A UK-based Nigerian, Ugo Tina Ndidi, CEO and Creative Director for Didi Creations Limited, recently open a new shop for exquisite brand of uniquely beaded bags in Lagos, Nigeria. In this interview with Mary Nnah she talks about her passion for fashion and why she had to come all the way to Nigeria to open shop. Excerpts:
How long have you been in business and why did you think now is time to look at the market back home?
The brand was officially launched in June 2012. We have always had a presence here, as we launched here. The only new addition here is opening of Didi Creations flagship store at Lekki Phase 1, Lagos, just few weeks back and hopefully we would be opening more branches in Abuja and other cities soon.
Now that your luxurious handmade bags have finally been brought to Nigeria for customers who love what you do with the craft in the United Kingdom, how ready are you for the Nigerian market that’s almost saturated in similar enterprise? And why did you have to come all the way to Nigeria for this purpose?
We are very prepared for the Nigerian market in the sense that it took me six years to survey this market and test the waters here. Despite being based in the United Kingdom, I launched Didi Creation here in 2012, and we had a huge turnout on the day.
Afterwards I stocked with about eight different retail outlets between Lagos and Abuja, and I must say the customer feedback from most of our stocks has been quite encouraging. One of the catalysts that triggered the decision to finally set up our flagship store here was after our exhibition at the GTBANK Fashion Weekend 2017 where we had several customers requesting for more.
Who exactly are your target customers?
Our target clientele is the middle-class earners and the high net-worth individuals.
Of all other fashion accessories, why did you choose bags as your premium product offer?
I started designing bags, shoes and accessories as a result of my passion for these fashion pieces. My personal love and preference for genuine leather and statement fashion pieces was also a huge factor. I believed I had something to offer on the fashion scene and had been told times without number by strangers, friends and family that I was quite creative, whenever I was seen in any of my designed custom made sample pieces hence I decided to pull the bull by the horn and made up my mind to start designing as a means of livelihood. I work with some of the trusted and tested Artisans across the globe to create my perfect finished pieces. So, my passion for fashion is my daily motivation that keeps me going.
Are there plans to extend your products beyond bags?
Definitely. We hope to keep growing and expanding our horizon. Now our product line-up includes: Bags, Unisex Footwear, Accessories and Unisex Clothing. I also recently launched a Kiddies line two years ago; Didi Creations Kids.
Bead and leather bags are not quite novel to the lifestyle connoisseurs here in Nigeria, especially Lagos, what’s different in what you offer?
Our ethos and signature: offering quality and value for money to clients is key in everything we create, hence our slogan “Premium Quality for Less”. We are known for creating unique statement pieces (sometimes one offs) and most of our design inspirations are drawn from colours, retro, African Arts and Culture.
How exactly did you transit into the business of making and selling bags?
I started designing professionally in 2012. However, I had been designing part time and as a hobby since 2005. I had always loved to stand out from the crowd through my choice of clothing, hair, make up and accessories from my teenage years. This metamorphosed into my university days at the University of Ibadan where I would alter already made clothes through shredding, painting etc. just to look different. After graduation in 2001, I worked briefly with the corporate sector; insurance, aviation and publishing sectors respectively. I quit the corporate world in 2005 to become an entrepreneur and set up my first fashion business same year, though it was part time at the time, as I ventured into other businesses. Didi Creations Limited was berthed June 2012, and building the brand is my full-time job now.
Your sense of style must have its inspiration drawn from somewhere, what is your story?
My mum was a very stylish woman; I enjoyed watching her dress up and started emulating her from my teenage years. My personal style really does vary day-to-day, depending on my mood and destination. I try style-wise because I always love to dress up and enjoy standing out from the crowd. However, I would say the following describe my style the best on most occasions; Sophisticated, Assertive, Chic, Fierce, Afrocentric, Bold, Confident and Glamorous.
Before this enterprise, what were you doing?
I was with the corporate sector between 2002 and 2005. I must say my experiences at these places prepared me on how to run my own businesses. I worked as a Customer Service/ Front Desk Personnel in an insurance firm in 2002. In 2003-2004, I worked as a Ticketing and Reservation Staff with an airline. Finally, in 2005, I worked briefly as a marketing executive with a book/publishing firm.
In all sincerity, what is the worst business decision blunder you ever made and how did you survive?
I have made a few to be honest. However, I won’t forget in a hurry my experience with one manufacturer I met in Italy. Shortly after I launched my brand, I was still sourcing for manufacturers across the globe hence visited several sourcing fairs.
I met a manufacturer in one of such fairs in Italy, we had several meetings afterwards to finalise production requirements; where I chose my leathers, Did the sketching, specified my colours etc. To my utmost surprise, after I received my products (over a hundred bags), it was totally different from what I wanted and all efforts to reach him on the phone proved abortive. Lesson learned. Now I take it as a point of duty to visit the factories of my manufacturers prior to any business dealings.
What are the other things that fascinate you aside fashion?
Not so many people know I have six full-time jobs, so I get mixed reactions each time I say so. I’m a Certified Travel Consultant, Certified Interior Designer, Certified Business Coach, Certified Life Coach and A Blogger. I sell travel products and have a Travel Business; Didi Deluxe Travel Limited while Didi Deluxe Services takes care of the Interior Design and my other businesses. I am that Travel Blogger who absolutely Love travelling and hopes to travel the world. I have visited over thirty countries now and still counting.
How were your formative years like?
I come from a middle-class family; my parents both worked with the Nigerian Ports Authority till my dad retired. My mum on the other hand, though of blessed memory, quit the civil service in 1991 to set up her first business same year and had several others in her lifetime. I got my entrepreneurial skills from her. I am the first child of my parents and had four siblings, I recently lost a sibling in January, so I have three now. We were all born in Lagos, and I had both my primary and secondary education in Lagos, before proceeding for my first degree at the University of Ibadan, Nigeria where I studied Philosophy and Political Science (Combined Honours).
I further bagged a Post-Graduate Diploma in Business Management from the London Business College and topped up with a Master’s Degree in Business Administration from Edge Hill University, Lancashire. Growing up was fun for me as I and my siblings are close-knit. My Mum was my best friend till her demise. As kids, we were involved in quite a lot of church activities because my dad was very active in church and is still a Lay Reader in the Anglican Communion till date. I was actively involved with the Girls Brigade, Girls Guild, Anglican Children Ministry and did represent my church in so many quiz competitions. I hardly got into trouble with my parents and peers as I was a very careful child that never loved rough plays. At school, I was quite popular and was an above average pupil which led to my having double promotions twice in primary school.
I remember not being shy and always volunteering to partake in drama, debate, quiz and cultural dance groups.
What was the first career you got obsessed with early in life and if you didn’t finally pursue it, why did you make a detour?
I still can’t believe I didn’t end up as a Medical Doctor. I was a Pure Science student in high school and loved Biology. Myself and my best friend in high school wanted to become doctors and already had a name (coined from our names) for the hospital we planned to set up. Most of our peers in high school refer to both of us by this name till date. However, my JAMB score didn’t reach the cut-off mark for Medicine and Surgery, hence couldn’t secure me an admission to study Medicine, and I didn’t want any other school apart from the University of Ibadan at the time, neither was I willing to write another JAMB. Hence, I had no option than to switch to the Faculty of Arts.