Meet Dr Ifeoma Anyanwu, popularly know as Ify Ogodor, A Nigerian Female Entrepreneur That Is Poised To Bring Transformation To African Youths Through Her Economic Empowerment And Attitudinal Transformation Programme.
In this interaction with her, she takes us through the mind that transformed an unprofessional sewer into the great fashion designer, the strength that made the woman within man her business with firm control in order to stand strongly, her practical plans to catapult many Nigerian ladies in particular and men in general into resounding achievers with their perceivable talents instead of spending all life working for someone else…..Just follow Pleasures into the mind and heart of one of the most enterprising entrepreneurs of our times
Who is Dr Ifeoma Ogodor?
Dr Ifeoma Ogodor is an Abuja based Nigerian fashion designer and entrepreneur. My friends and business associates fondly call me Ify Ogodor. The name of my brand is ‘Ogodor Design’. I have been in the fashion design business for eleven years. Although I live in Abuja, Wuse II, to be precise, about seventy-five percent of my clients are actually people outside Abuja as well as outside Nigeria. Thank God for the advent of the internet in Nigeria. It helps me to connect with people all over the world through the social media platform. Besides fashion designing, I have quite a number of other things that I want to do to assist majority of Nigerian and African youths over their fears and worries and rise to stardom using their innate talents and creative ingenuity.
Do you have a planned mentorship progamme where you can mentor the youths, especially the upcoming entrepreneurs in the fashion industry?
Yes of course. In fact, this interview is timely, because it is coming just at the time I am putting some wraps on my mentorship programme, which focuses on the in thing in the city of Abuja now. It is about ‘BABE’. I launched it after my ten years in business. I noticed recently most of young Nigerian women have and hold a wrong perception about who an ideal ‘BABE’ is or should be. Everyone goes about calling herself BABE, but to them, being a babe means wearing good weave on, wearing good clothes, carrying good handbags, wearing good shoes etc. That is a wrong perception of the concept, and I want to redefine the concept of BABE to the young Nigerian women. An ideal BABE is that young woman that has Brain, which stands for the first ‘B’, Attitude, which stands for ‘A’, Beauty, I mean inner beauty, not necessarily an external beauty, and that stands for the second ‘B’, and Enterprising, which stands for ‘E’. That is the real meaning of BABE, and that is what I want to make young Nigerian women understand and work with. I want to raise ideal BABES out of young Nigerian women, women that have brain, attitude, beauty (inner beauty), and enterprise to do something with their hands and become economically empowered. That is my focus going into the year 2019. I have not yet fixed a date for it but it shall come around the first quarter of the New Year.
It will hold on Saturday so that women that work from Monday to Friday can have the opportunity to attend the programme. The focus of the programme is how to maximize your potential and make the best out of yourself. I discover that there are a lot of women out there that have wonderful business ideas but the fear of how to start or from where to raise the starting capital has robbed them of their opportunity to apply their ingenuity and change their fortune. Even those who braved the odds to start a business or career are often stuck with the thought of whether they were doing the right thing or if they were in the right place. The last but not the least part of that programme is going to be what I call ‘The Night to Start’. This is going to focus on the idea of starting something beside your job or current business because, trust me, one stream of income is not sufficient to sustain anybody and guaranty her income stability. We shall focus on all these areas in that mentoring Academy programme. It is going to be a day’s programme and it goes for a fee because I have facilitators that will be coming from outside Abuja to teach in the programme.
Who is qualified to attend this programme?
Anybody of legal age is qualified to attend the programme. The fact that I mention babes does not mean it is a feminine programme. However, the actual reason I seem to mention women more often in the plan is that I see that many of our young women are not looking at themselves in the positive light. Many of them just believe that if they are lucky to meet a nice man he will provide their needs. But I want to give them a different orientation and teach them to look at themselves differently, especially the unmarried ones and those that are still in tertiary institutions. I want to make them believe in themselves and have the mentality that they can be productive and enterprising and fend for themselves. I want to teach them that the money they make by themselves is the best money, because they will spend it wisely, but the money you get from someone else, you spend carelessly and that the money they get from men can never make them rich or independent. They will continue to ask from men, and as long they do that, they will lose their substance and relevance as women. I want to take young Nigerian women off the streets.
Is your mentoring programme exclusive for fashion designers or can people from other fields of career attend?
No. It is not exclusive for fashion designers. It is an entrepreneurs’ workshop. Therefore, it doesn’t matter whether one is into catering or any other profession. Anybody can attend the programme.
Do you have a kind of plan to monitor your clients after the programme to see how they are faring with the skills they acquire from your training?
Yes, I do. I do have a wonderful follow up plan for all the people that attend my programme. That is why I provided the customized bags and other materials that can serve as reminders to the participants after they attended my programme and that they have to keep in touch so that they can derive the benefits of attending the programme. On my part, I collect the contacts of all the people that attend my programme with a view to contacting them after the programme to know how they are faring.
Is there a place for business people who don’t have formal education in your programme?
