Makings of an entrepreneur: going beyond business & leading by example

Nkechi Balogun is a Nigerian entrepreneur and Founder of Nigeria's leading online fashion business AsoEbiBella. 

She is currently studying for a MBA at the Said Business School and Wadham College with the support of the AfOx Graduate Scholarship and Standard Bank Africa Chairman's Scholarship.

“Loss and love are universal, so generosity and working together should have no ethnicity.”
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Since experiencing personal loss and witnessing the transformative power of community at a young age the value of collaboration has been entrepreneur Nkechi Balogun’s guiding principle. Now the Founder and CEO of AsoEbiBella, Nigeria’s leading online fashion community, this ethos is reflected in everything Ink does. 

Ink is currently an AfOx Graduate Scholar at the Saïd Business School. With a Bachelor of Arts in Modern Culture and Media, she had not studied finance before coming to Oxford. Her intention to expand her business in the global market led Ink to apply for the MBA programme at the Business School in Oxford.  

“Many people believe business school is a place for bankers and financial analysts. But it is also a place for unconventional people like me who want to learn how to expand our business ventures.”

In 2013, Ink decided to turn her love for culture, fashion and media into a business. Started as a passion project, AsoEbiBella now has over 2 million followers worldwide, making it Nigeria’s most popular fashion company. AsoEbiBella is an online platform that connects Nigerian wedding vendors such as fashion designers, tailors and stylists to a global audience and promotes their products.  

Over the last 7 years, Ink has partnered with international brands such as Samsung and HP leading to sold out products and award-winning events. Her innovative marketing campaigns led to a 100% increase in revenue in 2018 and 2020

“Turning my passion into a business needed foresight and bravery. It was a first-of-it’s- kind business in Nigeria so there was no precedent.”

However, Ink’s business decisions don’t rely only on what is most profitable, but also what has the potential to make a difference in her country.  In Nigeria, many wedding businesses are run by women. As Ink started promoting Nigerian fashion, she discovered many of these women had skills gaps such as lack of adequate financial knowledge. 

While expanding her business, Ink is also always looking for ways to empower the women she works with. In an effort to bridge knowledge gaps often organises leadership and training events for women.

To further support women led SMEs, in 2017 Ink partnered with Orijin, a Guinness Nigeria drink, to start a digital campaign showcasing mostly women-led wedding businesses. Thousands of women business owners across all six geo-political zones of Nigeria were promoted on the AsoEbiBella website and were given access to free ads, while five businesses received support to renovate their shops and upgrade their equipment.

Now at Saïd Business School in Oxford, Ink is creating a business plan for an academy to provide scholarships for women.

“There is a major gap to connect Nigerian youth with careers, and our idea could really transform many lives.”

Guided by her belief that people are bound by a sense of community that trumps ethnic tensions, Ink regularly looks for opportunities to contribute towards her country’s economic and social progress. Ink arrived in Oxford as the End SARS movement began in Nigeria, disrupting business that had already taken a hit due to Covid. Looking to make a difference even from a distance, Ink provided free ads on the AsoEbiBella platform to over 60 businesses, which reached nearly 3 million people.

Studying for a MBA during the Covid-19 pandemic and resulting lockdowns in Oxford has been a drastic change from Ink’s entrepreneur life in Nigeria that included meetings with investors, designers and tailors, photo shoots and event organisation. Her day now consists of lectures over Zoom and socially distant walks with friends. However, she has been as busy as her colleagues warned her it would be.  

“I didn’t realise there would be as many opportunities for personal development as there are. Saïd Business School leaves Fridays class-free for these workshops. I have been matched with an amazing leadership coach and we have worked on influencing team dynamics to my leadership style.”

Ink’s value of community and collaboration stayed with her as she adjusted to life in Oxford in the middle of the pandemic. She created support sessions with her peers at the Said Business School to share her expertise in subjects like marketing, and learn from their experience in finance.

“The learning does not start or end within the walls of the business school. Thanks to these review sessions, I got a Distinction in my Analytics class and friends who I helped with Marketing aced their assessment.”

Upon the completion of her course, Ink plans on expanding her business with commerce, by taking African fabrics to the global market, and continuing to empower other women-led SMEs in Nigeria to do the same. 

“Oxford has opened my eyes to the turns my future could take, but the path will always lead me to making a difference in Nigeria.”