‘My Journey into Luxury Fashion Brands’

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Yeside Laguda, daughter of Nigeria’s Minister of Information and Culture, Alhaji Lai Mohammed, is a young but seriously business-minded fellow, whose journey into the luxury fashion business world started as a child’s play. Today, in her mid 30s, she has not only acquired licenses to market virtually all the trending brands in the world fashion market but has also carved a niche for herself in indigenous Africa fashion. The young entrepreneur and Chief Executive Officer of MyQ and Blush by MyQ who recently added a feather to her growing business with the launch of her GRA Ikeja, store early this year, told Mary Ekah in this interview how it all started

Tell us about your business?
My business is called MyQ Lifestyle Concept. MyQ Lifestyle Concept is made up of two arms: One arm is called Blush By MyQ. Blush By MyQ represents most of the European and Middle Eastern luxury designers for bridal and occasional dresses. So we have full licenses to bring their products into Nigeria and also represent them. And then there is MyQ. MyQ is an indigenous Nigerian company where we produce Nigerian products like dresses with Ankara, Batik, Linen, Laces and so on and then we have another arm that produces garment steamers and so on.

Do you design?
Yes, I design all of MyQ but Blush By MyQ is just a representative of foreign designers.

What inspires your designs?
Once you have a passion for something, you live and breathe it and then it comes naturally to you and everything around you inspires you. And I think that’s the only thing I know how to do – design. That is my bread and butter.

When did you discover your creative flair?
I have always loved to draw. I started sketching as a child and later I became a buyer even when I was in university in England. What I used to do then was that I would go to different towns and trade fairs and then to every company that has a factory store. I had to register to be in the trade so that I could buy things for cheap prices. And so I would buy products from foreign companies at cheap prices and send them to Nigeria for people who own boutiques and other times, I will come home and then take my goods to University of Lagos and other places like that for buyers.

So how did that business sense come in?
Business is a second nature for me, because even as a child, I will buy lollypops and would go and sell them in the class at higher prices than I bought them. It has always been my nature, right from childhood, to seize every opportunity that came my way. Even though I would sell my lollypops and spend the whole money that same day except for a token I will leave to buy another pack for sale the next day, there was always this satisfaction in me of being able to so doing something, being able to multiply my money and also knowing that I could stand on my own. So being always able to multiply my money has always been a passion for me.

At what point did you decide to go fully into business?
I did it as a hobby for as long as I was a student abroad till when I graduated. And when I graduated, I actually wanted to go into the workforce but when I did my NYSC I still was buying shirts to sell at the camp, but the buyers will always ask if they didn’t come with skirts and then I had one tailor at Iponri and another at Akerele and having lived in Nigeria for over 10 years then I used to jump gutters to Akerele to go and look for these tailors so they can sew for me after which I will pay them #2,000 from the #5,000 I had charged my clients and then would take them to those who ordered for them and that was how my journey into full time business started. But then I started in the kitchen because I realised that one person will not finish everything at the time they were needed and so I got one tailor who worked with me in my mother’s kitchen and so I started in my mother’s kitchen and then moved into a canopy and gradually it grew.

How do you source for materials for the indigenous ready to wear cloths you do?
A lot of materials are imported but for my Adire, Batik and Ankara, I buy some raw materials in Nigeria and I also have somebody buy them for me. Sometimes I go to Oshogbo and other places, where I could get the indigenous Nigerian materials. And as regards the foreign collections and designs, I can go to anywhere in the world to get the designs and collections that suit my clients.

What did you study at school?
I read Environmental Chemistry for my BSc at the University of Reading, England and then got an MBA in Advanced Strategic Management from the University of Wales, also in the United Kingdom.

Your field of study does no tally with what you are doing now, so how do you marry both?
There are no connections at all but like I said, designing comes naturally to me.

So how did your parents take this sudden diversion in your interest?
My daddy was cool with it but my mummy was troubled. But after a while, everybody got used to it.

When did you start your first shop?
I stated my first shop in 2007 at Victoria Island. That is over 10 years now. And it has been a journey because I have left some things along the line, like I used to sew for people but I don’t do that anymore. I only design now. It has been a learning process and I have tried to work a life balance between my job and my family.

You are a daughter of a successful businessman and politician, so will it be right if your success today is ascribed to your father, Alhaji Lai Mohammed?
People will always attribute your success to your parents because they are probably influential in the society but mine is not so. It is possible though for a rich and well-to-do parent to influence the success of his/her child but everything in life is grace, I totally understand that. But I have made sacrifices. I have worked hard to be where I am today.

What is it like to do business in Nigeria?
We need God! Because some days things would be rosier but on other days thing would be totally down for you and if you don’t have God, your business may not survive and you may even die. So we really need God.

You have been marketing products from foreign companies for over a decade now; do you also have intention of promoting indigenous companies?
Definitely! We have a huge population, so even if we do not go outside Nigeria, we can do sustainable production and then, there would be no need for importation or second hand cloths. I mean if we can do this and then employ global best standard in production, then we can take our products abroad for people to buy.