Not all entrepreneurs quit their jobs to start their businesses. Many experts actually advise straddling both worlds for as long as possible. Funmi Ibiyode, a Technology Consultant by day and chief executive officer of an online lingerie store at night and on weekends, is doing just that. She talks to Connect Nigeria about entrepreneurship and doing business online.
CN: Give us an insight into your professional background
FI: During the day, I am a technology consultant. I have a bachelor’s degree in Computer Information Systems and a master’s in IT, Management and Organizational Change so I have basically done technology all my adult life. Currently I work in supply chain function of one of the best FMCGs globally. However at night and on weekends, I run an online lingerie store for women and men who love their women, StyleRebirth.com
CN: What is the story behind Style Rebirth? Why lingerie?
FI: Lingerie has always been one of my favourite things and as a young woman, wearing the right lingerie is always a great boost to my day. When I moved back to Nigeria in 2009 after a few years away, I found it hard to get affordable and quality underwear and there was no Lasenza or Victoria’s Secret I could easily walk into. This made me realize that if I was facing this same problem, then many other women also had the need. I started buying lingerie from some of my favourite stores abroad and hosting a quarterly sale event which was tagged ‘Sexy et Fabuleux’. This went on for a year and with growing demand, I decided to make it more permanent and StyleRebirth.com was born.
CN: How did you raise capital to start your business?
FI: My initial capital was from my personal savings from my 9-5 job. I like to refer to Style Rebirth as my night job because I am an IT consultant and have a regular 9-5 career. Subsequently, my family bought into my entrepreneurial vision and also infused more capital as the business grew. I tried to get funding from banks in the early stages but we all know how Nigerian banks and small businesses can be.
CN: What exactly are the services your business offers?
FI: Style Rebirth is an online lingerie retail business where we sell underwear to women of all sizes. Our bras range from A-K cup, panties up to size 24 and nightwear, babydolls, corsets and other lingerie accessories. We also offer lingerie fitting and audit services where we come to your home and do a full bra-fitting for you, look at your present underwear closet and help you clear out the ones that shouldn’t be seen. It’s amazing how many women hold on to a lot of old bras that should be trashed. We have a bridal section too where we work with you to design your ideal bridal lingerie based on your dress style and honeymoon plans.
CN: What are the challenges of doing business online?
FI: The hesitation of people not wanting to buy things they can’t physically see and try on. It’s tougher with lingerie as getting the right size can be quite challenging for some women. However we introduced our easy to follow measuring guide and we also provide phone support or one-on-one visit if needed. This has helped a lot of our customers find their right size and fit. Also, there’s the logistics aspect. Since we have to deliver to all our customers, the courier companies we use can sometimes be a nightmare so I always have to think of more ways to ensure our customers get their orders right on time.
CN: What are the advantages of doing business online?
FI: One of the most important is cost-related. I have less overhead costs as we don’t pay store rent, generator etc and this helps us provide our customers with the best quality products at really affordable prices. Also people can shop 24/7 and we ensure we get it delivered to them on time.
CN: How are technologies owned and deployed by banks useful to you?
FI: The card payment options really do work but we need other convenient options because people are sometimes sceptical about using their cards online, so if small businesses can have options like mobile money deployed, it will make things better.
CN: How often do you update your website, and how quickly do you remove items that are not available?
FI: Right now, we sell on two sites, StyleRebirth.com and Konga.com. There is an inventory count every two days so once an item is out of stock in all sizes it is removed from the website. We get new stock every six weeks and brand new collections every three months.
CN: What do you consider to be the best career decision you have ever made?
FI: Moving back to Nigeria to build my professional career, as this provided me with capacity to pursue my entrepreneurial interests with the support of family and friends close by.
CN: Which songs motivate you?
FI: I am a music-head and I love anything from Country genre to Jazz. Songs with decent and wholesome lyrics and good beats are the best inspiration when deciding on Style Rebirth’s new collection. Lately, I have been listening to songs from John Legend, Beyonce’s new album (I got inspired to create a new collection from one of her songs) and also from gospel artist JMoss.
CN: What kinds of gifts do you like to receive?
FI: Hahahaha. Well I love gifts and so I will say all kinds of gifts are welcome but I am a scent kind of girl. Perfumes are one of my fave gifts, and oh of course shoes too. Who doesn’t love a pair of fabulous shoes?
CN: What is your long-term vision for Style Rebirth?
FI: I look forward to expanding Style Rebirth to other African countries (we already have customers in Kenya and Ghana) as the average African woman is curvy with a bigger bust size than the average European. A lot of the western brands do not factor this in, hence the sizing issues we see. I plan to completely retail only our designs and infuse some locally made fabrics into the designs. Ultimately, I want women to see Style Rebirth as not just a lingerie company, but as a lifestyle company because a woman with the right underwear can take over the world.