Asmau Ahmed describes herself as a citizen of the world. Her parents come from Nigeria but she grew up both in the West African nation and London. Ahmed’s desire to experiment with things motivated her to become an entrepreneur.
She recently recalled converting her family’s laundry room into science labs. Later, she developed a strong love for fashion and makeup. However, her real interest remained in finding solutions to problems. For Ahmed, it turned out that make-up was a continual headache.
“My sister is just as dark as I am, but I would try on her lipsticks and look like a cartoon character,” she told Beauty Inc. After years of schooling in chemical engineering, she left for Columbia Business School.
“For me, Columbia was a breath of fresh air. It signified new beginnings, a huge playing ground to explore, innovate, learn, network and make life-long friends,” she told Madamenoire.com.
She combined her interest in chemical engineering and business because she saw a tangible business opportunity in her experience and frustrations of trying to find the right colors and products for herself, especially online.
The engineering in her started “developing a proprietary technology that analyzes skin, lip, hair and eye color, knowing that minute details like undertones are often undetectable to the human eye,” Beauty Inc. said. The development led to the birth of the Plum Perfect mobile application, which was launched in 2014.
The Plum Perfect mobile application allows users to upload selfies and receive makeup shade recommendations that complement their skin color.
Ahmed explained how the app works: “From just your photo, we find the perfect colors and products for you. From a photo of your face, we find you make-up that would look fabulous on you. From a photo of your top, we can find the perfect skirt. We essentially scour the web and search through mountains of products to find the one for you, in seconds.”
Obtaining funding for her startup did not come easy. “Understanding that a ‘no’ from one investor meant one of two things – I needed to get back to the drawing board (armed with very specific feedback on what was not working) or we just didn’t fall in their sweet spot (happens a lot). My networks were instrumental in getting me meetings. It was up to me and my team to close,” she said.
The challenges evolved over time, she said. She told Madamenoire.com in 2012 that “First, it was technology and product build – motivating the team at 4 AM in the morning of the next release to not give up. Then, it was fund raising – convincing investors that we need money NOW. Now, it’s growing our market after the relaunch.”
Ahmed has made it to this point through perseverance and not giving up.