Tina Ndidi Ugo: How COVID -19 Lockdown Broadened My Horizons

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Her dream has always been to set up multiple businesses to enable her to have multiple streams of income. During the COVID-19 lockdown, it became obvious that people were more interested in buying items to make their home stay more comfortable. That was when Ms. Tina Ndidi Ugo, a certified fashion designer, interior designer, travel consultant, business and life coach, photographer and blogger decided there was no better time to launch her two new brands, DIDI Deluxe Home and VVIP Lingerie. Although the CEO of DIDI Creations incorporated the brand in the United Kingdom where she is currently based, she recently launched a flagship store in Lagos. In this interview with MARY NNAH, she talked about her seven different businesses and how she is focused on nurturing them

What was it like at the beginning?

DIDI Creations was launched in 2012, while DIDI Creations Kids was launched in 2016. At the beginning, I knew I wanted to build a global fashion brand that would outlive me so I gave it my all. DIDI CREATIONS was berthed in my bedroom shortly after my graduation from Edgehill Business School; where I was awarded a Master of Business Administration in 2011.

I’ve always loved the fashion industry while growing up and I’m still fascinated by fashion till date. So upon my graduation, I was torn between getting a job in the financial sector or setting up my own business. I decided to settle for the latter
and the rest is history today. I followed all the steps required to start up a fashion business.

What inspired you to go into the fashion and bag designing business?

To be honest, I’ll say the fashion industry was inevitable and innate for me as I always believed I had something to offer because of my creativity. I 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 started designing clothing, bags, shoes and accessories as a result of my fetish for these fashion pieces. My personal love and preference for genuine leather and statement fashion pieces was also a huge factor.

I’m so passionate about fashion and style, to the extent that I’m a collector of most fashion items and accessories.

What were you doing before this and what was the experience like?

Prior to launching my brands, I worked with three different corporate sectors (Insurance, Aviation and Publishing sectors) between 2002 and 2005. I kept changing jobs every year as there was no real job satisfaction, however I’ll forever be
grateful for some of the professional experiences I gathered while at my 9-5 jobs, because they helped prepare me. I quit the corporate world in 2005 to pursue my Entrepreneurial dream. This saw me setting up my first business
(BLACK Cashmere Ventures) in 2005. I have set up a few other businesses afterwards, including DIDI Creations Limited, DIDI Deluxe Services Limited, DIDI Deluxe Travel Limited and POP UP Nigeria Limited.

What are some of the challenges encountered?

One of the biggest challenges is production and quality control. I’ve had quite a number of devastating experiences with manufacturers and Artisans in Italy, Nigeria, Ghana and China. Logistics is also another challenge, especially for those pieces we manufacture in Nigeria and other parts of Africa.

Finally, getting the products out there on the shelves of major departmental stores; because no matter how good your product or service is, it needs to be visible and people need to be aware it exists.

Would you say the business is lucrative?

The fashion industry is very capital intensive but can be quite lucrative if you get it right or have a big break.

How has the COVID-19 pandemic era impacted on your business?

When the lockdown started as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic in March, it became apparent we were living in uncertain times, and it will be a while before we’re able to
return to complete normality like we used to know.

Running a business is time consuming so I decided to make most of my time during the lockdown by planning, strategising and promoting my online businesses. I knew recession was unavoidable in the near future and needed to have multiple streams of income. Few weeks after the lockdown, I noticed a surge in sales with my fabric store (DIDI TEXTILES BOUTIQUE); this made me start researching online for other items with a high demand. I discovered people were ordering a lot of household items and lounge wears, generally, items that made home stay comfortable.

Right now, people have more time to shop online than ever. It’s the perfect opportunity to get creative with new ways to deliver value to both my existing and potential clients.

Plus, the ideas that I’m able to get off the ground while I have free time can continue to provide extra revenue for years to come. This made me decide to diversify with the launching of my two new brands -DIDI DELUXE HOME and VVIP LINGERIE.

What are some memorable moments in your life and career?

My most memorable moment in life was my pregnancy journey and giving birth to my daughter. Words can’t explain my feelings when I saw her for the first time.

The day I officially launched DIDI CREATIONS eight years ago remains fresh in my memory also.

One of my memorable highlights after launching would be when I had my first live interview in 2013
during the Woman’s Hour on BBC radio 4 discussing African Fashion prior to my
first runway showcase in London.

Another was when I took my first bow on the stage as a Fashion designer during Africa Fashion Week London 2013 (I’ve taken several other bows over the years in London, New York, Kenya and Lagos).

In 2016, I opened the show at Africa Fashion Week London and took a bow with my 7 months old daughter; I’d say that experience and moment was priceless for me. I’ve also cherished being featured in almost all the major fashion magazines in the UK, South
Africa, Kenya and Nigeria over the years; including British Vogue, Elle,
Tatler, Harper’s Bazaar, Glamour, Glam Africa, Pride, Genevieve magazine, TW
magazine, Working Moms, Complete fashion and several others.

I won’t forget in a hurry the brand exposure I got when my brand was chosen alongside 29 other British brands by the UK Department for International Trade in 2017 to have our products retailed in a major mall in Paris for a whole month.

Finally, all the awards I have received over the years inspire and motivate me to work harder.

Who do you consider as the greatest influence in your life and career?

My late mum was my greatest influence and role model. She was such a hard working beautiful woman and serial entrepreneur, so I grew up emulating her.

In her lifetime, she ventured into the beauty sector, food sector and fashion industry. We eventually became unofficial business partners at some point before her demise.

Let’s compare when you started doing this and now, what has changed?

When I started, my retail outlets/stockists and clientele base were mainly in the UK and
Nigeria.

Whereas now, apart from those two, we do have a presence and clientele across the globe including the United States, France, Germany, Italy, Hong Kong, Japan, South Africa, Singapore, Holland etc.

In what ways has being an entrepreneur changed your lifestyle?

Being an entrepreneur has made me become a workaholic, as I work round the clock.

What are some of the changes that you would like to see in the sector?

I’ll like to see African Fashion dominate the global fashion scene. I foresee this happening in the near future.

What are some of the lessons that you have learnt?

Based on experience over the years, I have learnt to do more market research and product testing before going into full production for new lines and collections.

What are some of the things that you wouldn’t do in the name of fashion?

Style for me is a way of saying who I am without uttering a word. Style radiates in everything one does not necessarily only in fashion. I wouldn’t follow a fashion trend if it doesn’t align with my personal style.

Tell us about the things that you treasure most in life?

I treasure my daughter, family, peace, sanity, time and happiness.

How do you relax?

I’m an avid lover of nature so I relax by watching and capturing the sunrise, seaside, birds, clouds formations and sunsets.

Who are your role models?

I admire innovators and hope I can invent something new in my lifetime.

Where do you hope to see your business in the next few years?

I hope to see my business expand into new markets and also have a main stake in the sector.

If you had to advise young people who want to go into the sector, what would you tell them?

I’ll let them know it’s a very capital intensive sector. Hence, anyone venturing into it needs to have the will to persevere and passion to continue when the chips are down.

What are some of the other things that occupy your time?

Let’s just say, I literally work round the clock. Apart from being a hands-on mom to my daughter, I’m also a certified travel consultant, business coach, an amateur photographer, freelance web developer, Freelance Graphic designer, blogger and vlogger. All of the above keep me on my toes daily.