We have featured amazing women on our How I Started My Business series, this week, we are happy to have Achenyo Helen Asimegbe.
Achenyo Helen Asimegbe is a serial entrepreneur. She is the CEO of Stylemark Mall, a retailer of high-quality children’s clothing and accessories, and also Stylemark Pro Enterprise (Capacity Development Centre), which trains Entrepreneurs, small business owners and start-ups.
She has the vision to locally manufacture and export children’s clothes and passionate about helping other businesses grow. She serves as a business mentor at the Tony Elumelu Entrepreneurship Foundation and Cherie Blaire Foundation for Women in Business. She is a member of Toast Masters International Club. Helen hails from Kogi state and is married with two children.
FROM HAVING AN IDEA TO STARTING YOUR BUSINESS, SHARE YOUR JOURNEY WITH US
Well, transitioning from banking to business, I must say, wasn’t the easiest thing for me. It was really tough at the beginning, because both professions are somewhat different. In taking a bold step to starting a business, I had to look within. I took time to figure out what I was passionate about, I knew it would have to be something that can keep me up late at night and I could still smile and enjoy what I’m doing.
I didn’t want to just start any kind of trade because I wanted to do buying and selling. I had to identify that one thing that I could really do and derive joy from. My first business is Stylemark Mall, which was founded April 2015 and we deal in children’s clothing and all other accessories.
When I started, first of all, I began by marketing to my friends and relatives, and then I began to talk to a few parents from my kids’ school. Most of the time, I would stock up goods in the boot of my car and move around doing deliveries trying to hopefully get new customers. I took a step further and began to use very well, all the social media platforms: Whatsapp, BBM, Facebook, Instagram and Twitter to do my adverts.
I was really committed and devoted, not minding how small my business was. I would create adverts with words and post on social media, together with pictures for people to see. It’s been quite an interesting journey.
Even with the ups and downs we face as small business owners, I kept striving, putting in all my best effort. From selling in my boot, to clients in Abuja for starters, I gradually began to reach out in marketing to other people outside Abuja, and that’s how I was favored and began to also deliver outside Abuja.
Well so far so we good, we are on one of Nigeria’s largest online shopping mall, Konga.
WHY DO YOU LOVE WHAT YOU DO? THERE ARE SO MANY OTHER BUSINESSES YOU COULD HAVE EXPLORED, WHY THIS?
Well, before I began this business, I searched carefully and prayerfully, and I narrowed it to what my greatest interest was, because I know for sure, days would come when situations may make me feel like giving up, but if it’s a thing I am passionate about, then the business will survive.
I love kids been dressed pretty, and super cute. It gives me so much Joy.
WHAT ARE YOUR GREATEST SKILL/STRENGTHS THAT HAVE PARTICULARLY BEEN OF HELP IN STARTING AND RUNNING YOUR BUSINESS?
I am someone who does not give up on anything I set my mind to do. I wake up and encourage/motivate myself a lot to try and try. I am a very hardworking person, super intelligent and smart. Been able to stay strong and focused, never looking back to see how big some problems or challenges were, has greatly helped me in building a strong brand.
Well, I could just mention some of the skills I possess. They are communication and negotiation skills, marketing, sales and customers service skills, problem solving skills, leadership skills, planning and networking skills.
DID YOU HAVE TO GET A FORMAL TRAINING OR QUALIFICATION TO BE ABLE TO DO THIS?
I had my first degree in Business Administration and I also went in for an MBA. I acquired a lot more certificates from courses I took and trainings from professional bodies. So, yes, I received a formal education and took part in lot of trainings in times past that I’m leveraging on right now. And I will continue to improve myself. My background helped me a lot.
YOU HAVE BEEN RUNNING YOUR BUSINESS FOR SOME TIME NOW, WHAT DO YOU KNOW NOW THAT YOU WISHED YOU HAD KNOWN BEFORE YOU STARTED?
At the time I started my business, I didn’t have prior knowledge on how to run a business successfully. So, I made a lot of mistakes which I learnt from as I progressed, which is very normal. But thankfully, along the line I got the opportunity to do a programme at EDC, which has really helped to improve upon so many aspects of my business. At least now I know a business model canvas plays a very important role in starting up a business. It will serve as a guide as you frame that business.
ANY LIFE EXPERIENCE THAT HAS PARTICULARLY PREPARED YOU DIRECTLY OR INDIRECTLY FOR WHAT YOU DO NOW?
I have been an employee at one time in my life and I was saddled with lots of responsibilities and tasks which had deadlines to meet. So in the course of working for someone for years, there was a lot I learnt in that time, which eventually added lots of skills and great qualities to me. It helped me in the long run. No regrets on the knowledge acquired.
CHANGE CAN BRING OUT A PART OF US WE NEVER KNEW EXISTED, WHAT NEW THINGS HAVE YOU DISCOVERED ABOUT YOURSELF IN THE COURSE OF STARTING AND RUNNING YOUR BUSINESS?
In the course of running my business, I began to discover how really creative I am, and with that, I can actually achieve a lot being my own boss. I wake up having so many ideas/inspirations on what exactly I can add or do to make my business stand out.
I recently realized that I also have a great passion to inspire people by helping them achieve their dreams, and turning their ideas into profitable ventures. So, I decided to set up my second line of business, which is Stylemark ProEnterprise. A lot of people have been impacted and have started business by the trainings we organized which they took part and most of the time for free. A lot more have had conversations with me one on one, and were inspired to start their own business.
I went a step further and decided to host a GEW event in Abuja where I launched one of the products of Stylemark ProEnterprise called “SME SpringBoard,’’ a platform designed to assist MSMEs realize their growth potential, have access to market, access to finance, and capacity building.
The event was well attended by representatives of government agencies, investors, business persons, start-ups, established entrepreneurs and investment experts.
So mentoring is what I found, as I progressed in my journey of running my own business.
WHAT DO YOU THINK ARE THE MOST ESSENTIAL SKILLS FOR WOMEN ENTREPRENEURS ESPECIALLY IN NIGERIA?
For me, I would say the essential skills should be goal setting, time management, negotiation, networking and communication skills. These are highly essential for every woman entrepreneur to possess.
Owning a business comes with a lot of responsibility and it’s important for every business owner to try and be as professional as possible in operating that venture.
Yes, I know success is not overnight, it requires a lot of hardwork and maybe sacrifices, but if you don’t take care of that business, don’t expect that any other person will nurture it.
My advice: It’s time to put a little spark to that business and make it shine.