By Prince Osuagwu
Lawyer turned social entrepreneur, Aisha Ochuwa, is a typical example of new generation entrepreneur. The brain behind online jewellery brand, Everything Beautiful by Aisha Ochuwa, EBAO, Ochuwa said her law practise has become a second option, as she has dedicated her life to building one of the fastest-growing jewellery brands in Nigeria on Instagram— @aishaochuwa. She displays top class jewellery on the Instagram page and distributes them to interested buyers.
For a lady, who started making money on jewellery at the age of eight, there’s little wonder why she resigned from law practise to face the business full time. Meanwhile, her journey from law to social entrepreneurship is an interesting story that can inspire any youth.
Why study law that you didn’t intend to practice?
I chose to study law because it provides the appropriate background knowledge on the startup process of any business; the required legal backing and a guideline that will forever be relevant in the development and sustenance of the business.
During my service year in 2016, I practiced with a law firm in Lagos, Country Hill Attorneys & Solicitors. But I later resigned to focus on my business. I also returned to law practice briefly in 2019 as a partner in the firm of Prescott Pearson Partners, Lagos, where I offered corporate and commercial law advisories to their clients. I later took a two-year leave of absence to afford me enough time to expand EBAO. So, I did not necessarily abandon law practice.
How did your business journey start?
It’s funny. But let me shock you; I made my first thousand naira at eight years old. It was by knitting caps, purses, school bags, table, and chair mats. I sold these pieces to my neighbours, friends, and aunties. The table and chair mats were my best sellers at the time. I would mix different colours and create beautiful designs with my pins.
My dad was very impressed. So, he got me a savings box popularly known as “Kolo” and kept it in his room. Once I make a sale, I will run to him happily and he will transfer the money into the savings box in my presence. By the time we opened the box in a few months, I had saved over N1,000 from my small business.
This was exactly 18 years ago. So, you can picture the value of N1,000 at the time; it was a lot of money. That was the kick-off point for me. However, I got into secondary school and couldn’t do anything because I was in a boarding house; it was simply impossible to do any form of business.
But, immediately I gained admission into the university in 2010, I picked it up again. During the very first holiday, I told my dad I was tired of staying at home that I wanted to learn a trade. I still can remember his response very clearly: “Why learn a trade when you are the trade?” That was the beginning of it all.
Why did you decide to focus on jewellery?
My interest in jewellery started in 2010 as an undergraduate. I started by selling jewellery to people around me. I spent a major part of the holidays selling them in banks, schools, to friends and neighbours and soon became popular in my neighbourhood as the jewellery seller.
My passion was to style everyone I knew with a beautiful piece of jewellery, so I made up my mind to create a brand that produces pieces that appeal, especially to millennials. My plan is to expand the brand to cover other fashion accessories in the future.
How do you distribute your wares?
Everything Beautiful by Aisha Ochuwa, EBAO, is an online jewellery retail store. We focus on the need to make available contemporary fashion accessories that speak class on every level. We understand that the world has evolved and technology has made every aspect of life easier; the major reason we cater to the accessory needs of our customers without them having to leave the comfort of their homes.
What’s the source of your products and how do you interface with customers?
We display our products on our platform for selection; customers place their orders and we deliver to them. Invoices are sent immediately we receive payment, and we give a timeline for delivery, which depends largely on the location of the customer.
Our inventory is made up of jewellery I make myself, some I design and send out to partner companies for production, and others I buy and add to our collections. I am working on a better-structured system that will involve setting up an e-commerce website, Aishaochuwa.com, that creates a better shopping experience for our customer base and target audience.
Can you recall your first year experience with EBAO?
It was both challenging and eye-opening. I learned that online business is entirely different and requires strength and wisdom. After creating the brand and an Instagram business page, the sales increased and I was able to take orders from people based outside Nigeria.
In the first year, I sold a lot of jewellery. I stocked a minimum of five dozen of each design and sold out most of them on Instagram, which at the time was my major place of business.
I sold well over 120 different designs of jewellery to my online customers and was able to deliver them through the help of some reputable logistics companies.
Have you faced challenges?
Firstly, the modality of an online business demands prompt deliveries for orders made. The first major challenge I faced was delayed deliveries and loss of items by dubious bus drivers I engaged initially to make those deliveries. I suffered financial losses and, at different times, had to refund customers after their order got missing halfway.
That was what engineered the decision to create a logistics arm of the business. I purchased two dispatch bikes, which were used to make deliveries within Lagos, while I partnered with logistics companies like GIG, DHL, and FedEx to sort out orders going outside Lagos and Nigeria.
Secondly, I had the herculean task of proving my integrity to the online community. My business started online in the wake of online fraudsters and internet scams, so a lot of people were skeptical about doing business with me for fear of being defrauded. I started by earning the trust of the first customers who took the risk, by presenting and delivering the exact items requested in exact timelines.
Their referrals and recommendations attracted more customers. I was also published by reputable blogs and I gained more followers and customers as a result of it.
What is the current status of EBAO?
EBAO’s is growing strongly due to the massive support we receive from customers by way of patronage and referrals. We service clientele in Nigeria, Africa, and beyond, and our accessories continue to receive commendation from fashion blogs and stylists within Nigeria.
Your advice to youths intending to start businesses like yours?
I’d say, they have to be intentional. They should know the type of businesses they intend to do and pay attention to mastering it. They should also, learn to partner with like minds and get mentorships in areas where they need it. Success in business is possible, but you have to start first in order to explore the excitement entrepreneurship offers.