Our Lady Boss today wears many hats and we are in awe of how she balances them all so effortlessly. She is Isio D. Wanogho, a true creative and a woman who loves to solve problems. Enjoy our interview with this Lady Boss.
Can you briefly describe yourself and your business?
My name is Isio D. Wanogho. I am an interior architect, an artist-painter, an entrepreneur, a columnist/writer for BellaNaija; I write a column called ‘Isio knows better’. Simply put, I am a creative individual who is attracted to different forms of creative expression, that’s who I am and that’s who I have always been for as long as I can remember.
I am known by Isio Wanogho and Isio De-laVega. Isio Wanogho is who I was born, that is the name I was given. Isio-De-laVega represents what I do and what I hope to become and that is why my business is registered as Isio-De-laVega Design studios, and why my brand name in media is Isio De-laVega.
As an entrepreneur I run two businesses, which have been successful by GOD’s grace. They are IDDS (Isio- De-laVega Design studios) a business that caters to interior architecture, interior design and a wide range of contemporary interior design/ space design. On the other hand, Hokulani Foods Co. is a company created specifically to meet the challenges of sustainable weight management a lot of Nigerians face by bridging the gap between convenience, cost, taste and long-term access to such healthy, fitness foods. At the moment, Hokulani Food Co. has different products under its brand such as meal replacement protein shakes – these are produced and are available as W8-OFF Chocolate, W8-OFF Vanilla, W8-OFF Pure Protein, and then we have a wide range of health foods that we source for from around the world that we currently retail.
What is it like being a female entrepreneur and why did you choose this path?
To be honest, I didn’t set out to become an entrepreneur. I only set out to do things and to solve problems that existed in the fields where my passions lay. So, I naturally gravitated towards my passion; something I was naturally good at…something tested trusted and true that I knew to be in sync with who I was and who I felt comfortable being in future.
Because as a creative person, I like art, beauty, symmetry and design. I’m so drawn to any kind of creative expression be it music, dance, painting, writing, art, design and even media. So, when I started out at 17, I just wanted to do what came naturally to me and do it well. I found that these things gave me a great personal satisfaction when I did them for myself and others, which in turn led me to commercialize them and make them businesses.
So, being an entrepreneur for an entrepreneurial sake was never my initial intention. But that being said, it does feel good overall. It also comes with responsibility that fuels my fire. I feel responsible to make my dream a success, I feel responsible to all my clients who trust me to make their dream homes a reality. I feel responsible to my staff and team-members who are looking to me for leadership, I feel responsible to make sure they never lack anything that will enhance their productivity, I feel the responsibility of ever-learning, to broaden my mind and knowledge on not just what I think is possible, but what I know is.
What is the innovation that you have introduced to your business?
When it became clear to me that my dream had become a thriving business entity which had grown from a corner of my living room/office to what it is now, I had to create new ideas and apply these new ideas effectively to help IDDS.
First was to ask for help evolving from outsourcing to having full-time team members. I did this by advertising via Instagram that we were hiring, and from the applicants, picked those with the right qualities and skills.
Second was to change my location and create a working design studio where my team could work from.
Third, I automated our processes. This meant that things could be done, easily duplicated and implemented by the team members.
The fourth thing I did was to use technology to the company’s advantage. At IDDS, we use technology for marketing, communications, presentations, accounting and banking. As a female entrepreneur with a limited amount of resources I had to use the best technology had to offer to give my company the visibility and strength that it needed.
What will you say is responsible for your success so far?
Four words; God, Value, Passion and Learning! I believe in, and trust myself and my businesses to God. My businesses give value to our customers. Value for their money, value for their time, and commitment-value which we are able to give as a small business. Most importantly, passion and learning. I have such passion for my work that goes beyond profit. I admire and encourage continual learning; both formal and informal.
Are there any unique challenges that female entrepreneurs face generally?
Yes. Perception and opportunity. The societal expectations regarding gender roles and the perception of gender roles in our society consciously or unconsciously dictate that a woman is seen as a certain individual. You break that mold into who you are and not what someone else thinks you should be and you are seen something else. This perception, unfortunately, influences how many react to you and how seriously they take you as a business woman. In doing business, some will try to resist your strength and authority, some will call you names because of it, while some will be simply awed by it, and will respond to you positively.
