Fikayomi spoke to TopMBA about what it’s like to have founded a company as a woman, the challenges she’s faced and how her business school experience is helping to grow a successful start-up.
Tell us more about Bittany and what you do
Bittany is a fashion brand. We clad both women and men in stylish outfits that make them look and feel exquisite. We make bespoke outfits and have a ready to wear line.
As a contemporary Nigerian fashion brand, we infuse a lot of African prints in our styles – vibrant and beautiful. Bittany invests a lot of time and effort on social media marketing and leverages relationships with friends and family to grow the business.
Our key ethos are reliability, quality and customer commitment. We also understand the impact fast fashion has on the environment and upcycle as much as we can as a socially responsible brand.
The dream is to continue making timeless, beautiful and creative pieces and to grow organically, partnering with luxury fashion businesses in the future.
How is your MBA programme helping you to build your career?
I have been running Bittany as a hobby since I was an undergraduate student, but the MBA helped me to see more potential in it as a company. Gaining insight into branding and operationalising and communicating value particularly helped me to leverage the business.
I was given the skills to consider what I wanted my brand to be known for, how to figure out my unique selling point and using the knowledge of the four Ps (product, price, promotion and place), I was able to define my target audience and strategy. I did know about these methods before my MBA, but the programme taught me how to successfully execute these.
I learned to put together a comprehensive business plan, despite being unsure about where the capital would come from and started off by intensifying efforts on branding and marketing to help gain good visibility.
The importance of managing personal, professional and customer relationships cannot be overemphasised because we all thrive on these. I have across multiple teams and consultancy projects that involved managing various stakeholders. It’s been challenging but a lesson I could not have done without.
The whole experience has shaped me to be an overall better person considering all the soft and hard skills I have gained so far and working with so many people from varying cultural and professional backgrounds has to be the highlight of my MBA.
Have you faced challenges as a woman in business?
I believe that the fashion industry probably has as many women as men, so the scale is not tipped in any gender’s favour unlike some in other industries, so I have not faced any challenge solely because I am a woman.
I have however faced the usual challenges of a growing a business, especially because I rebranded while still on the MBA program. The MBA is a lot of work, so I must always manage my time efficiently. Bittany is still a one-person business so capital sourcing is not easy. I basically ‘cut my coat according to my cloth’ by ensuring that I don’t over produce, I gauge the market demand, keep good financial records and plough back funds into the business.
What advice do you have for other entrepreneurial women?
I don’t try to do it all by myself, especially when people offer to help. Don’t say no in a bid to look like an independent woman, doing it all by herself. No! Allow people help you in whatever capacity. In fact, ask for help.
We all need help. Leverage your social capital. For example, all the models on Bittany’s Instagram page are my friends and mostly from the MBA. They were all happy to help and save me some money.
Also, start where you are. You don’t have to wait till you have all the money or have it all figured out. I’m not saying to go in blind but if you are passionate about it and understand the market, with consistency and hard work, you can grow that business idea. Share the idea with people, refine and redefine…don’t hoard your ideas.
Go for it, sis! You are capable. You are enough. Don’t second guess yourself. Fikky is rooting for you.