This week on the LadyBoss series, we chat with Fashion and Art entrepreneur, Fortune Eki Oribhabor, Creative Director, Eki Oris Integrated Services. Despite bagging a Bsc in Economics from Babcock university and working a 9-5pm corporate job, Fortune resigned to take on Fashion entrepreneurship full time. Her drive for success brings to mind the relevance of passion in running any business as she gives insights on the importance of acquiring business skills and how she has managed to grow her business over the years.
Can you briefly describe yourself and your business?
I am Fortune Eki Oribhabor, an entrepreneur in the Fashion and Art Industry. I hold a Bsc in Economics from Babcock university and I have years of work experience in Customer Relationship Management. The name of my company is Eki Oris Integrated Services, the brand name is EKI ORIS.
Eki Oris is a fashion company that specialises in both custom made and ready to wear apparels for the fashion conscious woman who appreciates finely constructed, well thought out pieces with timeless and impeccable quality targeted at females 15 years and above. An Eki Oris woman is confident, classy and beautiful. Our designs are influenced by simplicity, individuality, comfort and femininity of our customers.
Eki Oris Kidswear is a sister brand to Eki Oris. It is a clothing and accessories brand for kids (Male & Female) aged 0 months – 12 years. It’s a bespoke & ready-to-wear brand which has found its niche in using unique African prints and fabrics to tailor exquisite and comfortable styles for children. Our goal is to offer quality fashionable pieces with impeccable finishing at affordable prices.
Asides being the creative Director or Eki Oris, I am also the creative Director of SOK fashion. It’s a male apparel brand that specialises in making ready to wear and bespoke pieces for men using fine quality fabrics.
What is it like being a female entrepreneur, and why did you choose to be one?
Being an entrepreneur comes with various challenges and benefits, but as females, God has blessed us with the gift of multitasking, that’s how we were designed and it is an advantage as we are able to work under pressure and handle a lot of things at the same time. Eki Oris started off as a home based business. It initially started as a side hustle because I had my regular 9am – 5pm corporate job. The gift of multitasking and being able to work under pressure was what helped me juggle both my corporate job and my business without any, suffering. I thank God for the wisdom he gave me to be able to balance my work life, business life and also my personal life. That’s what being a female entails.
I wanted to do more, I wanted to produce more and also meet the needs of so many people and my 9am – 5pm job wasn’t letting me do that. I had to take the bold decision to resign and face my business full time and it’s been an interesting journey so far.
What new innovation have you introduced into your business?
Keeping a standard database. I learnt early from one of the best data analysts here in Nigeria that keeping a database of your business activities is key in growing a sustainable business. The information on my database has helped me make informed decisions backed up by accurate data and this has helped my business in so many ways. I implore every entrepreneur to do so and you’ll be surprised at the growth of your business.
What would you say is responsible for your success so far?
I’ll say God’s blessings have brought me this far. Determination, consistency, collaborations and lots of Hard work as well. There’s no short cut to success, you have to put in all the work. I’ll also say the great customer relationships I have with my customers has also helped my business as I get a lot of returning customers and also referrals. They say word of mouth is the best form of marketing, referrals means a lot to us, and someone can only refer your business or brand to someone if they were satisfied with the business relationship they had with you. So, I always work on my relationship with my customers and I think that has helped my brand.
In your opinion, would you say there are many unique challenges that female entrepreneurs face?
As an entrepreneur, challenges have no gender, but I believe when women go into the business world, they are faced with a lot of pressure to succeed. They also have to face the expectation to do well in all areas of their multifaceted lives. Women have a lot on their plate and they have to excel at everything if they want to be termed successful in the business world. I’m working on building a brand that will last a generation and beyond, so for me challenges and mistakes are part of the things one will experience on their way up both in life and in business.
What values and principles have helped you so far?
Honesty, respect, integrity, humility, discipline, active communication etc these are some of the values and principles that has helped my business so far. The brands integrity is key. Once we give you our word especially on delivery dates or fitting dates we honestly go the extreme to ensure we deliver, and if there’s any reason we can’t meet up on our promise, we would communicate to you early enough. Communication is key in business, I always carry my customers along in every stage of their production process, especially for bespoke customers, this has helped my business and also my relationships with my customers. Giving them progress report about their orders gives them a sense of belonging and also builds trust in your brand.
Why did you decide to go into this particular line of business?
I was exposed to fashion from a very young age, Growing up my mum had a tailoring shop, she’ll make beautiful dresses for I and my sisters, so I started making clothes for my rubber dolls using needle and thread; I learnt the basics of fashion from her. I have always been a fashionable person, in secondary school, my house wears and uniforms always stood out. I actually had a few people give me money to make them body fitting house wears in secondary school. I also won most Fashionable student award in my department at the University. I always got a lot of beautiful comments on my dress sense, and how I knew how to combine pieces together. My passion for fashion, seeing my mum make beautiful clothes for a living and seeing the smile on my customers faces after they wear an Eki Oris piece was what gave me the drive to go into Fashion business.
What are some of the challenges you have faced, and what has kept you going?
I have faced so many challenges in my business, some of them include financing for business growth, getting skilled staff, time constraint I.e. ensuring I keep to tight deadlines while expanding production, getting a good and affordable space for my business, to landlord wahala, logistics, not being able to source for good quality fabrics and accessories at good prices, working with third parties, working at not compromising the Eki Oris standard. Etc.
The passion I have for fashion and my business is what has kept me going because on those difficult days I only remind myself of the reason why I’m in business and that is to put smiles on people’s faces through the beautiful clothes I make for them and also, making them feel beautiful and confident in their skin. I have been blessed with a super supportive family, their love, encouragement and support has played a major part in my success story.
What’s your five year plan for business?
To have flagship shops in major cities in the world, to have a swimwear line, a bag and shoe line added to the Eki Oris brand. In Five years it is our hope that Eki Oris becomes a household name and every of our pieces would be in the homes of 1 out of 10 Nigerian homes.
What do female entrepreneurs need to do to be successful in this path?
Focus on getting business skills, you need to realise that Fashion is first a business before it is an Art. I’m not saying you do not need the creative skills, they both go hand in hand, but learning business skills will help you know how to treat and keep your customers, and we all know a business is nothing without customers. Also you need a trailer load of patience and hard work to survive in this fashion industry. The market is over saturated and hence you need to be unique and very creative to stand out. Identify your target market and work at satisfying that audience.
Entrepreneurship is not for the faint hearted, this might sound cliche but you need to be very confident, to be a successful entrepreneur whether in the fashion industry or any other sector you must be confident and not afraid to speak about your brand. It is your business and your brand nobody can preach the good news of your business better than you. Finally, always remember the God factor, once God’s hand is in your business you need not worry. So always remember that it is God that gives us the idea for the business and we must go to him always for guidance and help for business prosperity.
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.