“My Strength Lies in Being Exactly Who I am – a Woman” #LLA Meets Lady Boss and CEO of Hermosa Boda, Igihiwiyisi Jacobs
Ighiwiyisi Jacobs is a heartfelt worship leader, an articulate speaker, writer and entrepreneur. She is the Creative Director of a custom production design and visual merchandizing service, Hermosa Boda, which means Beautiful Wedding. Hermasa Boda does distinctive customized props and themed effects for a wide range of events including weddings. The company’s offering includes: stage designs, sets for store window design set among others. Hermasa Boda employs three major genres- wonders, wishes and whimsy to create its designs. We sit with Ighiwiyisi to understand what led to this business, how she stays creative and how she has groomed her brand to this point. Enjoy!
Can you briefly describe yourself and your business?
Hermosa Boda is a custom production design and visual merchandizing service, with particular attention to window displays. Hermosa Boda builds sets exclusively created and finished for each client. No two are ever the same. No set is ever repeated. Each of them is finished by hand and to perfection, ensuring that there will never be another exactly like it anywhere else in the world. Ighiwiyisi Jacobs is the Creative Director of Hermosa Boda. Every production is a result of her work and that of her long-standing team. Each of them seasoned in their fields.
What is it like being a female entrepreneur, and why did you choose to be one?
I started out, as most production designers do, in interior design. It was clear to me from nearly the beginning, that my path in design would be custom and not retail. As such, I knew that I would never own a design store where products were sold to buyers. I also knew that I would cater to a select, not vast number of people. The result of this turned out to be that I had to forge the path I would walk on by myself. I found myself at the head of a small team, with smaller projects. Soon enough, one or two larger projects came by and my team grew. I learnt pretty quickly that there was no point trying to be a man. I would fail miserably at it. I learnt that my strength lay in being exactly who I was, A woman. Possessing the power to see things that escaped men’s notice. Speaking to them in a way that bypassed any testosterone induced rancor and directing the conversation to what I really needed from them – Their expertise.
I learnt never to throw a tantrum or express frustration in public. I learnt that strength lies in example. I learnt to sit with them while they were working, Observing and correcting, but doing so through a middleman, rarely directly. I found, in the course of my work, that men take correction better when another man tells them. They receive praise better when it is a woman who praises them. It is not foolproof, this theory, but it has worked for me these fifteen odd years.
What new innovation have you introduced to your business?
Hermosa Boda is unique in its resolve to cater to a select number of people. People who will stop at nothing to achieve what they want. As such, Hermosa Boda executes each project with the client exclusively in focus. While its method of achieving the same is not novel, it is not common either. Attention to detail and the use of fine and visual art as a major tool of expression are Hermosa Boda’s uniqueness as well as her strength. Her greatest strength however, is the Holy Spirit of the Living God, without Whom all her projects would be lifeless.
What will you say is responsible for your success so far?
I would say Jesus, without hesitation or question. I depend very heavily on His Spirit for inspiration and direction. He is my example when the temptation to settle for less arises. He is my company in solitude and wise counsel amidst foolishness. There is also nothing he cannot do. A trait I have found to be indispensible in a field where gravity is constantly being defied.
In your opinion, would you say that there are any unique challenges that female entrepreneurs face?
Not necessarily. I believe that entrepreneurs face challenges, Period. The biggest of which, in my opinion, is shrugging off stereotypes and labels designed to remind you to keep the status quo. The world needs change. It however seldom welcomes that change with open arms. It resists it and it does so through labels and stereotypes. Every entrepreneur will be confronted by these, repeatedly and convincingly. It will be the choice of each one whether to allow said label stick or to rip it to shreds every single time it arises.
What values and principles have helped you so far?
I have learnt a few things in the course of my life. They guide me and define me.
The first is the absolute love that Jesus has for me. It is unparalleled and unconditional. It is where I draw affirmation from. It is where I draw inspiration from. I also know that the greatest and longest battle I will fight here on earth is the battle that says that everything I just said, is in fact a lie.
I have learnt that I must fight the lie with the truth. I must hold on to truth from first breath until last. I have learnt that nothing good comes from doing nothing.
I have learnt to push past the pain. To work past the fatigue. Until fingers bleed, until tears run free, until the work is finished, and not a second before.
