Temidola Ikomi, a 2017 graduate of the D’Amore-Makim School of Business, missed the Northeast community so much, she joined Empowering Women.
Ikomi says she wants to make new connections with like-minded women who want to help each other and have their own businesses.
“The people I’ve met so far on this trip have been amazing,” Ikomi said.
This year, Icomi was awarded the 2022 Innovator Award by Women Who Empower Young Graduate Students with a $22,000 cash prize. She entered the competition last year too but did not win.
“Being an entrepreneur shows that you don’t have to give up when you don’t get what you want. Just keep pushing and pushing,” says Ikomi.
She owns a Nigerian fashion brand called Erawo Studio with her mother and two sisters. Irawo means “stars” in Yoruba, which is one of the three main languages spoken in the country.
They always knew they wanted to do something in the world of fashion, Ikomi says.
“Fashion has been a great way for me to express myself without having to say anything about how I feel,” she says. “We all love fashion. We all want to embrace our Yoruba culture. [and] It’s something we can do in a modern way.”
Ikomi was born in Kano in the northern part of Nigeria and grew up between Lagos, Nairobi, Kenya and South Africa as her father worked in corporate banking. She attended different international schools and met people from different cultures.
In the year In 2012, she went to college in Virginia, but she didn’t feel it was different enough for her. She decided to transfer and chose Northeastern for its diversity and co-op program.
“I believe that sometimes I grow best in adversity, and I felt that the co-op program would really allow me to see myself as a full-time employee before I graduate,” she says.
While at Northeastern, she was a counselor and president of the Northeastern African Student Organization. In the year She graduated from the DeAmore-McKim School of Business in 2017 with a bachelor’s degree in marketing and business administration.
Her first job was in corporate communications. In the year In 2018, Ikomi moved from Boston to Brooklyn, New York, where she currently resides.
When both Temidola Ikomi and her sister Ama Ikomi graduated from college in 2017, the women in her family decided it was time to start a fashion business in Nigeria.
Ama Ikomi went to New York University’s Stern School of Business and took up accounting and finance for his new company. Temidola Ekomi focuses on marketing and advertising. Their younger sister, Anire Ikomi, a graduate of Parsons School of Design, helps with the brand’s public image.
The day-to-day operations of the business are overseen by their mother, Abi Ikomi, who is the Creative Director of Erawo and is based in Lagos full-time.
Ikomi says she got her entrepreneurial nature from her mother. In every country where they lived, her mother had a business: hair, furniture, jewelry.
“I think so, too. “When I’m passionate about something, I give it my all, and I want to make sure it succeeds,” says Ikomi.
She says working with her family was a bit difficult the first year because they had to understand the dynamics between themselves.
“Because it’s a family, you can be very bold and honest. And sometimes that’s what you want in business,” she says.
They try to keep their focus on what is best for the business. All are involved in the creative development process, brainstorming together about brand messaging or the next lookbook, Ecomi says.
At the same time, Ikomi, originally from a Nigerian family, has always had unconditional respect for her mother. The business comes after that.
In their first year of operation, they decided to participate in one of the biggest fashion shows in Lagos to make a big entry into the affluent market, Ikomi says. Erawo Studio also participated in Gitz Fashion Week in Ghana.
“We did all these fashion shows to help us get on board. [on this journey]” says Ikomi.
She describes Erawo’s African-inspired women’s clothing as modern and stylish, as well as very comfortable and professional. She says, Erawo’s clothes are for trailblazers who are chasing their dreams in their own way. They may be mothers, students or working professional women.
“We really want to bring out your inner star,” says Ikomi. “We always say, our pieces are investment pieces, which means that whatever the trend, it’s something you can still wear for many, many years.
They also knit for birthday, wedding or bridal shower parties.
The company handles the entire production process in-house, from the design of textiles and garments to execution and shipping to customers. A team of in-house artisans designs all the fabric designs, which allows Irao Studio to fully control their supply chain, Ikomi says.
Within five years, the company had established itself in the West African markets, says Icomi, with the highest sales in Nigeria and Ghana. They’ve seen growth in the UK and US, particularly in New York City and Atlanta, Icomi says. They are shipped worldwide.
Their goal now is to properly expand into the US market, increase sales and enter more retailers.
“We used influencers to help us enter the US market,” Icomi says. We also do a lot of paid advertising.
This experience of launching and running Erawo Studio taught Ecomi an entrepreneur to have a complete 360-degree view of his business.
“You really have to be fully equipped to know your business inside and out,” she says.
That is why she returned to Lagos for a year and a half in 2019 to better understand the business and its costs.
Icomi still continues to work in marketing and communications outside of Erawo Studios.
“I believe in being a good person and applying what I’ve learned on the job to my business,” she says. “It’s not necessarily about choosing one, but it’s about making time and prioritizing whatever is important to you.”
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