INTERVIEW SERIES: LIZE OKOH OF OFIO

Name: Lize Okoh | Country: UK | Company Name: Ofio

How did it all starts? What motivated and inspired you to start your business venture?

The idea for my brand came about around June of 2016, but before then, it had always been a childhood dream to create my own company. So I'd say, it started with me having daydreams about being my own boss. I don't remember what sparked that ideology, but it had always been there. So when I finished my undergraduate studies in 2014, I started considering it more seriously. However, I had never had a concrete business idea so I started researching into the things I was interested in and passionate about. A few ideas came, but none ever stuck nor did I have that eureka(!) moment with them. So I didn't take any of them further. I started working on my writing and continued blogging which I had also started doing in 2014.

Since I was interested in entrepreneurship, I began attending socials and networking events about business. At those events, I got very curious about the entrepreneurs I met and their journey to creating their businesses, so I began interviewing them for my blog. At the same time, I was inspired by many young creatives I was following on Instagram and started interviewing them too. I was gathering all these knowledge that I believed would be valuable when I eventually started mine, so I kept at it and met lovely and inspiring people in the process.

In 2016 after I cut away from an almost partnership with someone I finally took the plunge. As I researched more into the fashion industry and decided on what my brand would be and what I could bring to the table, I finally had that eureka moment when everything clicked and felt like I was certainly on the right part. I ran with it and hadn't looked back. Ofio is only three months now, so there are ways to go still.

Bootstrap and/or raise money? How did you get started?

It's definitely been bootstrapping all the way!

What steps did you take at the very beginning to keep yourself moving forward?

I think the most important is to have a timed plan. Not just listing things to do, but listing them with a time stamp for when they have to be done. I made my plan in June and knew what I'd be doing every week until the launch in November. With that in mind, there was no time to slack or mess around. For my launch to happen, I couldn't afford not to meet any of the tasks so that in itself kept the ball rolling.

Now that I have launched, seeing my stock where it is housed is motivation enough. I want to see those shelves empty so I keep working at it. Also, I guess because I'm self-funding all of the operation, I'm determined to make back what I've invested and more for all the months of hard work and sleepless nights.

What makes your business special?

I believe everything about it is special- from how it came about, the brand value and ethos and the story behind it.
It's incredible that a young girl who grew up in the sort of environment that I did could step up and go for her dreams fiercely and fearlessly is amazing. We're not just selling fashion items, but empowering people everywhere to be true to themselves, live mindful, passionately and fearlessly. And because we embody these values, we're not simply preaching but living it and inspiring others to do the same.

How did you raise awareness about your company/brand when you were fairly new?

We're still new on the scene, so what we've done so far is get very active on social media and interact with our community. Word of mouth is also great, so working with other bloggers has also helped bring awareness to our brand and keeps improving our reach each day. We also intend to get involved in pop up events and other socials in our industry.

What challenges have you faced so far?

The first challenge has been overcoming fear. Can I do it alone? Will it be successful? Will I fail and everyone will laugh at me, Will it be all for nothing or a waste of time and resources? All these sorts of thoughts plagued me before the launch especially because I had almost partnered with someone initially.

Since then the challenge so far has been marketing the brand to the right audience. This is by far the most challenging as I'm sure any business owner can relate to. Time I guess can be seen as a challenge if you feel like you don't have much of it, which is everyone. When you start a business, especially a very young one, 24 hours in the day is never enough as there's always something to do every day and tons of other life commitments to juggle as well. It can be quite overwhelming but being organized and planning out the week helps a lot.

What marketing strategies did you choose when you first started? Which ones were the most effective for your business?

We're still in the process of figuring out the best strategy for our niche since we're still babies in the industry. Instagram seems to be working for now, but we're exploring other options as well.

The most difficult part of a business is developing a distinct brand. How did you develop yours at the beginning?

Originality and research. The process of developing the idea of what business I wanted to establish came along with the set ideas I wanted for it. It had to be something born out of my passion so it would come naturally and never feel forced or fake. The tone, colors, and aura had to be just right to invoke the emotions I wanted people to feel from the brand. Also, the message I wanted to pass across, and my future plans, contributed in developing it.

In addition to that, I did a lot of research to learn more about branding and then looked at what our competitors in the industry were doing. As a newbie in the game, I read tons of articles, watched videos and listened to interviews with entrepreneurs that had been in the game for a long time.

How important is storytelling to you?

Story telling is pertinent to our brand. It's what started it all, so it's very important in order to convey our message and values as a company.

What marketing/business tools you will not be able to live without today?

Social media platforms are a blessing to any small business owner. Also, mailchimp has been great.

Do you have any daily habits to help you push your business forward?

Interaction with your community is key. And in today's world of instant gratification and lots of options everywhere, it's all the more important to be visible and to engage with your audience. So I try to have at least one post every day and to have meaningful interactions.

What advice would you give another fellow entrepreneur?

Just start. You may not figure it all out and have everything set in stone, but just overcome whatever it is that you need to and start. Of course, preparation is paramount, so do the best that you can, keep learning and researching daily, but just start!

Finish this sentence: If I could go back in time to when I started my business I would____:

have started my social media accounts and engage with my niche audience earlier than I did to build a better momentum by the time I launched.

My favorite book/business tool/podcast is_____:

I have no favorites. It's a continuous learning curve at the moment.

The best advice I ever had was_____:

I'm still waiting on that advice, help me.... anyone? lol

My favorite quote is:

I have no favorite quote.

You can connect with her on: Instagram, Facebook, Twitter and her website.