LLA 10 Questions with the #LadyBoss Ese Odiete-Ehikhumeleo – “I have always been intrigued by the fashion business.”
Hesey Designs was born out of a vision to improve the Nigerian economy and empower people. In two years, this vision has turned into a successful fashion brand. Creative Director, Esesoghene, tells us the key factors responsible for the success of her fashion business.
- Can you briefly describe yourself and your business?
My name is Eseoghene Odiete-Ehikhumeleo. I am a fashion entrepreneur and social activist with a passion for people. I am the Creative Director of Hesey Designs. I was born and raised in Nigeria. I am a graduate of Mass Communication from Covenant University. Hesey Designs is a Nigerian fashion brand which specializes in the designing and production of handcrafted bags, shoes, fashion accessories, corporate gift items with African, continental and a variety of materials. Hesey Designs works with marginalized youths and women to develop chic African inspired fashionable items thereby creating jobs and supporting families. In the last two years, the brand has quickly grown to include an initiative that empowers unemployed young girls with vocational skills in handmade fashion accessories to join our workforce or start their own small businesses.
- What is it like being a female entrepreneur, and why did you chose this path?
I will say entrepreneurship chose me. Being a female entrepreneur is just another avenue for women to express their natural trait of managing and juggling a lot of things from business to relationships to family and balancing it all.
- What new innovation have you introduced to your business? Innovation for us has been mainly in our designs.
We keep churning out unique designs and products that appeal to our customers at all times. We have taken the brand from just a label to an inspiring brand. We also are about to launch our e-learning platform to empower more individuals.
- What will you say is responsible for your success so far?
Our brand is first a product of God’ grace. A lot of great things have happened that we can’t even ascribe to what we did or how well we did it; only grace can explain it. Also for us at Hesey designs, we have created partnerships and sought opportunities that have helped take the brand to another level. We work earnestly to build our brand and differentiate ourselves from our competitors and to always stay top of mind in our customer’s heart. Even the Bible says in Proverbs 22:29, “Do you see a man diligent in his business, he shall stand before kings.”
- Are there any unique challenges that female entrepreneurs face generally?
Aside from sourcing of funds, getting the products out and managing processes, I initially experienced a bit of discrimination. I am in business where majority of the artisans are male and when they see a young girl trying to ‘play madam’, they become uncomfortable.
- What values and principles have helped you so far?
I rely solely on God’s grace. Everything I do I must seek God’s permission and grace. Even when I don’t get it, I trust it’s in my best interest. Secondly, personal growth. I started with little or no experience of running a business, so I had to school myself by reading a lot of management books and stories of people who have started businesses. I was determined to develop myself and my team the most affordable way possible. We also try to stay on top of our game. And then most importantly, I stay passionate and I persevere.
- Why did you decide to go into this particular line of business?
I have always been intrigued by the fashion business, even as a child and I have always wanted to build a fashion brand that would promote the Nigerian economy. I passionately believe that trade not aid is key for Africa’s development. So after my university degree, I decided to set up a fashion brand with a mission to promote Nigeria and Africa. So Hesey Designs was born.
- What keeps you going when the odds are against you?
I count my blessings and look back at how far we have come. I realise that the obstacle is only preparing me for something bigger so I enjoy it while it lasts. Giving up is never an option. I NEVER GIVE UP.
- What’s your five-year plan for your business?
We are looking to expand into more international markets with physical outlets; strengthen our international channels and to empower more youths and women.
- What do upcoming female entrepreneurs need to do to be successful in this path?
It may not all be rosy at the beginning but you must stay on your game and very soon everything will fall in perfectly well. Also, take advantage of any platform or avenue to promote yourself and your brand.
Follow Ese on Instagram: @heseydesigns and @thehesey
Follow her on Twitter: @heseyinspired