I have learnt to get even, not mad. Every rejection is absorbed and recycled into fuel for success. Nothing is ever wasted. Success is fuel, so is failure.
I have learnt that if my dreams do not make my heart skip a beat, I need to dream again. I have learnt to surround myself with only things that inspire me.
I have learnt not to settle for hearing that a thing is impossible. It is only impossible for the person who says it is impossible. Nearly always, there is already someone somewhere in the world achieving the very thing that another said was impossible.
I have learnt that problems are opportunities for relevance. Solve a problem and you become indispensible to the person who had the problem.
And lastly, a personal lesson is this: If you yourself would not stop dead in your tracks and be transfixed by the thing you created, throw it away and start again.
Why did you decide to go into this particular line of business?
Once, upon a time, a young family went away on a long awaited holiday. Each person in this family had their own version of how this holiday would go. The husband looked forward to a welcome reprieve from work, the little ones had no clue what was happening and as such, expected nothing other than the usual. Eat, play, sleep. Repeat. The mother however, had grand plans. She had crossed a vast sea on a metal bird with a singular purpose and that was to shop until plastic melted. She had come armed with her most loyal and most astute guide. Her sister. Together, they were unstoppable.
And so, one fine morning, after feeding the boys and making sure all the men were well, she and her wise counsel set off to lay waste to the unsuspecting malls. It would become a day to remember. Shop after shop, item after item, cart after cart, the two of them conquered with virtually no resistance and continued this rampage until biology caught up with them. They found after what appeared to be a short while, that simply was no more physical strength to shop anymore, try as they might. And so, wearily but joyfully, they came out of the mall and realized with horror that the sun had given way to the moon. What had appeared to be naught but an hour was in fact twelve hours and nearly thirty missed calls from home.
Needless to say, the husband was not happy at all. The tots had revealed their true nature in the mother’s absence. Demanding food and attention far beyond what the husband was able to give.
In any case, mother was home. Songs were sung, food was made, explanations were given, frayed nerves were soothed. When everyone had settled down and all was well with the world again, the mother was faced with the question of how she could have allowed time to slip by so catastrophically. It was then that it dawned on her. The kingdom of Mall, had cast a spell on her, designed to keep her shopping and blissfully unaware of how much she was spending or how long she had been spending it for. She realized that this would never have happened if she had been in the heat of the sun, exposed to the elements, no music, no air-conditioning, no magical window displays to draw her in. That day a seed was sown. She would study this strange magic. She would replicate it back at home. She would bring back more than bags and shoes from this trip. She would bring back the very same wonder, the very same wishes, the very same whimsy that had so entranced her that day.
And that, my friends, is how Hermosa Boda was born. Fast-forward a few years, my fearless cohort was getting married and wanted something vastly different from the regular wedding look and Hermosa Boda’s first scripted wedding was born.
The rest, as they say, is history.
What are some of the challenges you’ve faced, and what’s kept you going?
The first challenge was explaining my dream to people and getting them to dream with me. I’m forever grateful for the blessing of God that is my family. From my husband, to my children, to my siblings, they were and continue to be my greatest support and reminder of who I am. They were the easiest to get on board. The rest of the world remains virgin territory. A challenge I look forward to overcoming as well.
What’s your five-year plan for your business?
I don’t have a five-year plan. I never did. I do however, intend to grow Hermosa Boda into promise. Every time a client walks into our world, the promise of Hermosa Boda, the promise of wonder, the promise of whimsy and the promise of wishes will be exceeded, thereby becoming forever branded in their memories. The method we will use to achieve that will change with each client, but the promise of Hermosa Boda will remain unbroken.
What do upcoming female entrepreneurs need to do to be successful in this path?
They need to stop calling themselves “female” entrepreneurs and just BE entrepreneurs. The very best in their fields. The only way to do this is to NEVER FORGET what problem you were designed to solve and to never stop until that problem is solved.
The LLA Lady Boss Series is a weekly interview series that highlights the achievements and entrepreneurial journeys of African female
entrepreneurs. The idea is to showcase the Leading Ladies who are transforming Africa and the African narrative through enterprise and business.
It is an off-shoot of Leading Ladies Africa, a non-profit that promotes leadership, inclusion and diversity for women of African descent.
If you know any kick-ass women of African Descent doing phenomenal things in enterprise, email firstname.lastname@example.org, and she could possibly be featured.