From Islington Care to Skincare
Dr Lady Clare Eluka.
People often ask “when did you start your business?” my answer is: I was an entrepreneur from the age of 5. I used to sell homemade fries wrapped in newspaper from my mum’s front door.
We grew up on a council estate in between Holloway and Pentonville Prison. We experienced racism from most neighbours – our Yoruba neighbours treated us like strangers, the Ghanaians sided with the West Indians, the whites hated us all. We were 6 Igbos fending for ourselves. The world was a cruel, ugly place.
Being one of 5 children, the middle child – the rebel, I was extremely creatively gifted child and frustrated with growing up poor. My friends had ‘Polly Pocket” and ‘Barbie’s’. They would give me their hand-me-downs.
At the age of 9, my best friend and I opened our summer ice-cream cart, we borrowed £1 from her mum – (our investor) and purchased a tub of ice-cream and cones. My ambition was to be cheaper than the ice-cream man and his fancy van.
That same year, my dad died from a diabetes comma. This changed my family’s lives forever. My mum’s mental health deteriorated rapidly with the stress of raising 5 children without support and me and my sisters were taken into a children’s home.
I think the loss of my dad to poor health really showed me the fragility of life, and would shape my tenacity to stay focus and work harder than most in the industry of health and wellbeing.
Whilst living in care, I was fortunate to live next door to a world icon – the legend, Sade. She lived next door to my children’s home and was such a wonderful daily source of inspiration. She didn’t judge us, she treated us like regular kids, giving us sweets for Halloween and letting us hold her then new born baby. She is my role model. One of the most successful women of colour and the most humble.
It was a huge honour when I chased after her 2 years ago in Mayfair and asked her if she remembered me and she gave me a hug, told me ”Yes, of course – you & your two sisters. I’m really proud of you”
I studied Drama and Film at university. I decided that if I was going to go university, it had to be a subject I could stomach for 3 years. All my friends were doing Economics, business and law. They would laugh at me and say, ‘those creative subjects are a waste of time’. Today, they work for the council or legal aid and I travel the world changing lives, but hey – I’m not knocking them, or the 9 to 5. After my degree, I trained as an English and Drama A-Level Teacher whilst working as a makeup artist and going for acting jobs. The 9 to 5 kept food in my fridge and a roof over my head. But I knew my destiny was bigger than teaching teenagers for 25 years and growing grey in the process.
At the age 24, I was sick and tired of being sick and tired. I was diagnosed with Candida Albicans, an intolerance to wheat, dairy, gluten and sugar. I changed my diet, became a Vegan – to which my whole family thought I was mad (can you imagine refusing mixed meat Okra soup) and making your own Tofu Salad when being at your mums house. People just didn’t understand why I was being so ‘fussy’. My immune system healed but my skin was still ravaged with Acne and Eczema. I began looking at the ingredients in my expensive makeup and skincare and saw that the same allergens I was avoiding internally were present in my beauty products, thus affecting me externally.
I began mixing basic formula’s at night after coming home from a long day teaching. I took up an Allergy Practitioner Course, and passed with 94%.
I got a small stand in Spitalfields market and began selling my products. At the time, my fiancé was a teacher too and would help me sell on the weekends.
When I decided that he wasn’t the man for me to marry, I ended the relationship and politely asked him to move out of my home. 10 days later, him and a friend had hijacked my website, emptied my bank account and fraudulently signed over my business to themselves.
I was devastated. Overnight, my world crashed. I stopped.
I went into boot camp – code for ‘ sleeping over at my mum’s for a month’. My family prayed for me, held me as I cried, and helped me strategise a plan.
I prayed and took up smoking. I could barely eat. All I could do is ask God why had he allowed this to happen. I’m no angel. I have made mistakes, upset people – even been deemed a snob because of my no-nonsense approach to life, but I have never hurt someone deliberately. He told me that ‘if you do not hear, you will feel’. Sometimes we know that the people in our lives are wrong for us, but we keep them around for longer than necessary. We trust them with precious gifts and hope to lift them up, when they secretly want to tear you down.
When I feel sorry for myself, I immediately do something to help someone who is in a lesser position than me. It helps me stay levelled and in a space of gratitude.
I flew to Uganda and helped an orphanage of children make soaps to sell at hotels across Kampala.
I begun working on the Premae branding, the website and reworked all of my formulae. I wanted to make a stellar comeback. And I did just that.
5 months later, like the Phoenix from the ashes, Premae emerged onto the beauty industry of Dec 1st 2011, and within 40 days was award nominated. The industry was shaken up and in awe of this new Allergen-free beauty brand that looked like a major player and had the eco ethics of scientist.
The response was magnificent. 2 years on, myself and Premae have won 13 awards, have sold over 100,000 units world wide and have held the No.1 title as the world’s 1st allergy free Vegan beauty brand.
Today, Premae Skincare specialises in products for Eczema, Pimples and Dry skin. It is like the natural alternative to E45 and Clinique. My products are used by TV stars and the British Royal Family.
Most recently, I opened my flagship store in Whiteleys Bayswater. This is the first store and sets the precedence for future stores to open throughout the country.
I received my Doctorate of Science in January and plan on opening hospitals, Allergy clinics and beauty counters throughout Africa and South America.
My life, the ups and downs, is a testimony of strength and determination. How the use of failure or setbacks, can be transferred into your greatest asset and drive. Never rest on your laurels, look out for signs and red flags but most important live each day like its your last. Love and work hard. Pray harder.