MONDAY INTERVIEW 

Winner of the most innovative idea category at the recently concluded 2016 Etisalat Prize for Innovation competition, Miss Tobilola Ajibola, fielded questions from Chika Amanze-Nwachuku and Emma Okonji on her determination to address peculiar female challenges, bridge gender inequality and expose females to online shopping with the support of technology solutions. Excerpts: 

Your solution, ‘Dresses By Aloli’ was selected as the Most Innovative Idea category at the Etisalat Prize for Innovation competition, organised by Etisalat. How do you feel, having emerged winner of the competition?

I feel great and I am so happy and honoured to be chosen as the winner of the Etisalat Prize for innovation. I am highly excited to be the first woman to win a category in the Etisalat Prize for innovation. I am so thankful to Etisalat for organising this amazing competition and believing in my idea.

You were presented with a cash prize of N2 million as winner of the competition. How do you intend to spend the money?

Yes, I won N2 million and my spending pattern is simple. I will spend a portion of the money on website development, purchase of equipment and materials and the other portion of the money will be used to build an efficient and structured production and technical team.

When you entered for the competition, did you at any point envisaged that you will emerge winner?

Initially I didn’t even think my idea would be selected. It was a new idea that I was working on, and I felt other techie ideas would be chosen, although I took my time to answer each of the questions, I honestly forgot all about my entry after I submitted.
But then, after I got the call that I was selected among the final top 10, I knew God was doing something new, so my team members and I started planning like we had won already.
So yes, I knew I would win right after I was selected among the top 10 finalists.

What actually motivated you to enter for the competition?

I would say it was my team member Job that literally pushed me to enter for the Prize for Innovation after brainstorming on how relevant an online custom clothing store for women was to the concept of the competition.

How did you arrive at the name of your solution ‘Dresses by Aloli’ and what does the solution seek to address?

The word ‘Aloli’ is from my name Tobilola. I used “dresses” because it is a multifunctional piece of clothing found in a woman’s closet. It could be made for work, worn for a casual outing, to a cocktail party or to a wedding. Now, ‘Dresses By Aloli’, seeks to solve the clothing needs of women who desire edgy, well fitting and functional clothing that is accessible but yet affordable. We intend to stitch technology with fashion by creating an exciting, engaging and easy to use online platform that allows women customise every part of these stylish and elegant clothing to their taste.

What were some of the challenges you encountered before arriving at the final solution and how were you able to address them?

There were lot of challenges in coming up with a technical and production blueprint that actually worked seamlessly, but we are determined to provide an excellent solution because these are real time  problems women face in getting well sewn “Aso- ebi” or getting quality ‘ready to wear’ clothing that are affordable and accessible.

The intention of Etisalat in organising the competition, is to demonstrate the company’s belief that Nigeria’s developmental needs can be met through the creation of innovative products and ideas. How will your solution successfully meet the intention of Etisalat?

We are creating a value added online service that revolutionalises the fashion retail industry by changing the way women shop for ‘ready to wear’ clothing and make their ‘made to measure’ clothing. Our innovative online platform that allows a woman design her Aso-ebi online, input her measurements and have her fabrics picked up from her home, sewn and delivered just with a connected cell phone is definitely a service that would genuinely change the lives of women in Nigeria.

What is the solution ‘Dresses by Aloli’ all about, and how will the solution address specific needs of Nigerians?

So ‘Dresses By Aloli’ is Nigeria’s foremost online custom clothing store for women that allows shoppers customise clothing items to their preferred taste and designs.