In this interview with Bisola, a superstar Fashion Designer and CEO of the fashion brand Lady Biba, we talk about how she started her fashion business, channels of sales, her customers and all that you need to know to start the clothing business you don’t want to miss. Excerpts
SmartPreneur: You run the popular fashion brand Lady Biba. Tell me about the Lady Biba story, how did you start and how did you get the idea?
Bisola: Okay, so I’ve always known I wanted to do fashion even from a young age but I thought I was going to do my masters and like work in corporate and then maybe do fashion on the side for a couple of years but as it happened, I finished school and I just started doing Lady Bibaand it sort of just took off and that’s why we have Lady Biba today so it was something of a passion project that became a business from there.
SmartPreneur: How did you turn it from a passion project to a business?
Bisola: I took things one step at a time, so I’m like the DIY-preneur if anything; I did everything myself from photography, to even my website, to everything, it was just me and a tailor so I was the business person and from there my business grew. Obviously, I had to employ someone, and then another person, and now, we’re about fourteen? Yeah, I think fourteen or more now. I basically had to do things one step at a time.
SmartPreneur: Wow! I love that term “DIY-Preneur” I haven’t heard it before.
Bisola: Yeah, I really am; there’s no aspect of my business I don’t know because I’ve done everything, I’ve crashed my site several times, and really it’s just because when you’re starting small, you don’t have all the funds so you just have to do things yourself, so I spend a lot of times learning, asking questions – I love learning anyway, so it was like no biggie for me.
SmartPreneur: You mainly sell via E-commerce, you don’t have a bricks and mortar store, and you also ship worldwide, I know you have clients all over the world. How were you able to develop that side of your business where you could cater to clients outside of Nigeria, how were you able to market to them, to let them know about you and what you do?
Bisola: I think there was the demand first before we started doing it, so for a long time people were asking “oh do you ship abroad?” and to be honest, I was scared because I was thinking of returns, I was thinking of customs, it wasn’t as if we couldn’t do it, it was more of like how do we do it in such a way that it’s efficient and also good for the customer, like a good shopping experience. Now we’re fully shopping all over, so when you go to ladybiba.com you can shop wherever you are in the world and you get it in about 5-7 working days.
SmartPreneur: How do you handle the logistical things like the returns, can people return if they buy from abroad?
Bisola: Yes, we’ve had returns, so we give them the shipping address. Really, I mean social media is amazing because you find people from different parts of the world just in there, and they’re just asking how can I get this item to me and the fact that we’re able to do that is so amazing.
SmartPreneur: For our readers who want to build a profitable, sustainable fashion business that can grow; what would you advise them to do?
Bisola: My advice would be: have a blueprint. A blueprint really is a business plan, but more importantly, a business module because a business module really mirrors your business, it mirrors what your key resources are, your key activities, where your money is coming from, where it is going to, so it’s really like a roadmap. I’ll recommend you structure your business module and you should have a vision. I think the difference between a vision and the strategy is that you can always update your strategy but your vision should be clear and it should be with you and every member of your team as you build, you should be able to educate them, and they should be able to know that “this is what the business stands for”. I’ll advise that you build a brand because that is what I’ve done; there are so many businesses but there are few brands so you should be able to be remembered for something. It even goes to the name of the brand as well, in choosing the name, what do you want them to remember you for. It should translate in everything you do.
SmartPreneur: The kind of women that you dress, you dress a lot of very smart, very powerful women, I think that has become very synonymous with your brand, when I think capable, powerful, smart, sexy, I think of Lady Biba, so you’ve definitely been able to communicate that excellently?
Bisola: I think also knowing your market is important because I didn’t create the market, it was more of these are the people that are drawn to what I’m doing, so it’s not about saying “I want to dress this person”, it’s more of “who are the people coming to your brand, who are the people your brand is attracting” and then you can create a tribe of that.