So, what they do is once they have the money from the business, they spend it on something else. Some spend it on girls, some spend it on things that don’t even have anything to do with the business they are doing and they end up wasting a lot of money or they feel too powerful to even be able to remember where they are coming from. Some of them, they begin to act big men. Maybe they are people who couldn’t afford a bottle of coke, you will now see them hosting visitors with champagne and they end up spending everything and as the responsibilities keep piling up, they can’t cope anymore.
What separates Quincy from the other people in your line of business?
Well, as a professional, I am not to put myself above others. I see all of us as colleagues, but I will just talk about Quincy. Quincy as a person; she’s a WHO (World Health Organisation) expert on the development of African traditional medicine. Meaning that Quincy is an authority in the herbal field in Africa; not just in Nigeria. It means that I am part of a think-tank for the development of African traditional medicine at WHO level. We plan what to do, we make recommendations, we decide what member countries should do at that level. And then Quincy produces its own herbs. We don’t use other people’s products; we make our own products, we use our products for our clients and we have been seeing results. Quincy is a professional naturopath and Quincy makes sure that we have a state of the art environment to make our clients comfortable, to feel safe and then Quincy makes sure that all the staff here are professionals. We don’t do guess work at Quincy and then Quincy is restless. We do a lot of research and then we come out with nice products for the management of obesity. We have more than 20 products that we use, that we produce and use on our clients and we thank God.
Is any of your children keen to follow in your footsteps?
Oh yes! My two girls are already in the business with me – Mariah and Mareeta. We were waiting for them to graduate. Thank God they’ve all graduated, they are back in Nigeria and they are with me fully.
Now that two of your daughters are into the business, are you thinking of stepping aside?
Em…not stepping aside. We are in it together. But when it is time for me to step aside, of course, I will know. But right now, I’m still putting them through the Nigerian terrain of business because they are Americans, they trained back in the States, but they are back here. So, they are still in the process of understanding how the Nigerian market is. Once that is done, I can sometimes stay home with the grandchildren or even go on holiday with the grandchildren. They are even better than me because they are more internet-compliant. They are also more educated than me.
What don’t you like about the business you do?
I think I like the business I am doing. Even when I started the business, I was like why didn’t I start it earlier. So, I love my business, I love the herbal profession; in fact, I can’t even do anything else again and I think if I grow old and die and come again, I want to be a herbal medicine practitioner.
What do you like most about being into herbal medicine?
Oh, it’s playing with the herbs, the medicinal plants, stretching them, growing them, nurturing them and then the smell, the feel, the medicinal plants themselves and recognizing them. Sometimes the ones I don’t know how to use, when I’m in their midst, they kind of give me the lead to what other things you can use this thing for. So, to me, being in the midst of medicinal plants is what I like most.
Of all the herbs you use, which is the most potent and why?
All of them are potent. But there’s a common active ingredient. There’s one of them that I use in all our products. The name is Alana. It’s very potent. All of them are potent, but my favourite is Alana. Whatever product we are using, I still make sure that I put Alana in it, no matter how small.
I’ve discovered that it does a lot of things; a little bit of it here and there. I can make Alana into injection, I can make Alana into water for anybody to drink, I can make Alana into so many things with different formula or with other products. So, Alana is very special. I call my Alana the queen of herbs.
Is there any disease that you would love to find a cure for but haven’t been able to?
Is there any disease? No, no…because as a herbal medicine practitioner, you must be able to find solutions to all diseases. Because the training is such that for every disease, there is a cure in nature…
(Interruption) – So, how come you people haven’t found a cure for AIDS?
It’s controversial. That’s very controversial. And as a professional, I am not going to comment on that. But our patients who have tested positive, they know us. It’s still controversial, but because of my involvement with WHO, I may not be able to comment fully. But some of us can be able to manage HIV/AIDS now. I’m not going to use the word-cure. But some practitioners can manage it to a very, very great extent. I won’t want to say more.
You are one of the visible women who have been able to juggle their marriage with their business, how do you do it?
It’s a matter of interest. I went into the business as a married woman, a mother, so why will I now allow the business to let me lose my home? I love what I do. Once you love what you do, it’s not going to affect the other. I like my job, I love my business. So, because of that, I don’t feel stressed. When I get home, I’m a mother. And I’ve been able to balance the two and I thank God for that.
How do you stay or remain in such a good shape as a mother and grandmother?
(Smiles) I will give that glory to God Almighty who says that He will renew our youth just like that of the eagle and I’m a very positive woman. Once you live a positive lifestyle, I think you are not going to be affected when you begin to grow older. I take a lot of water, I eat as much as I can; healthy food. I’m even used to it. I live all my life as a herbal medicine practitioner. I live with the plants and I eat them. I eat a lot of greens – raw. I don’t mind it raw. In fact, I prefer eating the greens raw. So, I eat leaves. If you really want to look like me, you can begin to eat leaves. I eat a lot of raw leaves and it’s my favourite actually.
What is the greatest thing that Quincy The Herbal Slimmers has done for you?
It has done a lot of things for me O! If not for Quincy The Herbal Slimmers, I would have been an orobo (a fat person). Because when I started my business, I was very fat. But because of Quincy Herbal Slimmers, I lost my weight in those days so that I can be healthy. I had to look every inch of what I preach. It has made me to be disciplined about my feeding habit, it has actually made me to know the meaning of all those bad things I used to feed on and the greatest is that it has made me to maintain myself, beauty-wise, health-wise and weight-wise.
What hasn’t Quincy The Herbal Slimmers done for you?
Ah! What it has not done for me? (Thinks). It’s only God that can do everything for anybody and I thank God that He has granted most of my requests. As for Quincy, it has taken me to a lot of places. It has even taken me to WHO level. It has made me to dine with presidents of nations; God has used it as a channel of blessing. It has helped me to assist my husband in training our children to the highest level. I’m still trying to search for what Quincy has not done for me (General laughter). It has made me to be lifted from the grassroots to who I am today and I give God the glory. Whatever I am, God has used Quincy to make me.
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