AHA FEATURE: HOW EXPLORING MY CAREER OPTIONS LED ME TO MY BUSINESS IDEA – IFEDAYO DUROSINMI ETTI
Due to her passion for women and children, Ifedayo Durosinmi Etti launched Parliamo Bambini and Philos and Zoe, startups disrupting the baby and child industry through locally manufactured furniture and clothing for children with the aim of reducing poverty, empowering our youth and promoting access to quality education in Nigeria and Africa. She is is a marketing and sustainability expert with over 10 years of management and leadership experience working in the fashion, marketing and manufacturing industries. She holds a first degree in Biochemistry and an MBA in Global Business.
Since the launch of her businesses, she has received several awards and has been able to take advantage of several business opportunities such as grants, business accelerators and Fellowships which have helped position her brands to become household names in Nigeria. She is currently one of the Alumni Hub Leads for the South West region of Nigeria under the Tony Elumelu Foundation. She was also selected as a Global Shaper of the World Economic Forum where she is the Project Lead for Startup Dome, a project launched to bridge the gender gap through socio-economic empowerment of women in Nigeria.
Tell us something we do not know about Ifedayo Durosinmi Etti.
There is no type of job I have not done, from serving burgers in a school in London, to washing dishes, to door to door sales. I think they are some of the experiences that have moulded me to become the person I am today.
Bagging a degree in Biochemistry what informed your choice to delve into fashion, Marketing, Manufacturing and business in general?
Going to University, I was only 15, I was very young. I did not even know what I wanted to do. I was a strict science student from secondary school, so it did not even cross my mind to study anything else except a science subject. During my internship at May and Baker Nigeria, in my 3rd year, I realized that even if I loved reading biology and chemistry, I hated it in practice. So I knew I could not do it for the rest of my life so I decided to explore other options. As a result of this, even for my NYSC, I made sure I got posted to a bank to get a bit of experience in another industry and that’s where it all started. I got more comfortable, started enjoying and learning business related things, customer service, branding, strategy and so on. When I realised I was more interested in business-related sectors, I decided to do an MBA with a focus on Global Business. I think what I have learnt so far on my journey is more relevant than the industries I’ve worked in. I have been able to amass a unique skill set that is working for me and developed skills in the areas of leadership, service and sustainability.
Would you say the action was premeditated?
I knew I did not like the sciences anymore, but at the same time, changing my direction in life had to happen for me and I like to call that period ‘a period of finding myself’, I was simply testing the waters to see what I liked and what I enjoyed. I was young. I was done with NYSC at 20 years old, so there was time to make mistakes, but I was lucky enough to find what I enjoyed doing quickly, but even at that, life still took many turns in between and I still had to take on roles I did not really like at the time, but looking back now, I am grateful for the experience.
What was the reception of your products in the market like?
The market was quite receptive to our products. There was no one manufacturing and branding their own line of baby furniture at the time, so it was quite welcoming especially because I am my own target audience, so it is easier to communicate with people who have similar interests, wants and needs.
Share your experience with us on starting up Parliamo Bambini.
Starting Parliamo Bambini was not actually difficult. I’m a very good starter. That’s probably a gift I have but staying on course has been quite difficult. Nigeria does not really have a good ecosystem for manufacturing, so you literarily have to do everything by yourself which makes it extremely difficult to thrive. You have to be your own timber merchant, logistics person, sourcing person, packaging company etc. Abroad, it is very different. For example, in London, when you want to manufacture furniture, you buy wood from a timber merchant. There, you have different grades, you can choose which you want depending on what you want to produce, the process is more seamless and there is trust between suppliers and yourself, but here, it is different. When we started, my partner and I started Parliamo Bambini as a side business to bridge the gap to provide locally made furniture for new mums since importation of furniture was banned to prevent them from going through what I went through when I had my daughter. We never really thought that we would quit our jobs to focus on it full time, but since our launch, the orders just kept coming in. After about 2 years, we decided to quit our jobs to focus on it full time. We’ve had some rough patches but we take each day as it comes.
Can you say that you have broken even presently?
Yes we have
What can you say of the Nigerian locally manufactured furniture market?
I think the market is growing and more people are becoming aware that they can also get quality and stylish furniture even in Nigeria but it is very capital intensive and you have to be ready for the industry before you jump in because the rewards are not immediate, its more long term. A lot of sensitization, advocacy, and investment into the industry still needs to be done before we can get to where we want to be.
How do you manage to balance your family life, business and your many engagements?
I have an awesome support system at home. That is the only way you can do other things, especially for a mum with kids under 3.
Despite the clamour for women empowerment, you have been able to achieve all this, how did it all happen?
To be honest, I do not think I have achieved much. But I have a mantra that I live by, which is to do it anyway, no matter how scared I am. There’s really no point being average when you can strive for the stars. I am also never comfortable. I try to enjoy my wins, but I do not stay with it for too long. I also constantly seek self-development opportunities. Humility is my watchword because I have come to understand that God does not call the qualified, he qualifies the called, so pride is very far from me because I know that nothing I have achieved is by my power.
What has been your greatest motivation?
My kids. I’d want them to grow up and say, ‘Wow, that’s my mummy, if she could do it, I can too, there are no limits’.
You wrote a book lately on ‘Accessing Grants for Startups‘. What inspired that?
It is sad that entrepreneurs who are full of passion and fantastic business opportunities that can move the continent forward, yet they cannot get their ideas off the ground or scale their business as a result of funding. I wrote the book to showcase opportunities available locally and internationally for entrepreneurs in Africa such as Grants, Fellowships, Business Accelerators and Incubators that can help take your business to the next level. It provides entrepreneurs with the skills necessary to fill out applications for opportunities in a more professional manner to increase your chances of submitting a successful application.
The Special Guest of Honor and Chief Launcher was The Executive Governor of Lagos State, His Excellency, Mr Akinwunmi Ambode. He actually wrote the forward for the book and he was ably represented by The Special Advisor In Education, Honorable Fela Bankolemoh. The launch afforded the opportunity to launch the Enterprise Challenge to showcase, empower and reward female entrepreneurs in Nigeria.
What do you think accelerator and fellowship programmes look out for in startups?
Most investors, accelerators and fellowship programs look out for startups with a product solving a real problem, scalability and impact.
What is your long-term plan with regards to business and economy? What do we expect from you?
The plan is to have Parliamo Bambini retail outlets in locations across West Africa. You can also expect to see more development projects to help the entrepreneurial ecosystem in a bid to boost the Nigerian Economy.
What is your advice to young mothers who are trying to juggle entrepreneurship alongside raising a family?
Do whatever makes you happy. There isn’t one formula that works for everyone. Just do you and do not feel bad about whatever decision you take, but if decide to run a business and raise your family, make sure your support system is solid because it can be difficult but at the back of your mind, just know that the phase will not last forever.