#LadyBoss Interview: “Never stop learning. The key to growth, innovation and success is knowledge,” Queen Itohan Uwabuofu, Founder, Clove Kids.

Image credit: Queen Itohan Uwabuofu

Queen Itohan Uwabuofu is a graduate of International Studies and Diplomacy from the University of Benin. She’s a self-taught crocheter and also the founder and Creative Director of Clovekids International – Africa’s first producer of handmade Toys and Dolls that are eco-friendly and hypoallergenic, with over 7 years of experience in entrepreneurship.

She’s also the Lead Tutor at The Clovekids Academy where they teach all things crochet to children, teenagers, adults and senior citizens. Queen loves music, learning new things, meeting people – networking, and making an impact in any little way she can. She’s happily married with two boys.

In this interview with Leading Ladies Africa, Queen shares the inspiration behind becoming a crocheter and establishing Clove Kids, the mistakes she’s learned in the course of her entrepreneurial journey and how they’ve made her better, plus tips for women entrepreneurs. Lean in!

Image credit: Queen Itohan Uwabuofu

What does Entrepreneurship mean to you?

Entrepreneurship is a mindset. It is about imagining new ways to solve problems and create value. In my journey, I have learnt that it is the ability to recognize the bigger picture, find where there’s an opportunity to make someone’s life better, design ideas around these opportunities and continuously test your assumptions. Truth be told, trying to grow a company or execute an idea is difficult but every entrepreneur needs to get used to taking risks. It’s not going to be roses and unicorns all the time.

At some point, you are going to run into issues, lose customers and have financial constraints. It is at this point you need to get back on the horse and take another risk. Again, Entrepreneurship is about moving forward, never allowing self-doubt or fear to take over and believing that “a wrong decision is better than no decision at all”.

Tell us the inspiration behind establishing Clove Kids.

The ugly truth is that I started Clove kids because I did not have a job and I was broke. About a year earlier, I had resigned from my previous job as a makeup artist to work freelance but it didn’t work out as planned. I was visibly struggling. My husband was doing all he could but it wasn’t enough. I was heavily pregnant and had not bought a single outfit for my baby and then I thought to myself “why not make them?” so I told my husband to buy me some wools and a hook. I went online and started learning to crochet.

Happily, I showed a couple of friends what I made for my baby and surprisingly some showed interest and were ready to pay. ”Huh?! For real?” and that was it. I transitioned to Toys and Dolls when my son nearly choked on a piece of a broken plastic toy. It was like my life flashed before my eyes. I began to think of ways to change that. I started making eco-friendly, hypoallergenic, longlasting and washable toys. The African Dolls series was inspired by the fact that there were too many unrealistic beauty standards and dolls are one of the best ways to teach our kids to appreciate and value their African beauty.

Image credit: Queen Itohan Uwabuofu

What “oh, shit!” moments have you had since establishing your business and how have these mistakes shaped you to become better?

Hahahaha, I have had so many but one that I can’t forget happened during one Christmas. I had about 12 dolls to deliver before Christmas and so there was the rush. On the day scheduled for delivery, I had unknowingly swapped 3 customers’ orders and by the time I realised it, it had already been delivered. Thankfully, one of the 3 customers liked the wrong doll I had delivered.

The other 2 were totally displeased with the wrong order and they happened to be interstate deliveries. I had to bear the cost of the return, reproducing the right dolls and delivery to both parties. This was largely due to the fact that the company was under-staffed. I was playing so many roles at the same time. I have learnt to delegate tasks and also not to allow anything to put me under undue pressure. One step at a time.

Image credit: Queen Itohan Uwabuofu

If you have a lunch date with one lady Boss you admire – who would that be and what would you ask her? 

Oh, that would be Aunty Tara Fela Durotoye. I admire everything about her. Her tenacity, drive, personality, heart, style… just about everything! She is married with kids and yet she is still winning in every other sphere. Gosh! That is who I want to be. An all-round success. Of course, I have tons of questions to ask her if I am given the opportunity but I’ll just state a few here.

  • “What are your greatest secrets behind getting to where you are now? “
  • “What’s your best and worst business decisions you’ve ever made and how have they shaped you?”
  • “What would you do/be doing if you were me now?”

Your top 3 recommendations for female entrepreneurs?

  • Dream big and have big plans. It is completely free so why not?!
  • Never stop learning. The key to growth, innovation and success is knowledge. Be ready to learn, unlearn and relearn.
  • Do not be afraid to fail. Most times we think we are ready until we come face to face with failure. Just make sure you fail forward, that is, Learn from your failures and move on. Always be ready to move outside your comfort zone.

 

The 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 lead@leadingladiesafrica.org, and she could possibly be featured.

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