Our Rubies and Potters guest today is no other than the founder and CEO of the Ugochi Iwuaba brand all the way from San Diego, California. Rubies & Potters is a section on our blog where we bring to you great minds doing great things. We’re taking time out to celebrate them and showcase them to the world in our own beautiful way.
Join the train, and let’s do this together.
Welcome on board Ugochi, thank you for gracing our blog, please tell our readers your name and where you are originally from.
I am Stephanie Ugochinyere Iwuaba. I am originally from so many places. My ancestors are from Enugu State, I was born in Onitsha, Grew into myself in Lagos (all in Nigeria). I am currently living in San Diego, California.
Which schools did you attend?
I went to International Nursery school, Sedes Primary school and Federal Government Girls’ College, Onitsha. Then I went to Obafemi Awolowo University in Ile Ife, got a double major bachelors degree in History and International Relations. I have a bunch of certifications in Residential Real Estates and an active Real Estates license. I’m currently pursuing another Bachelors in Fashion Business Management.
Why did you study International Relations initially?
I studied History and International Relations because I had a dream that I could change the world. I also heard diplomatic attachés party a lot on government money! Just joking.
What do you currently do for a living?
Share your career’s journey with us Ugochi.
I have done SO many things! Let me make it short! Fashion blogger, fashion editor at connectnigeria.com, Sales, and Marketing at Connect Nigeria and Platform Nigeria. Promotion coordinator at Soarez Anthony Couture. Ralph Lauren Retail specialist at Macy’s. Property Manager at ConAm Management. Realtor at Keller Williams and Designer at Ugochi Iwuaba. I cut out all the extras! Lol
We know you recently officially launched your fashion line at the San Diego Fashion festival, how did this journey start, can you share some of your experiences with us?
Hmmmnnn…. this journey started when I was a little girl. My dad bought me these yellow suit from Germany. This suit was very well made! Unlike the funny looking ones we bought in Main Market Onitsha! It was so soft and almost plain but the quality was all I could remember! I wore it almost every Sunday! It wasn’t my size like the heels my dad bought with it too. I tied a belt on it and folded it over at the waist so I could wear it! I stuffed the heels with tissue paper. It had straps and was about six inches tall. I didn’t mind, my 9 years old brain was sold! Fashion had me! Then I began to imagine what it will be like to turn all my mom’s abada hollandaise wrappers into lovely clothes like the one’s dad bought from Germany. I remember also going to her metal box, (the one every Nigerian mother had for some odd reason), in her closet to look at all these beautiful fabric just stored in there! That’s where my obsession with African prints started!
Obviously, your brand name is also your name, how did you come about making this decision?
I wanted a fancy name and I had a partner when I started the business so I went with By Gosh! Like an exclamation of something awesome. But after I gained full ownership of the business, I met Kenneth Barlis to discuss the fashion show, and he asked what my brand name was, I said ‘By Gosh’, then broke into this long explanation of what it meant and how it’s tied to Ugochi. He said, ‘what’s the name again?’. I answered, Ugochi. He said that’s a money maker right there! Why don’t you use that name?
Weeks later, I was discussing my first video with a videographer and my production manager for the videos, Robert Buchanan, and the name ‘Ugochi’ came up again and he asked, ‘why isn’t that your brand name?’. I broke into another explanation but I was tired of the explanations and we decided there and then to change it. Start clean. I added Iwuaba because my husband is every bit a part of what I do and also Ugochi sounds too much like Gucci.
Do you have other brands aside from the Ugochi Iwuaba?
I have one more in the works. I will discuss when it’s ready.
What was it like planning and getting ready for the San Diego event?
My God! I was freaking out but completely excited! More than anything, it was very exciting because of the people that were part of it! Kenneth Barlis made most of it less scary! I cried, like bawling, backstage before my show. That’s how freaked out I was! Freaked out but mostly grateful! A lot of adrenaline. Did I say freaked out?! Lol.
What do you celebrate the most on the journey to launching your fashion line?
Grace! God’s grace. I had an opportunity thrown at me. I didn’t plan any of it so it had to be God’s grace.
Can you share some of your challenges on this journey with us?
My biggest challenge was self-doubt. I learned that I had a lot of insecurities in myself and my abilities that I haven’t ever confronted before this launch.
Another challenge that had me startled was my need to please others with my work. I wanted everyone to like my designs. I just learned though, this is art. I make what I love, and I can only hope others love it too but at the end of the day, it’s my expression. It’s art. I am glad I figured that out and it didn’t affect my creations for the show.
What is your favorite color?
Oh my! I love colors. I will just say, shiny! Maybe Red with a luster or shimmer. Very complicated! You know what, I need to figure that out! I will get back to you!
What is your favorite food?
Jollof Rice and Fried Chicken.
What is your favorite business quote?
Make everyday count.
And your favorite life quote?
Live on your own terms.
How do you relax after a stressful day?
I love to hug, kiss, sniff on my babies! We play pretend. Currently, we pretend to be Peppa Pig’s family. They are my stress relievers. Little nuggets of heavenly calm!
Are you married?
Haha! Am I? … OK, yes. Thankfully! Lol
How supportive of your business has your family been?
My husband… my God! He is my backbone!!! I could not have done any of this without him! 110% supportive. My brother-in-law Goodnews Iwuaba, is another storming asset! He is the one behind all the lovely photo-shoots while my husband is my able videographer, you can check out our Instagram handle for more @ugochi_iwuaba. My mom is my quality control manager! My children love my work so much they love to tear things up. My poor threads feel all their support! My cousin, Onyinyechi Udeh is amazing too! My fashion show coordinator! Everyone has been so behind me and encouraging. I thank God every day that I have their support.
Where do you see the Ugochi Iwuaba brand in the next 5 years?
Big! A-list celebrity type big. Actually making clothes for Michelle Washington type of big. I love her style! And she is married to an Igbo brother!
What advice do you have for other young and budding entrepreneurs?
Just do something for your business every day. No matter how little! Just keep moving. Don’t get stuck. It will pay off in the big picture.
Any shout out and closing remarks?
My shout out goes to my husband, Cyprian Iwuaba! Your constant encouragement is my backbone!
Thanks to everyone who has supported me on this journey! My schoolmates, my friends, all the models, the makeup artist who work with me and people who just follow my work and offer encouragements! Thank you FamilyRubies and Titi for this guest feature. You are all rock stars!!!
God’s got your backs!
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