A 2017 graduate of the D’Amore-McKim School of Business, Temidola Ikomi missed her Northeast community and joined Women Who Empower.
As a co-founder of an African-inspired fashion brand in her native Nigeria, Ikomi hopes to help each other grow and make new connections with like-minded women who may have businesses of their own. I was.
“The people I have met so far on this trip have been wonderful,” says Ikomi.
This year, Ikomi won Women Who Empower’s 2022 Innovator Award in the Young Alumni Undergraduate category and $22,000 in cash prizes. She entered the contest last year as well, but she didn’t win.
“It shows that being an entrepreneur doesn’t mean giving up when you don’t get what you want. Just keep pushing,” says Ikomi.
Together with her mother and two sisters, she owns a Nigerian fashion brand called Irawo Studio. Illawo means “star” in Yoruba and is one of her three main languages spoken in the country.
Ikomi says they always wanted to do something in the fashion world.
“Fashion is a great way to express your feelings and identity without necessarily saying anything,” she says. “We all love fashion. We all want to embrace Yoruba culture. [and] That’s what we can do with a modern twist. ”
Ikomi was born in Kano, northern Nigeria and grew up between Lagos, Nairobi, Kenya and South Africa as her father traveled in corporate banking. rice field.
In 2012, she enrolled at a college in Virginia, but didn’t find it diverse enough. She decided to transfer and chose Northeastern for its diversity and co-op program.
“I believe that I can grow by being challenged from time to time. I felt that the co-op program really allowed me to see how I could become a full-time employee before I graduated,” she says.
During her time in the Northeastern, she was an advisor and president of the Northeast African Student Organization. She graduated from the D’Amore-McKim School of Business in 2017 with a BA in Marketing and Business Administration.
Her first job was in corporate public relations. In 2018, Ikomi moved from Boston to Brooklyn, New York, where she currently lives.
When Temidola Ikomi and her sister Ama Ikomi graduated from college in 2017, the women in her family decided it was time to move back to Nigeria and start a fashion business.
Ama Ikomi went to New York University’s Stern School of Business and was in charge of accounting and finance for the new company. Temidola Ikomi focused on marketing and advertising. Her younger sister Anile, a graduate of the Parsons School of Design, contributes to the brand’s public image.
The day-to-day operations of the business are overseen by Irawo’s creative director and mother, Abby Ikomi, who lives full-time in Lagos.
Ikomi says she inherited her entrepreneurial spirit from her mother. In all the countries they lived in, her mother had businesses such as hair, furniture and jewelry.
“I think so too. When I’m passionate about something, I give it my all and I want to make sure it succeeds,” says Ikomi.
Working with her family was a little tough the first year, she says.
“Family allows us to be open and honest, and sometimes that’s what business requires,” she says.
They try to stay focused on what’s best for their business. They all participate in the creative development process, brainstorming together on the brand’s message and the next lookbook, Ikomi says.
At the same time, Ikomi said they were a Nigerian family and her mother would always show unconditional respect.
In their first year of operation, they decided to tap into a fairly saturated market by participating in Arise, one of the biggest fashion shows in Lagos, says Ikomi. I also participated in Glitz Fashion Week.
“We did all these fashion shows to help get started [on this journey]says Ikomi.
She describes Irawo clothing as African-inspired women’s clothing that is not only modern and elegant, but also extremely comfortable and professional. Irawo’s clothes, she says, are for pioneers who pursue their own dreams. They can be mothers, students, or working professional women.
“We really want to bring out your inner star,” says Ikomi. “We always say that our work is an investment piece. , something you can wear for years and years.”
They also create bespoke pieces for milestone birthdays, weddings and wedding receptions.
The company does all parts of the production process in-house, from conception and execution of fabric and garment designs to shipping to customers. Having an in-house team of artisans design all fabric patterns gives Irawo Studio full control over his chain of supply, Ikomi says.
In five years, the company has established a strong position in the West African market, with its biggest sales in Nigeria and Ghana, says Ikomi. Ikomi said growth was mostly in New York City and Atlanta, but also in the UK and the US. They ship worldwide as well.
Their current goal is to further expand the U.S. market in an authentic way, increase sales, and reach more retailers.
“We have used influencers to help us enter the US market,” says Ikomi. “We also do a lot of paid advertising.”
The experience of starting and running Irawo Studio taught Ikomi that entrepreneurs need a 360-degree view of their business.
“It takes a lot of preparation to know the inside and outside of the business,” she says.
As such, she returned to Lagos for a year and a half in 2019 to better understand how a business operates and its costs.
Outside of Irawo Studio, Ikomi continues to work in marketing and communications.
“I’m very well-rounded and believe in applying what I’ve learned on the job to my business,” she says. It’s about making time for things and prioritizing your time.”
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