By Caroline Okello, Standard Media | October 16th 2019
Original article link here: Luck played no role in shaping our shaper business
When Diana and Eddie Ogendi got into business together, they did not anticipate the challenges that came with running a business as a married couple.
Six years ago, Diana Ogendi’s body changed drastically following childbirth. Clothes that used to fit didn’t fit anymore and the ones that did, didn’t look the same. Her mother had sent her one body shaper that she wore regularly.
“I used to feel uncomfortable with my body until I wore that shaper and I’d immediately feel confident again. It made me look and feel great,” Diana says.
One time she told her husband, Eddie Ogendi, that she needed more shapewear.
He asked a question that led to the start of their business Lady Luck Shapewear in 2013. “He asked me if I thought other women will need them as well,” she says. They ordered a small batch to test how the market would respond.
They had been selling undergarments for a year before then and by the time they introduced the shapewear, they already had trust and brand recognition amongst their clientele. The pieces they ordered moved fast.
Lady Luck Shapewear had humble beginnings. The couple had converted one of their bedrooms into an office and storeroom, and for five years, they run it as an online store.
A year ago, they opened brick and mortar stores at 680 Hotel and Sarit Centre. Their vision is to open more stores across Kenya and East Africa.
10 years of lessons
The two were not new to entrepreneurship. They went straight to it immediately after university.
They dabbled in a branding business, tried catering and a host of other business ventures in a period of ten years that Eddie describes as “ten years of invaluable lessons.”
“We went into business fresh out of campus but I would say the next ten years was another school – the school of business, although I like to call it the School of Hard Knocks because we failed for ten years,” Eddie says. “But we also learnt from the experience. For instance, numbers come first. You need to know your numbers – your operating costs, your margins and so on. We also learnt the power of branding.”
Learning the hard way
“We learnt that a good business solves a need,” Diana adds, “and for it to be a long-term business, you have to be patient enough to learn the market and to learn the ropes of running a business. Sometimes you find someone starting a business, after a short time they think it’s not working, ditch that and jump into another one.”
They also now know that when the market is changing, one needs to be creative to get innovative solutions to cope with the change.
Diana adds that the advantage of working together as a couple was that during those years, they held each other.
“When things were hard, we would psych each other up. And when you’re falling, you’re not falling alone.”
By the time they started Lady Luck Shapewear, they were armed with lessons; they knew what to do and what not to do.
“The more experience you have in anything, the better you are at it. With experience you learn how to manage people better,” Eddie says.
This includes customers, employees and suppliers.
Diana says: “One thing I knew not to do is focus on the money too much. In the catering business for instance, there was a lot of focus on how much we were making in a day, how many plates we were dishing out, but now I have learnt that you can do all that, but the most important thing is to focus on the product and the people and the rest will come. When we were starting Lady Luck Shapewear, we had just gotten born again and so there were many biblical lessons and values we were applying into our business, like treating people well. You get more out of being good to people. You also get more out of having the right kind of products instead of looking for shortcuts.”
Running a business as a couple
Working as a couple comes with many advantages. Having a shared vision helps them move forward with a much stronger force.
They also have different strengths, which when joined works well for the business.
Eddie is good with numbers and strategy. He is in charge of finance, accounting, human resource and operations.
Diana is good at creative work, branding, marketing and product knowledge.
Running a business as a married couple also has its challenges. Establishing clear boundaries between the business and marriage is tough: sometimes they find themselves discussing family matters at work and office matters at the dinner table.
“In the same way we have different strengths and talents, we also have different personalities which can sometimes collide,” Eddie explains.
While Diana would get excited about something and want it done as soon as possible, Eddie would want to know what the return on investment would be, which means it might take a bit longer to work on something but, as Diana points out, “it is always for the good.”
There was a time they shared the same office and desk. “When we were sharing the same space sometimes I’d just look at him and get angry,” Diana laughs, “and I am sure he got angry seeing me all the time as well.” They don’t share the same office space anymore, following advice from an older, married couple that was doing business together who told them to get separate offices.
“We’ve also learnt not to bring fights to work. It is hard sometimes but we do try, because it also makes the employees more comfortable.”
The main challenge they face is time. The business is expanding and they have to give more time to it while still ensuring they have time for family. They handle this by prioritizing tasks, delegating, and outsourcing.
Since opening the physical stores, they get to enjoy ‘live’ feedback and nothing beats that.
“Seeing the joy and excitement in customers faces when they fit our shapers is a great feeling. We also get to meet and interact with the clients. Opening these stores was part of our extension plans but another factor was we noticed there were people who were not confident buying the shapers online, maybe because they’ve had bad experiences shopping online with other business.”
“If you’re looking to start a business, do what you’re passionate about. Start with the end in mind. Give the right service. Even if you’re serving only two clients, give your best.
“Do things the proper way. Record your sales, record your expenditures, and pay yourself a salary so that you avoid spending money meant for the business. And most important, especially for women, get help. Being a mother should not limit you from achieving what you want to achieve,” says Diana.
Eddie adds that faith goes a long way, because for a long time you may not see results.
Also, learn how to manage the numbers. “And remember that for many years you may not afford to live the life your employed friends do because your income is small. It will take great sacrifice and great discipline. There is no short cut.”
Having the right kind of people will take you places. “Sometimes having the right kind of people involves you making them the right kind. You may not always afford someone who has the exact skills you want. You can always give a chance to that person who is not so qualified at the moment, but teach them so that you grow together,” Diana says.