When accountant Aisha Oladiran moved to the Nigerian capital of Lagos, she began to notice and admire the impeccable fashion sense of some of her female colleagues in the fintech industry. “When they came to work, they were always dressed to perfection and their shoes always completed their looks,” she says. Oladiran decided that she wanted to create her own fashion line that would turn heads and make women feel confident and strong. In 2020, she launched luxury footwear brand Isha O Luxury, which now has over 20 employees.
Here’s our lightly edited Q&A, from The Story Exchange 1,000+ Stories Project.
Tell us more about why you started your business.
Fashion has always brought me joy, and I wanted to bring that joy into my professional life. I’ve always been motivated to try to convey myself authentically, and my personal fashion is a very important piece of that. I wanted to help women around the world do the same.
How is your business different from others in your industry?
Phenomenal customer service, unique branding, product quality, and rewarding customer loyalty. Our customers have given us so much feedback on how amazing our customer service is – and how much they appreciate the luxurious quality and fresh designs of our shoes. Customers can shop with us knowing that we will give them exactly what they want.
Tell us about your biggest success so far.
Every day I spend as the CEO of my own company is the success of a lifetime.
What is your top challenge and how have you addressed it?
Between managing all the different pieces of the puzzle that make up running a successful brand, I found I just wasn’t able to put as much time as I needed into our marketing channels. We decided to introduce a social media manager to handle our social media pages and the general sales and marketing of Isha O brand.
Have you experienced any significant personal situations that have affected your business decisions?
No – but, my various experiences in running this business has made me realize that I must always bring my A-game, do research, be open to constructive criticism, and pay attention to feedback from customers.
What is your biggest tip for other startup entrepreneurs?
Challenge yourself. Take risks and believe in yourself.
How do you find inspiration on your darkest days?
I often think about this quote from President Barack Obama:
‘’The real test is not whether you avoid failure, because you won’t. It’s whether you let it harden you or shame you into inaction, or whether you learn from it; or chose to persevere.’’
Tough times are inevitable. And when they come, my guiding light has always been my drive for this business, the knowledge that it is not just a business but a passion and a service. In addition, I also consider the number of people who rely on this business as their sole means of livelihood. All these help me navigate through the darkest of times.
What is your go to song to get motivated on tough days?
Right now it’s “Break My Soul” by Beyonce.
Who is your most important role model?
My mum. I admire her a lot and she has helped shape my outlook on life. She managed to balance being a banker as well as a mother, and she did it gracefully and effortlessly, ensuring we were ready for school in the mornings, helping us with our homework every night before bed. She instilled strong values in us, set an inspirational example of how to live life and make wise choices even in the most uncertain situations. I love and respect her a lot.
An honorable mention should also be made to her exquisite fashion sense. I remember watching her dress up in the mornings. She always looked sharp. ◼