Elizabeth Laiza K is the Founder of STYLVO, a platform on a mission to change the way the world discovers and shops African fashion and beauty products. The platform aims to use the power of influencers to drive strategic business solutions.
Laiza has previous experiences working in Accounting, the Non-profit industry and with small and medium scale businesses. She's passionate about her God-driven mission on earth, Africa, fashion and supporting entrepreneurs.
In this interview, Elizabeth shares her advocacy how she turned her passion into business while supporting and promoting African brands at the same time in both fashion and beauty industries. She also shares how she enjoys mentoring aspiring young entrepreneurs to get off their feet when building a dream business.
Learn more from Elizabeth's sound advises about entrepreneurship on international scale in the following paragraphs.
What motivated you to start STYLVO? Did you see a way to serve customers better than your competitors?STYLVO was started out of a deep passion to support African brands and creative’s in the fashion and beauty industries. There’s so much talent in Africa and they need to be given a chance to grow and thrive, with a platform that gives them global opportunities.
This is the solution STYLVO aims to solve- to make it easy to discover and shop for African brands, through our platform and also our unique partnerships with influencers (such as bloggers) in the continent and Diaspora.
Granted, there are different ways to serve our customers. Some platforms out there have been able to create online content that promotes African fashion. While that works wonders, we believe in doing more. As we grow, we will become a full service commerce platform that incorporates unique content, while promoting brands, influencers and other creative’s in the continent.
How have your motivations changed since you first started STYLVO? Is there an area that you have grown most?At first the STYLVO platform was more content focused and on fashion/beauty creative’s in the African industry. But the vision grew bigger when we realized a dire need to get African brands involved in the global fashion conversations while exposing them to more customers.
Just like most entrepreneurs, my motivations will constantly be changed as the world and market evolves. Sometimes you realize that while staying focused on the main vision, some strategies or models may be upgraded, and that’s fine as long as you still serve your market with the right products/services they love.
What do you consider the biggest milestone that you have hit with your business? How did you get there?Although STYLVO just launched recently with a lot of greater milestones yet to be attained, one of our recent milestones was getting brands and some influencers to support us during our launch.
We launched with a giveaway featuring African fashion and beauty brands across the globe; and were amazed at the numerous brands that trusted the STYLVO vision and immediately supported us. Some of these brands gave out items worth hundreds and thousands of dollars, just to give our audience a feel of the authenticity of some African products- from Nigeria, Morocco, South Africa, Kenya, Ghana and also African brands based in U.S, UK and Canada.
It took a series of brainstorming, meetings, and strategic planning with my team, and off course constant emails and calls to our brand partners. We believe in building strong bridges and partnerships and we’ve already started doing that with these brands, influencers in the industry and potential customers.
Who has been your greatest influencer along your entrepreneurial journey? How did they shape STYLVO?Hmm! I’ve honestly had a good number people (both near and far) influence me thus far. I’ll first have to say that my generation inspires me to push harder even when I feel unmotivated. In fact most of them have greatly influenced my entrepreneurial journey.
The new breed of entrepreneurs breaking new grounds beyond traditional career paths; these people are bold enough to do what they love, from Zim Ugochukwu of Travel Noire, Sophia Amoruso, Marie Forleo, Amber Venz Box of Reward Style, Lewis Howes and so much more.
Their stories have gradually helped shape STYLVO, especially from the angle of turning a passion-based idea into a profitable business.
What’s your most unforgettable experience as an entrepreneur?Every single time I have an opportunity to mentor, inspire and advice aspiring entrepreneur or a young person trying to figure out their way. Those moments give me joy and remind me of all the reasons I started in the first place. When I fuel people’s passions, I get refuelled from within. Nothing beats that!
What’s the biggest thing you struggle with as a business owner? Do you have any advice for how future entrepreneurs can overcome it?There are several challenges along the entrepreneurship path. As a business owner, I’ve come to understand that emotional intelligence, wearing different hats and the courage to execute on an idea, are very important.
These qualities literally determine the outcome/management of my team, interaction with customers, partnerships and the overall success of the company. This is honestly one lesson I’ve been learning recently and it affects so many areas of the company. Sometimes you need to make tough decisions while also managing your emotions and that of others.
Most importantly, beyond just having an idea, execution of that idea is key. It’s so easy to stay infatuated with a business idea that you forget to actually start providing that solution to your market.
My advice to future entrepreneurs is to start developing themselves even before they start. By this, I mean personal development, networking, reading books and staying focused on your ultimate vision. Once you’re sure about your idea, start working towards it even before you officially launch. Focus on progress not perfection and you’ll save yourself a whole lot of stress.
Are you using any Apps that help you stay on track every day?Nothing so fancy on this end. Google Drive has been very beneficial for us as it helps us easily see and track what everyone is doing on one platform. Whatsapp also works wonders because the STYLVO core team and contributors are based all over the world. For some other projects, Asana also works.
How does being an entrepreneur affect your relationships with your friends and family?It can be tough sometimes managing these important relationships. Most times the people that are closest to you may not understand your ideas or why you’ve even decided to ditch the traditional career route. But I’ve learnt (and still learning) to set priorities, balance my life, and just be happy with the wonderful relationships I’ve been blessed with.
Above all when it comes to relationships, I surround myself with people who support my calling and purpose in life. This has helped to fuel my vision and drive.
Looking back, what’s one thing you would do differently with STYLVO? Why would you change it?I would’ve executed on the idea earlier. At some point, I got caught up in analysis paralysis without actually starting. This kills and frustrates a lot of early start-ups. I would change my thinking by focusing on progress and excellence over perfection. It’s important to also start the learning process early, learn what your market truly needs and execute on it fast.
What advice would you give to our readers who want to start a business in New York? Where should they start?Even though I already moved back to Nigeria to start my business, I believe this will apply to potential entrepreneurs worldwide.
- Start by doing intense research about your industry and target market. Find out exactly what your market really needs in connection to your idea. Don’t be afraid to be flexible about your idea and focus instead on creating value for the world and your market.
- Be optimistic but also realistic about the market you’re serving and the expectations.
- Networking makes a big difference. Never think you can achieve your dreams alone. Get the right people on board and get the train moving.
- Be very resourceful, read books to help you grow on your entrepreneurship journey, get advice from mentors, entrepreneurs and advisors. Just never stop moving forward.
- If you believe, pray first about your future team and start seeking them out. The strength of your team matters. It’s very important to not just have people who think your idea is another “nice idea”, but people who are truly passionate about it. These few are connected to your vision and ready to do their all to make it a reality.