It’s also true that many female entrepreneurs struggle to balance personal and professional commitments, because there is not enough opportunity for flexible work practices, affordable and accessible of childcare, and a lack of access to aid. This aid can be in the form of connecting with female mentors, getting sponsorship, investors and getting funding. There is also a general lack of commitment and see-through from many of our leaders and executive teams towards a complete and sustainable female entrepreneurial empowerment.
What values and principles have helped you so far?
As a business owner, your business is only as good as your weakest link and every team member of yours is a representation of a bigger picture in this case, which is the firm. That being said, my principles are:
One; to never compromise on quality. Two; that crafting a good product takes as long as it takes. Three; to treat all our clients; new, existing and prospective with respect, kindness and professionalism irrespective of the value of their business. Fourth; Value. I can’t over estimate how important it is to give good value to customers.
Why did you decide to go into this particular line of business?
Passion and a deep love for what I do. I am an artist-designer by birth, by design and by choice. I’ve always loved the many any kinds of creative expression. This is the core of who I am and everything I’ve done as a painter, a writer, a model, a media personality and as a designer. I learnt early in life to gravitate towards the areas of my greatest strength, and this is what has propelled me towards the things that I’ve chosen in life. I’ve been really fortunate in this.
What keeps you going when the odds are against you?
When you love something so much that there’s nothing else you’d rather do, it doesn’t matter if odds are against you, you will keep going because that is all you’d really rather do. Of course there will be failures along the way, but a failure is only a failure if you stop at that failed point and dwell on it. You can learn from failure, use it as a tool for growth.
You can use failure as a learning experience to do better the next time such an opportunity comes your way. If you’re honest with yourself as to why you failed, you will begin to see where you went wrong and what you did wrong so that next time, you are better prepared. That way, you don’t see it as a crushing blow to be entirely ashamed about. Sooner or later you will get better if you choose to learn and apply wisdom gotten from such moments of honesty and deep reflection.
What is your five year plan for your business?
Evolution. To evolve further. We evolved from a dream into a start-up with 0 external funding, from a start-up we have started the process of our firm’s evolution into an organization. Our hope is to evolve even further to become a thriving, trans-generational design institution. Our goal is to be a successful, design firm that creates the best living experience for our customers through art, interior design and interior architecture.
Going forward, we will focus a lot more on introducing and encouraging natural, eco-friendly building and interior design fittings to homes. The use of natural elements like natural stone and bamboo, will feature a lot in our product designs. This means that we will evolve from being a service based design studio into a product and service based one.
What do upcoming female entrepreneurs need to be successful in this path?
Have conviction that you are on the right path, that the business you’ve chosen is what is right for you. Don’t just do it because someone else is doing it and it seems to work out fine for them.
You also need to understand that as an entrepreneur the first three to five years can be extremely difficult, understand that making profit at this point means you are lucky if you are in it for the short-term. But if you are in it for the long-term, not making profit so quickly should not discourage you. You will need to invest your time, blood and sweat into that business first before it starts taking care of you by yielding dividends. As an entrepreneur myself, I strongly believe that it is not short term goal that matters, but the long-term goals and rewards.
Third; as a female entrepreneur, ask for help and take the help in the places that you need it. Many women have a tendency to micro-manage everything by doing everything themselves, and this can leave you burnt out quickly. Instead, train, delegate and supervise. If you hired the right people for key positions, this becomes easier.
Treat your team members and your workers with dignity and respect, use and pay them fairly. Often times in the bid to climb up we forget that other people too have dreams. Your staff have dreams of their own too. Just because they have decided to dedicate themselves to yours by does not make them less-than, nor does it make their dreams less valid.
Understand your business, I mean truly understand every key aspect of your business. If you need to get educated please get educated; formally or informally. I am not saying “get educated” so you can do everything yourself, but rather, I advise that you understand the process of how things are done to get the end product you need for your business to succeed and for your customers to be happy.
Be open minded. Don’t get stuck or stagnant. Be open your minded to learn from the people around you and you’d be surprised at how beautiful a journey you can create with the people who have chosen to help you along the path to actualising your dream.
The Leading Ladies Africa Series is a weekly interview series that focuses on women of African descent, showcases their experiences across all socio-economic sectors, highlights their personal and professional achievements and offers useful advice on how to make life more satisfying for women.
It is an off-shoot of Leading Ladies Africa, a non-profit that promotes women empowerment and gender inclusion for women of African descent.
Do you know any woman of African descent doing phenomenal things? Send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org and we just might feature her.