Yes. Anybody and everybody can benefit from the programme that is coming early next year, whether you are a moi moi seller, pap seller or whatever it is that you do. But I must stress here that education is very important for anyone to be able to take his or her business to the world and make more profit. However, it is not until one has university education before one can be said to be educated. In as much as one can use the social media platforms to communicate with clients around the world, one has enough education to enable him or her succeed in business in today’s world. It is about having the determination to get to the top of whatever it is that you are doing, having the spirit of entrepreneurship.
Do you have any programme for people who may be your admirers and would like to be like you?
For now, no. I may give it a thought in the future, but for now, no. It may interest you to know that Ogodor does not sew. I don’t know how to sew, but I own one of the most acclaimed fashion outfits here in Abuja, the capital city of the Federal Republic of Nigeria. It is good to learn how to sew, but much better to learn the act of fashion design business. For instance, instead of you to go and pay somebody to teach you how to sew, you learn the business aspect of it, go into it and then hire some good tailors to sew for you and they will teach you free. I believe that is more profitable, if you agree with me. That is what Ogodor is doing. Entrepreneurship is the word here. The most successful people in the fashion industry are not tailors. They are entrepreneurs who manage tailors to work for them. No one that wants to succeed in the industry will have the time to sit behind the machine in the name of tailoring. How many clothes can you make in a day? It is about how to manage your staff, how to fix your prices, how to get clients, and how to move the business from one level to the next.
What kind of clothes do you make?
I make all kinds of clothes. Although, when I started off, I used only Ankara fabrics, later I decided to start making clothes with designs from across borders using locally sourced materials. The idea is to see that we compete with the global world.
You have been in fashion design business for eleven years already. Do you have any regrets making a career choice in the industry?
Well, looking back down the road, there is no way one will not think or see where some things should have been done differently. However, I have no regrets whatsoever doing what I am doing. I am happy and fulfilled with my career as a fashion design entrepreneur.
What motivated you to become so determined and successful, especially while you were growing up?
My father. My father used to be a senior staff of NAFCON, and he dissipated so much of his energy working for this company for many years. Then, all of a sudden, he was laid off for reason of cutting down cost. That left him significantly devastated because he didn’t know where else to start up again at the age that he was. He couldn’t come to terms with the fact that a company he had worked so hard for would suddenly take its carpet off his foot the way it happened. When I saw the effect of that in my father, I decided that I would not work for anybody but be my own boss and create jobs for others. The truth is that no employer will pay any employee enough to make him or rich, no matter how hard the employee works for the employer. If, for instance, your employer pays you one million naira as salary, it is just about the one tenth of the worth of your services that he is paying. This is what motivated me to become an entrepreneur so that I can be my own boss and create employment for many Nigerians. Anyone can do the same. One can start up with a job to get the experience and probably save up for business, but the message here is that it would be a fatal mistake for anyone to think that because he or she has a good job he or she has arrived and so settle there with the hope to retire from it. Dare to be an entrepreneur. You have a side business while you are still working and plan for voluntary early retirement.
Any past challenges?
Yes, there have been challenges. The biggest challenge in this business, which has become my biggest lesson, is retaining the staff members; just as it is in any other business. Your staff can be very frustrating some times. There was one December period like this, which is the peak period of my business in the fashion industry, my tailors called a meeting among them and decided that unless I gave them a pay rise to an amount fixed by them, they were not going to work for me again. I was confused because I already had more than enough jobs for the period. I thought about when I got, whether to comply with them because of the enormous jobs that I had, but a thought came to me to ignore them because should I comply, they may come in another three months with some other demands and hold me to ransom. Luckily, for me, I kept the phone contacts of all applicant tailors that had came to look for a job in my company. So I started calling them up to come for interview on Monday. I got some materials to test them with because I couldn’t give them my customers’ expensive laces to experiment with. I gave each of them a particular design to make while I was watching and directing them, ignoring completely the staff that had given me letter demanding pay rise with ultimatum. Before long, the old staff started coming to meet me one after another, to beg for the job they had threatened to leave unless I increased their pay to what they wanted. I told them that they were not my staff any more and so they were free to go, but after much pleading from them, I asked them to render a formal letter of apology if they still wanted to keep their jobs. They did and since then none of my staff ever tried that again. That taught me that I am the captain of my ship and so I decide what happens and what does not happen. You must be in charge of your business if you want to succeed as an entrepreneur.
Any advice for budding entrepreneurs?
Yes, and it is very simple. Don’t just admire the package. Try to find out what made the package so beautiful. Every success has a story. So try to find out the story behind the success of your mentor, and if the story does not fascinate you then look for another mentor. Therefore, if there is anyone out there that wants to be like Ify Ogodor, let him or her google me or follow me on my social media handles or better still, contact me, and I will gladly tell her what made Ify Ogodor what she is. I am ready to mentor as many young people as possible to become even more successful than I have been.
What would you say is your source of strength in times of challenges?
Prayer, prayer is a strong source of my strength in my moments of weakness. Therefore, I urge any entrepreneur to go to God in prayer rather than breaking themselves down in anxieties when their businesses are facing trials.
Your last words.
My final word to young Nigerians generally is that they should do diligently whatever their hands find to do. You don’t need a million to start. For every idea that God has given you, you have what it takes to succeed in it. So, start with what you have and grow from there to where you want to be. Focus and concentration will take you there.