Inside the Mind of a Creator: A Chat with Keke Bongos Ikwue….

When the name Bongos- Ikwue is mentioned arts and entertainment comes to mind and those probably in their 40’s and above would resonate with the name.
But did you know what it means to be the daughter of a popular music maestro?

Image ref: Keke

Let’s introduce you to Keke Bongos-Ikwue a multiple award winning film maker turned healthy skin advocate.

IBIENE sat with this woman who holds her own well and she shares what it means to be in her shoes. Here’s how the conversation went;

IBIENE: You wear a number of hats – An excellent entrepreneur, strategic consultant, educator, agri-business expert, filmmaker and speaker. How do you balance them?

KEKE: Seeing this list makes me feel like I am an immensely brilliant and busy person (she laughs).
I take the projects as they come and handle them in order of priority. Truth is that I have just been blessed enough where I don’t have too many projects hitting me at the same time where they have become unbearable.

IBIENE: You produced a Nigerian musical drama film, Inalé in 2010 Nigerian musical 3-drama film. In fact, your movie won seven (7) awards internationally and at home. What was your inspiration?

Image ref: Imdb

KEKE: My inspiration for the production of Inalé was my father’s song, which has the same title as the movie. We wanted to do a music video at first that would be unique, and then it somehow spiralled into us doing a musical of that proportion.

IBIENE: Your father is the legendary Nigerian music icon, Bongos Ikwue. Share with us two lessons that you learned from him.

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KEKE: The lessons I have learned from my dad don’t particularly have to do with him being a musical icon, but more about who he is as a person.

One of the major life lessons I have learned from him is INTEGRITY. If there is a “shady” element is any business that would bring him a lot of money, my father would rather be broke than go into it. He does not understand the need for dishonesty. I am definitely not perfect, but I do try my best in this area. I stand by my word and make sure that I do what I say I will. Again, I am not perfect!

Another lesson would be that whatever you do, your aim should be to be the best at it. If you want to be driver, be the best driver, if you want to be a surgeon be the best, and even if you want to be a thief, don’t get caught (joke). This is what I strive for daily in any role that I embark on in my life. This leads me to ask questions, even about myself, in order to make improvements.

IBIENE: Is there any pressure that comes with being the daughter of a famous musician?

KEKE: To be honest, I tend to forget that part of me…being the daughter of someone famous, unless maybe when an introduction is being made.

There definitely is some level of pressure that comes with being the child of any famous person. It’s a little difficult to do things without being noticed. Growing up, my mom would always remind us not to do anything to mess up the name that my father has built for himself and for us and I think that stuck naturally with me until now.

IBIENE: You have trained women to develop and implement bankable business plans, how would you rate women doing business in Nigeria and what recommendations can you give to improve the situation if it is negative?

KEKE: In my experience, women have turned out to be better in business than men, especially in the rural areas. Many of the women are hungry to learn and hungry for more opportunities to improve on what they have. They are more likely to save and reinvest their monies. I have been pleasantly surprised with what I have been privileged to see amongst them. They are smarter and more knowledgeable than we give them credit for unfortunately, they are limited by culture and, sometimes, law. These are just the observations I have made from my seven years of working with them around the country.

To improve the situation of our women, the first thing to do is to truly listen to them and give them proper guidance and support to allow them continue to grow. They are always very excited to see that people truly care and want to hear them out and help.

IBIENE: On your social media, you say “Your skin is an investment, not an expense.” Could you break that down for a brown skin girl? Also, why did you venture into skincare?

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KEKE: Your skin is indeed an investment. The skin is also an asset and different things that are applied or not applied to the skin will finally yield some result. Either you’re using harsh products or not, mild products or not, moisturising or not, or not even protecting your skin from the sun, the results will finally manifest in time.

For everyone really, brown or white skinned…. You need to love up your skin, no matter how busy you are. I used to think I didn’t have time for things like that until I realise that this doesn’t even take a whole lot of time out of your daily ritual ….the most for applying body lotion and other skin care products doesn’t take up to three minutes of your day.

Me going into skin care products as a business honestly started out of necessity and even by chance. A few years ago, I had decided that I wanted to start using shea butter for my skin, but I found that it was difficult to use because of how hard it was. I later discovered someone who made whipped shea butter and I got quite excited about how soft and easy it was to use. The problem I had was that it would take two weeks to get to me. At that point, I decided that I could make some for myself. After experimenting with different methods, oils and butters (this was really fun) during the covid lock-down period, something finally clicked and felt right. After sharing it with my family and some friends, they said it was good enough to sell. This was when I started thinking and working towards where it is now, where we are still growing.

IBIENE: Tell us about Kayganics the wonder products.

KEKE: Beauty is a saturated market: This is why our selling point is the use of ingredients that are all natural and mostly found locally, in Nigeria. Kayganics has set out to provide organic skincare and hair solutions to all skin and hair types for kids and adults.

We spent months researching natural ingredients, using ourselves, the manufacturers as test subjects to ensure that what we are producing is the best quality and safety for use.

Our materials used are rich in antioxidants, anti-inflammatory and have regenerative properties to produce the amazing products you know like the; Shea soufflé, Sheagro; Castor oil and Premium Whipped Shea + Mango Butter. With our Shea Soufflé, we even went the extra mile by creating the soft and easily absorbent body butters that come in different fragrances which include eucalyptus, lavender, jasmine, and my favourites, lemongrass and Luxe Arabia. These different fragrances are created using only the best organic essential oils in the market. I use all my products.

IBIENE: What do we anticipate Keke doing next?

KEKE: Keke just wants to do things right. Wants to make sure that whatever services or products you get from her will make you want to come back again.

For now, all I want to do is to build the Kayganics brand while empowering rural women and the youth. The brand will be reaching out to the communities that produce the raw materials needed and work with them to improve their livelihoods in whichever way we agree, and at the same time, provide our clients with access to premium products at great prices. This is the ultimate vision for the brand.

We are also working on two new products of which I cannot divulge any details but everyone is sure going to love when it is unveiled.

Do you have questions or comments for Keke? Do share with us in the comment section.

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