Ifeyinwa Azubike is a lawyer turned fashion entrepreneur! After working for almost 10 years as a commercial lawyer, she launched The Ladymaker in 2015. She was initially involved in a few start-ups with other individuals, but ultimately left to focus exclusively on starting her own business.
The Ladymaker is a Nigerian lifestyle brand in Lagos with a design focus on creating classic pieces that form a part of the foundation of a woman’s wardrobe, the collections include Ready-to-Wear and custom creations.
2) What was your inspiration?
Several different things inspired The Ladymaker.
1. A deep-seated love for the role clothes play in telling a woman’s story
2. On a practical level, a vacuum in my own wardrobe which I couldn’t really fill despite being a well-informed shopper locally and internationally
3. A desire to create a formal business in the creative fields that matches world-class standards.
3) Your Target audience?
Our target audience is any woman who desires to look like a lady, which is the majority of women at some point in their lives.
4) How long has the business been in existence?
The Ladymaker has been in existence since 2015, but formally started operations in 2016.
5) Why should customers patronize you and not your competitors?
Our designs tell their own story, and provide a compelling take on what it means to dress like a Lady for the modern woman. Our USP is the focus on femininity in a classic sense, with a very accessible price point at a very high quality.
6) Did you face any challenges in launching the business?
Firstly, due to my professional background and previous career as a lawyer, it was very difficult adjusting to working in a field that is not as organized and not as well-regarded.
To counter this, I set my targets internationally, looking at the success of the global fashion industry, and committing to modeling my business in that order.
Secondly, it was very difficult at the onset to locate suppliers and other key factors required to launch the business.
The fashion industry in Nigeria is more popular than ever, but resources are very difficult to locate due to an inherent informality in the industry. Unlike more developed industries, I had to search exhaustively to locate adequate resources that should have been more readily available, which was time-consuming and a great distraction at the onset.
7) Challenges still faced?
Production and Distribution are the main challenges we face presently. To achieve international standard products, production must be modeled internationally. The cost of setting up production of this standard in-house is prohibitive.
Fortunately, we have discovered a couple of local production companies, which will really help solve challenges of efficiency and quality going forward.
8) Did you seek bank funding?
No, I was able to self-finance the business with support from family. For our model, the entry costs for launching a fashion business were not high at the onset.
Finance will certainly be needed in the future as the business scales, but likely not bank finance due to prohibitive interest rates; our focus would be on accessing more affordable finance through government schemes or other SME products.
9) Do you have a business plan?
Yes, I have a working Business plan, which I wrote myself. We use the plan internally for the time being (as we have not had cause to share it with investors, lenders etc).
I intend to revise and create a first final Business Plan at the end of 2016 (after one year of operations). I believe I have acquired a broad practical experience of the industry and more proven figures for the financial model.
10) Did you have formal training in the business before you started?
I trained informally after I started. My preference would have been to train formally before I started, but I did not have the opportunity to do so due to family commitments. The training I received was under an experienced tutor.
11) What form of IT do you use in your business?
Basic-level IT for an MSME – Accounting software and a website are probably the core IT functions we have presently, but this will change as the business grows.
12) Do you have a corporate account separate from your personal account?
Yes, the Company has a corporate account. Initially, there was some mixing in terms of using my personal account for expenditures, but we have phased it out.
I think it is critical to maintain a distinction between properly ascertaining the performance of the business, aside from it being standard accounting practice.
13) How long can your business survive without you being there physically (key-man risk)?
At this stage, the business would not operate efficiently for more than a few weeks without my presence, but I think that is normal at the infancy stage of a business.
As we grow in size, we would be able to put mechanisms and structures in place that mitigate key-man risk in the immediate and long-term.
14) Where do you see your business in 5 years?
In 5 years, I see The Ladymaker established as a unique source of African-inspired fashion around the world.
It is difficult to name a particular company we benchmark against because we benchmark against numerous companies for particular reasons – we have not found a company that represents everything we aspire to, so we look to different companies in different aspects.
15) Any regrets?
Not really. If I could, I would have preferred to have had formal training in fashion. However, I believe my previous career has equipped me with invaluable skills for the business side of fashion.
16) With your experience, what advice do you have for other young people who would like to start-up business?
You should ensure that you get the best formal training for this business. Also, you can work in a formal environment outside of fashion to gain sound business knowledge and skills.
Do not view fashion as a hobby or a trendy business – be professional and committed to creating a company with a future. Abroad, fashion companies get listed on stock exchanges! Aim for true success.
The Ladymaker Team
Edited By: ODIRA ONYENSO