Seun Tayo-Balogun, the Chief Executive Officer of Brief Essentials, an online lingerie store, is an entrepreneur, a start-up and business consultant focusing on e-commerce, who provides strategic and tactical advice to business owners. In this interview with Mary Ekah, she reveals her plans to revolutionise lingerie and underwear retailing in Nigeria’s online market place
Why an e-commerce store for only lingerie and undergarments?
My foray into the technology space began over 20 years ago. So I can say I grew up understanding technology as an enabler. On the other hand, as a lingerie and underwear lover, I noticed that Nigeria’s budding online marketplace was missing a one-stop shop for lingerie and underwear with loads of options (brands, colours, styles and sizes). Brief Essentials was that digital solution that will enable Nigerians to purchase underwear in their underwear at prices they will love. S we started small; from a little space in our apartment.
What were the attractions?
At some point after my second child, we needed to get lingerie; bras, panties and shapewear, to help me get back in shape and help increase my overall confidence level. My husband and I realised that an online store was missing, and the brick and mortar stores had limited options and high prices. I knew that I was not alone – many women like me were in need of a one-stop destination for high quality shapewear, bras that fit, panties, swimwear and much more, at prices that won’t break the bank.
And how different are your products from others?
At Brief Essentials, you can find the most wanted brands, fashion forward styles, a diverse range of sizes and colours of lingerie, specifically made with quality in mind and won’t cost the earth to buy.
In what ways does being an entrepreneur affect your home front? Is it easy combining both?
Nothing comes easy, but the key is learning to live a balanced life and achieve success.
Are your products exclusively for the rich?
Not at all. You will be amazed at the plethora of options, the quality and their prices. We have items from as low N1,000.
Why did you choose online marketing and sales?
It has a wider reach, convenience, cheaper to set up and cheaper to manage with a day job. I was working in a paid employment at the time we started Brief Essentials.
What are the prospects of an online business at this time?
There are so many prospects for online businesses in Nigeria. With increased internet penetration, the depth of social media usage, the continuous innovation by the owners of digital and social platforms to ease how these networks are used, social selling and electronic commerce will continue to deliver value to those who are prepared
What is your educational background?
I studied Political Science and Philosophy from the University of Ibadan and Economic Management and Policy from the University of Strathclyde. I am an alumni of the School of Media and Communication.
Does being educated and experienced help your business in anyway?
Oh definitely yes. One of the challenges of many small businesses is remaining a business and growing the business. We’ve been around for seven years. April is our anniversary month. My experiences working in a structured environment and in the areas of business strategy, economic analysis, versatility with a whole lot of computer applications, branding, design and web development have contributed to the success of this business.
Can you tell us about lingerie trends?
Women generally love great bras and panties and then shapewear. These items will remain every woman’s favorite. The lingerie as outerwear trend continues to gain popularity amongst ladies in Nigeria and a lot more women are now beginning to appreciate what we have been preaching, “you don’t have to sacrifice function for comfort”.
More women are switching to very comfortable bras (as a matter of fact, a well fitting undergarment will most likely be comfortable) opting for wireless bras – this has given popularity to the Bralette. The Bralette is the sister to the underwire bra. It is flimsy, has none to minimal padding without an underwire. In addition, several other styles are stealing the spotlight as well. They include longline bras, harness, strappy details and lace racerback. Bustiers and Bodysuits are also gaining popularity – from backless to strappy to lace. This is the item for everyone. Velvet has also made its way back and it is not limited to mainstream fashion. The season’s favourite lingerie styles are now made with velvet – from bodysuits and bustiers to bralette sets and chemises. Velvet is definitely a luxe option for lingerie and everything else.
What would be your advice to shoppers generally?
When buying underwear, please note that the fit is more important than the fashion. If you wouldn’t manage a shoe that’s not your size, why manage an undergarment that does not fit?