This week on the lady boss series, we chat with Joanne Oji-Chukwu, who is many things including, a Lawyer, prosecutor and Mediapreneur. As Founder of “Second Dress Bridal Co”, an inspirational page that helps brides to be find inspiration second dresses for their wedding, Joanne is giving off vibes that show that being many things can be done gracefully. Second Dress Bridal Co further birthed a child company @sdng.preowned.bridals, to help newlywed brides make money from their used bridal accessories. So far, Joanne has successfully gathered a fanbase of over 129,000k followers and curious to how she did it while staying true to her niche, we sat down to chat with this ladyboss. Enjoy!
Hello! It’s great to have you on LLA, Can you briefly describe yourself and your business?
Thanks for having me. My name is Joanne Oji-Chukwu. I’m a lawyer by training and currently working as a prosecutor in my day job. I own Second Dress Bridal Co. A registered business with the corporate affairs commission. This is the parent business name that covers my Instagram inspiration page @seconddress.ng and the sister page where I help newlywed brides make money from their used bridal accessories @sdng.preowned.bridals
Can you share what inspired you to go into this particular business?
I got inspired to go into this business after a wedding dress mishap just before my own wedding a few years ago. I had left my wedding dress hunting until the last minute – a decision I later regretted. Realising too late that I didn’t like the wedding dress I had to go ahead and use due to time constraints in finding another one, I opted to change into a second dress hoping not to endure the ‘ugly’ wedding dress longer than necessary.
However, my search on Instagram for inspiration I could use in making a second dress was nonexistent. All the big wedding pages at the time were simply not posting enough inspiration for second dresses or reception dresses as it is most commonly called.
I ended up not using a second dress as I had wanted to but that gap in the Instagram wedding/style niche stuck with me and not too long after, I created the inspiration page @seconddress.ng
When you launched your business, did you have prior knowledge on how you could run one? How did you make it work?
When I launched it I had no prior knowledge of how Instagram worked beyond just posting beautiful dresses. I knew I was passionate about the goal of the business but didn’t really know the dimension it would take. So initially, I was simply just posting dresses.
I would go to bigger wedding pages, fashion designer pages etc to gather content to post. The response was positive as the page started having lots of followers with rave reviews.
In order to make it work, I didn’t even consider the business aspect of it. It was quite time consuming and also coupled with the expensive nature of data subscription, I just went ahead and remained consistent. So, to a large extent I would say I made it work by being consistent and passionate.
Entrepreneurship is a challenging field. One where it’s so easy to give up and throw in the towel. However, it can also be beautiful. Setting goals, meeting and exceeding them is usually quite rewarding. Watching what you built from scratch blossom into something big is also quite fulfilling.
What new innovation have you introduced to your business?
A few years after running @seconddress.ng, Brides began to send messages about wanting to resell their second dresses after using them for their weddings. They felt since I already had a platform with a huge following of brides-to-be, I was in a better position to get them buyers. For some time, I toyed with the idea of posting for inspiration and also selling pre-owned second dresses on the same platform. It however didn’t feel right, as I felt my followers were following simply for inspiration and would not like to be bombarded with sales posts.
This gave birth to the sister page Second Dress NG preowned bridals (@sdng.preowned.bridals) which is the arm of the business that caters to all things preowned and preloved bridal accessories. Now newlywed brides can make money off their used accessories after the wedding. In the past, these items would have been given away or dumped somewhere but selling on my platform and paying a little commission on each sale to my business, puts money back in their pockets. This I consider a win/win.
As an entrepreneur, you must have encountered different kinds of people, what have you learnt most and what will you say has been the highlight of your journey so far?
I would say I’ve learnt from the mistakes of others and so I try not to repeat them.
The highlight of my journey so far would be watching the lifestyle of those I consider mentors in my niche, studying their patterns and how they’ve been able to succeed and using that as inspiration for mine. It’s always beautiful.
What will you say is responsible for your success?
I would say passion, consistency and focus.
It is very easy to copy others on Instagram and thus losing focus. So many inspiration pages that started out in one niche eventually gave in to the pressure of posting general wedding inspiration. For example asoebi inspiration pages began posting things outside asoebi.
However, I’ve tried to stay true to the purpose of creating my page. It hasn’t come without its own challenges – e.g. not having the kind of growth in terms of followers that posting any and everything weddings would have brought but in the end remaining true to your vision is key. These days most of the posts on the page are sponsored by fashion designers and I’ve had international fashion brands reach out to me for collaboration.
In your opinion, would you say that there are any unique challenges that female entrepreneurs face? What are some of the challenges you’ve faced, and what’s kept you going?
On the Instagram wedding/style space, there hasn’t been any unique challenges I’ve faced being a woman. In fact, the space is currently dominated by mostly women and we are doing great things. However talking of general challenges, it would be businesses wanting to get reposted on the page for free. In fact, sending unsolicited messages and emails with their dress designs and expecting to be posted free of charge.
The second challenge would be the alarming number of messages I get daily from page visitors and followers making enquiries on how much the dresses posted are sold.
“Inspiration” is not an idea that has caught on just yet. I’m not sure they understand that I don’t make, design or sell the dresses posted. It has been and continues to be quite a challenge. I’ve however tried to cut that down by including in the caption of every post that it is not for sale!
What’s your five-year plan for your business?
In five years I hope to have expanded beyond Instagram to having a functional website. Becoming a stockist for everything second dresses with an option to shop these dresses. More international collaborations with renowned fashion designers and ateliers and maintaining the lead as the go-to place for all things second dresses in Nigeria.
What do upcoming female entrepreneurs need to do to be successful in this path?
Not allowing gender be a hindrance. Having female mentors in their area of interest. Remaining focused and consistent and finally always putting God first in all things.
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.