Meet the smart business woman, Dada Ifeoluwa. She’s the CEO, House of Fortitude. A fashion house using Ankara fabric to create magic such as : Baby bags, shopping bags, throw pillows etc. Her Love for fashion and Entrepreneurship makes her juggle working an 8-5pm in the bank and also exploring her creative side. We had the rare privilege of interviewing her as an Entrepreneur. Do enjoy reading her story and be inspired too.
Can we meet you?
I’m Ifeoluwa Dada, a native of Ekiti State, who studied Microbiology, practicing banking but in love with fashion. I’m passionate about development and growth. I also love being creative.
What’s your line of business?
Hmmm, currently my line of business is Fashion designing, paying attention to using Ankara Fabrics to make baby bags, shopping bags, throw pillows, floor pillows in a unique way. I said currently because my first business line was bead making and wire works, and it was sweet for me, I enjoyed it so much but when I saw that the market was no longer so lucrative, I saw a need to add something else to it. That was when I learned about and also fell in love with fashion designing.
How did you get the idea or concept of your business?
I’ve tried a whole lot of things, I’ve tried making zobo with better packaging, I’ve tried writing, I’ve tried packing hampers. I learned to bake for myself, I learned hairdressing for 3 months. I learned how to make Ankara bags, earrings, bangles, shoes and slippers, I did pretty well and made small money. The bead making and fashion designing have been a long-term business for me. When I started learning the skills needed for the business, it was a bit tedious and stressful for me, but in a short while, with much dedication and hard work, I was able to pick up quickly. I see every job as an adventure, I hate to hear that something is impossible. When I see new creative businesses, it excites me. I also love making something out of whatever is termed waste. The business I love that I am yet to explore is recycling and I’m still hopeful I will do something about it.
When did you start your business and how long have you been in operation?
It depends on what you call business, I think I started seeing it as business 2015. That was when I started learning so much about business, the skills, and attitude that makes you a business person. But funnily I’ve been making money since 2011.
What are the greatest challenges you encounter running your business? How do you overcome them?
As a young person, I wasn’t exposed to business and what it entailed. For the first few years, I didn’t have the right business background, the right structures, and right attitude so I learned to use the internet to get any information I needed.
Sometimes I felt intimidated, often times I was broke, I had big plans but small money, Especially in the fashion business, I really struggled, I was new to the business so I needed to find my feet. I saw myself as not so good enough for a while because I’ve got a good taste for excellence until I was able to find my space. After then, I started getting many wows from my customers, those moments became my most inspiring and exciting moments. Even when the next morning I have a 7-7 job, I could sew almost all night because I have a customer to make happy and in that way, I become super excited. I know I’m not there yet but in the midst of it all, giving up has never been an option for me.
What keeps you going despite the challenges?
I’ve got an awesome family, they keep supporting and patronizing me. They are my number 1 fans. My fiancé won’t allow me to drop a not-so-good project. He is my great support structure, I usually glean from his experience, wealth of knowledge and apply to my business too. I’ve got friends that even when my work feels like shit, they will still patronize me, Laughs, but not all the time.
Also, I’ve got the ‘I can do all things’ spirit. I encourage myself and pick up from where I stopped, knowing well I’m only in competition with myself and nobody else.
What would you say are the top three skills needed to be a successful Entrepreneur in your line of business?
- Leadership skills and also reading skills.
- People skills which includes learning to build and sustain relationships.
- Marketing skills and money management.
These can only come after you have done your job well, learned the details of the business and made excellence your aim. I’ve had to learn these things in a hard way. I didn’t have a good experience at first.
I have learned a lot from reading business books. One of the very insightful books I have read so far and learned about the new marketing skills, social media skills is Social Rules by PAUL SLACK. The content of the book was a bit hard to take in, but the things written in the book are very true. How about going an extra length to satisfy a customer that uses the social media well? This singular exercise can change your business for good but if you don’t know how to use social media well, it can also mar your business, no matter your level of expertise. I also emphasize reading helpful business books too, because you get to find out little things that really matter. I really learned a lot about customer service from the book and it is really helping me. The book humbled me. You might not really know some of these little things that will help your business until you probably read about them, experience them under your tutor, but you can’t learn everything by experience, life is too short for experiments.
Who are the people you look up to in your line of business?
Olatunji Olubanke, she is graced in the fashion business, she is diligent and patient. I’ve been privileged to learn under her. I didn’t only learn about fashion from her, I learned other things about life and family. She is a fashion designer and also a singer.
Bilikis signature, she is really doing really good and she has decided not to hoard what she knows. I admire her works and the willingness with which she shares practical knowledge.
Though not in the line of my business, I’ve always admired Mrs Ibukun Awosika. She is the type of woman I love to become. A well principled Christian with grace. The first time I heard her talk, I said I have found my role model and mentor but I always like a close relationship with mentors so for now, I will keep learning practical wisdom from her from afar.
This may sound kinda weird but its true. There was a time I was asking God the kind of Fashion designer He wants me to be. So I read about Dorcas in the Bible and I’ve learned a lot from her life too. She inspires me as a fashion designer anytime I read about her.
What’s the most inspiring thing you will tell someone who wants to venture into your line of business?
Hmm…What can I say? If you are going into this business don’t do it as a layman, do it as a skilled man, so you can stand before kings, become a pro, have someone you look up to. Let excellence be your watchword, if your job does not stand out, you won’t enjoy the business. There are a lot of people in the business already so you can’t afford to be lost in the midst of thousands of people and you can’t afford to be intimidated. Find yourself and try to specialize in what you are good at and don’t be lazy.
Another helpful thing is to build relationships with your friends and potential customers, you never can tell where you meet a potential customer.
Furthermore, be determined that no matter how long it takes you are going to succeed, so keep at doing your business well.
Lastly, invest in your business if you are sure you want to do business, ensure you attend business classes and read books on leadership, business, people management. You will find the best in books.
Where do you see yourself and your business in 5 years from now?
I’m really laughing because I wrote this a year or two ago but looking at myself right now I’m far from the direction I wrote down, in a positive way though. I will just say, I will keep working hard to make sure House of Fortitude keeps keeping on. I know and I keep hearing House of Fortitude is going to be great, and I don’t doubt it.
To connect with Ife Dada, patronize her works and also get to learn a thing or two from her, please reach out to her on IG: @fortitudecloth