My Business Story

Entrepreneur's Unusual Textile Design Puts Her On The Map

After years of study and pursuing her dream, Oyidiya finally takes top spot in competitive textile design market

One thing that thrilled Oyidiya Ajike when she was growing up was how her father, a civil engineer, designed things. Her father, she said, always left his engineering signature and ingenuity on any project he handled. His most obvious signature was on their house, and it was where Oyidiya’s love for design took hold and began to blossom.

In the beginning… 

She recalled: “My father is a retired civil engineer. I grew up around design. Obviously, having my father as a civil engineer exposed me early to design. He was quite good at it and you could see the extra creativity and aesthetics that went into the design of the house we lived in and the décor.”

Despite her love for design, Oyidiya’s parents steered her towards a different path; but even on this path, the seed of creativity already sowed in her childhood years would still find expression.  

Business brief:
Started 2008
Social media contact:
@ivo_luxurytextiles @hudayyabycoutureliving

“My father’s colourful and dramatic designs influenced my attraction but that didn’t necessarily mean I was going to study civil engineering,” the Abia State-born entrepreneur stated. 

Oyidiya initially started studying medicine in Nigeria before opting to move to the United Kingdom, where she eventually earned a degree in Pharmacology and Physiology. 

But her passion was still somewhere else. She had the fire of entrepreneurship burning in her and she indulged it by registering her first business in 2008, even before completing her studies in the UK. 

She explained: “When I finished my first degree I went back to school to study interior design, and then went on to the Imperial College Business School, where I studied business management in 2011.”

Returning home to do business

The Managing Director of IVO Textile said she started with the seed capital saved from working in the UK. She got some support in the form of work space from an architect friend who bought into her concept and vision.  

However, Oyidiya knew that passion for design alone would not break her into the flooded interior décor market in Nigeria. She decided to specialize in textile design, where she would have more freedom to express her creativity. 

“Textile design takes a slightly different angle to interior design because for my own personal aesthetics I love beautiful and luxury-looking textiles. I knew that even though I wanted to be an interior designer, I wanted to focus more on fabrics and textiles for the interior design industry,” she said.  

In retrospect, it was a strategy that worked. But Oyidiya confessed that it took some experimenting and improvisation to make her brand what it is today.

"Building the capacity of the people I worked with was difficult. I found it difficult to convey and translate my ideas to people. Having people to see the vision and see it through the way I wanted things done was a challenge."

“Although I had to think about how to create my niche in the market, I still had to start as an interior designer and source for jobs and all that,” the CEO of IVO Textile said. “However, it wasn’t fulfilling for me because I wanted to be a textile designer able to create and sell my own collection,” she added. 

When Oyidiya didn’t immediately have the means to achieve her aim, she decided to start stocking other people’s brands. She supplemented her décor with investing in the catalogues of upmarket internal brands, while bidding her time. 

“It was two, three years ago that I decided I had tested the market enough to start producing and pushing out my own collection,” said.

Challenges, Lessons and breakthrough 

A disruptor, Oyidiya was confronted with a peculiar challenge when she started IVO Textile.  “Building the capacity of the people I worked with was difficult. I found it difficult to convey and translate my ideas to people. Having people to see the vision and see it through the way I wanted things done was a challenge,” she said.

Being a high-end brand, Oyidiya also faced some challenges when foreign exchange rates started to fluctuate in 2015. And there are the usual challenges faced like all other small and medium scale businesses run in Nigeria. 

However, there was a specific encounter which tested Oyidiya’s resolve in 2015: “We had six projects all at the same time in Kano, Bauchi, Anambra, Imo and Abuja. We were shipping goods every week and my goods were seized by the Customs Service, but our clients showed understanding and we were able to resolve the snag and deliver.”

Oyidiya started IVO Textile with one tailor and a secretary/assistant but had to learn a basic business lesson along the way as her business grew.

“At some point when we were growing, I had too many staff and was struggling with keeping them on permanent terms,” she said. “We had about six sales assistants, about eight installers, there were customer service assistants, tailors, personal assistant and all of that. I had to restructure my business to make access to staff more flexible.” 

Oyidiya said although her business has grown, her definition of success is when progress is continuous and sustained and lessons learnt along the way are used to improve the business.