The word plastic doesn’t mean artificial; it is derived from a Greek word “plastico”, meaning to change the shape and the mode. So, when we say plastic surgery, it means the surgery that changes the shape and the mode of the body. Under plastic surgery, we have two sub-specialties; there is cosmetic surgery and reconstruction surgery. Cosmetic surgery is when you want to change the shape of your nose for certain reasons or you want to improve your self-esteem because you are not comfortable with how it looks. Reconstructive surgery is when someone has cancer of the nose or has an accident and his nose is amputated.” These clarifications were made by Modupe Ozolua, the CEO of Body Enhancement.
She left Nigeria for the United States when she was 16, where she combined schooling and working. She paid her school fees throughout her educational years. She made her first million at the age of 18. Her first job was at MacDonald’s. She was flipping burgers, and later got a job with an insurance company with a better working condition.
At 21, she was already running a business. The first business she had was a communication business on Hollywood Boulevard, in Los Angeles, USA. Later she went into real estate before starting Body Enhancement. So, for 12 years while she was in America, she was going to school and working. She ran her business and invested in shares and properties.
She went to school to study Graphic Design, but her interest in plastic surgery got her into the world of medicine. She went to have a cosmetic surgery done and all of a sudden decided to open an outfit of her own in Nigeria. So, with her non-medical background, but with enthusiasm, pioneered the business of cosmetic surgery in Nigeria.
Modupe Ozolua in 2001 introduced something new in the Nigerian market. Hitherto, Nigerians were traveling overseas to do plastic reconstructive surgery. But the coming of Body Enhancement Company reduced the number of people seeking that service across the borders. It also brought relief on the faces of Nigerians who would have been unhappy with themselves, based on appearance.
Based on the above, one should expect rejections and criticisms from several quarters. It actually came. Those in the medical field were not very sure about her because she didn’t have a medical background. But her perseverance and commitment to her vision have made it possible for the medical community to recognize her efforts. This is because a lot of Nigerian doctors these days refer clients and patients to her. Also the challenges of doing business in Nigeria (though not an excuse for failure) have seen her wanting to quit at some point. Today, organizations like the National Orthopaedic Hospital volunteers some of their doctors and nurses to work side by side with her foundation.
As far as Modupe is concerned, body enhancement is an investment. It’s like every other business. She is not a doctor and we all know that. It is a business she set up where professionals in the medical field who have spent years specializing in plastic surgery will have the opportunity to use their expertise to make money and at the same time make lives better.
Beyond running her business, Modupe also touches the lives of others through what she knows how to do best. In 2006, she came up with a vision for a free national medical programme. Body Enhancement Annual Reconstructive Surgery (BEARS), founded in 2003, was to organize a free national medical mission which will be beneficial to all under-privileged Nigerians from all parts of the nation. The vision was to have a total number of 312 medical volunteers comprising international and local medical personnel get involved in treating an estimated 6000 patients. The goal is to render free surgeries and medication to those that cannot afford to pay for basic and much deserved medical treatment. Give Nigerian medical doctors and nurses the opportunity to learn and exchange knowledge with visiting volunteer foreign doctors coming for the programme. To lift up moral and rekindle hope in under privileged Nigerians that have given up all their faith in the goodness of humanity and God as well as promote patriotism amongst Nigerians by encouraging Nigerian medical personnel to volunteer and help their own people. The Southern part took place in Kwara State by October/November 2006. The Kwara State Government hosted and took care of accommodation, feeding as well as the facilities that the BEAR Foundation team used. The team was made up of surgeons from Africa, America, Europe and Nigeria. They included Gynecologists, Ophthalmologists, etc and they worked for about 10 days and in the process treated over110 patients. It has taken place in other parts of the country.
BEARS Foundation does not only render various types of corrective surgery to select patients, but they also donate wheel chairs, crutches, and artificial limbs to both amputees and post-polio paralysis patients. They also will be using this national medical programme to circulate information promoting HIV/AIDS awareness in the federation.
One of the challenges of her foundation is funding, though that has not stopped her from reaching out to the needy. According to her, “Funding has been a major challenge. No NGO can function without adequate financial support. We’ve got the support of God and we’ve been able to achieve what we set out to do. I believe in being able to deliver; I believe if we deliver as promised, support will come from everywhere.”
That belief in what she can do led to Edo State inviting her to create a special programme to reconstruct the kerosene explosion victims after an explosion that injured some people in the state. They did not disappoint as more than 36 victims were treated and even donated millions of naira for more victims in the future.
She introduced the safe non-surgical laser beauty treatment in addition to the organization’s list of non-invasive services which are both for men and women. Her focus is to provide the newest technology for clients to meet the fast changing needs in medicine. This is coming after few years of market research to find out what the needs of the people are. One of the things she discovered from her research is that a lot of people have acne problems and these lasers take care of them. A lot of people have tattoos that are no longer fashionable which they would do anything to remove. When tattoos started, they were running all over the place having them, now they are trying to get rid of them. There are other permanent make-ups, after shave, wax, wrinkles and bumps that the laser removes comfortably.
Modupe is advocating for educating and empowering our local doctors and other medical personnel. In her words, “You don’t have to fly them out for training; you fly experts in. If you go talk to a professor in Harvard University, he will come. You arrange a seminar, he will come for about two weeks and train the local doctors and when he leaves, the doctors will have information and knowledge.” How I wish the big companies who spend millions of dollars to organize beauty pageants or entertainment shows will buy her passion. Not that there is anything wrong with organizing beauty pageants or entertainment shows, but like they say, health is wealth.
Modupe has proved that it’s possible to be a millionaire at a young age, even while still in school. But you have to have a sound and practical idea to get to that level. She proved that one can combine doing two or more things at a time and still come out tops. Of course, that’s what multiple stream of income is all about.
Creativity is important if you must achieve greatness. Though she is in the medical line, she is not a doctor. I know this is a fact many do not know. She comes up with the idea and gets experts to do the execution. This is exactly what successful individuals like Aliko Dangote are doing. You see, it is all about identifying a need in the society and proffering solution to it. There is always something the people want. Find it. If you can’t handle it on your own, raise a team and the rest will be history.
You have to be bold and courageous. You have to love what you do. You have to be proud of what you do. You have to be a brand to what you do. If you check with most of our change masters, they are made up of individuals who are so proud of what they do. Take the case of late Isaac Durojaiye, whose slogan is “Shit business is serious business.” He is not ashamed that his business has to do with carrying shit.
We should also learn how to give. At times you might not have any physical thing to give, but with creativity, can initiate a system that could be beneficial to the masses. What Modupe did was to initiate BEARS and brought in volunteers, including state governments. Though we expect some organizations to take up things like this as part of their corporate social responsibility, on our own individual basis, we can still do something.
Another lesson is that no matter what, you must be consistent with whatever you have chosen to do. There will be rejections, criticisms and challenges, but you must remain focused. And finally, believe in God. He makes all things possible.
NB: First published October 2015