CEO Spotlight

An Exclusive Interview With Addie Elabor, CEO of D’IYANU

CEOWORLD magazine has engaged in an exclusive interview with Addie Elabor, CEO of D’IYANU. D’IYANU celebrates African heritage with stylish, contemporary clothing for the whole family. They create bold prints and design unique pieces that allow our customers of all backgrounds to express themselves through African culture.

The upbringings of the D’IYANU brand truly represents the American dream. The founder and CEO Addie Elabor was six years old when her  family moved from Nigeria to the US. The transition was difficult, as she struggled to fit in. But when she grew older, she embraced my uniqueness and no longer desired to blend in.
Addie found her individuality through clothing that helped her stand out from the crowd. Fashion became her form of self-expression and empowerment, especially in college, where her love for community and African culture bloomed. Compelled by her vision and only six styles for women—one blouse, two dresses, and three skirts—D’IYANU launched  in 2014 from her studio apartment in King of Prussia, PA.

What is your favorite part of being an entrepreneur?
Addie Elabor:
My favorite part of being an entrepreneur is having the opportunity to make my vision a reality and create success on my terms.

What is the biggest challenge of developing a niche brand?
Addie Elabor:
The biggest challenge of developing a niche brand is scaling it and reaching new audiences.

What are some of the challenges that you have faced while developing your company? How did you handle them or overcome the hurdles?
Addie Elabor:
The top two challenges I’ve faced in developing my company have been finding the right employees to fill key roles and setting up structure and organization. Although we have been fortunate to hire some great team members and build some level of structure, these two elements are always a work in progress as we continue to grow and expand the brand.

What were the first two years like when you decided to launch D’IYANU?
Addie Elabor:
The first year of launching D’IYANU was the most challenging. When I launched in Jan 2014, I was still working full time and managed D’IYANU on the side from my studio apartment. By May 2014, I decided to quit my full-time job and run my business full-time, although I wasn’t profitable.

At the time, I was really hustling to get my brand off the ground. I would set up for vendor events in Philadelphia and NYC, and I would also set up in front of a dentist office on South 4th st in Philadelphia. I also managed to get my products into 2 boutiques in Philadelphia. By Oct of 2014, I took a FB course that helped drive traffic to my website, and my brand began to grow from there.

My first year of business ended up being profitable due to the FB ads I created. By April of 2015, I was able to move my business into an office space and hire my first employee. By year 2, D’IYANU reached $485k in revenue with two full-time employees.

What are your responsibilities/roles in the business and how do you split them with other Executives on your team?
Addie Elabor:
I manage and oversee design, production, marketing, and finance. My day-to-day involves meeting with my teams both internally and externally to guide and ensure that we’re all working towards our company goals in the various departments.

Design: I meet with the design team once or twice a week to work on upcoming collections. The team researches trends, styles, and prints for upcoming seasons, and I work with them to finalize the looks for each collection. I attend all sample fittings and even serve as the size small fit model. I work with the team to approve garment fits.

Production:
I meet with the production team weekly to review product inventory/replenishment, fabric and garment production status and issues. I guide the team in setting target costs with our vendors for new products and approve vendor invoices.

Marketing: I have several meetings a week pertaining to marketing since it’s the key driver for our business. We have social media, FB/IG agency, events, and photoshoot meetings. I’m also involved with photoshoot planning and production. I set goals for the team and ensure they’re working towards those goals.

Finance & Accounting: I work with the accounting team by providing statements and info needed each month to produce our financial statements. Review the overall financial position of the company monthly.

My brother, Dara, serves as President/COO for the company and manages HR, Customer Service, warehouse, and overall office operations.

Where do you see D’IYANU in 5 years?
Addie Elabor:
In 5 years, I see D’IYANU as a household name and the global leader in the African-inspired fashion industry. I’d like to see at least half of our production done in Africa and the brand making a real impact in the countries that we operate in.

What do you want people to feel when they wear your brand?
Addie Elabor:
I want people to feel bold and empowered when wearing D’IYANU. I want them to feel confident in their uniqueness while celebrating the African culture.

How old are you?
Addie Elabor:
I’m 35 years old.


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Anna Papadopoulos
Anna Papadopoulos is a senior money, wealth, and asset management reporter at CEOWORLD magazine, covering consumer issues, investing and financial communities + author of the CEOWORLD magazine newsletter, writing about money with an enthusiasm unknown to mankind. You can follow CEOWORLD magazine on Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, or connect on LinkedIn for musings on money, wealth, asset management, millionaires, and billionaires. Email her at info@ceoworld.biz.