British-based luxury brand, ISABELLA QUEEN is run by Isabelle Ugochukwu. One of the hardest-working women in the world, she is passionate about creating quality, hand-crafted accessories. Her products bear testament to the brand’s advocacy for quality-ingredients-meet-fantastic-craftsmanship.
Isabelle was named ‘Creative Industries Entrepreneur’ at the 2016 edition of the Great British Entrepreneur Award powered by NatWest, and is our “Black Power” feature this week …
Name: Isabelle Amarachi Ugochukwu
Best known for: Working myself to the bone and ISABELLA QUEEN
Website: www.isabelleugochukwu.com & www.isabellaqueen.co.uk
Describe yourself in three words: Hardworking. Resilient. Witty
Previous occupation: Corporate Senior Project Manager & Founder & Creative Director of ISABELLA QUEEN. I actually do two full-time jobs at the same time; crazy, huh?
12-month goal: Leave my corporate job and work solely on the business.
Describe your outlook & what makes your work/brand, unique: We create elegant structures with stylish flair comprising clean, classic and structured shapes, well-designed colour contrast and our signature chic satin London skyline lining. That is how we strike a chord with the discerning consumers and sophisticated clientèle who seek out our bags.
Your greatest career highlight to date: Winning the Great British Entrepreneur of the Year NATWEST BOOST ‘Creative Industries Entrepreneur of the Year’ award on the 22 November 2016.
Is international appeal important to you? Of course! I am a mixture of about six or seven different nationalities, so bringing whatever I do to the world is important to me. ISABELLA QUEEN is trademarked in the UK, Europe, the Far East, the Americas and counting …
Most important piece of equipment you use in your career: Hmm … I can often be found in front of my laptop, behind a camera and the framing tools for the bags. The laptop covers all communications, which is crucial for getting the brand story out there. But none of it would be possible without the framing tools, that we use to fix our unique frames onto the bags … or without the camera, for taking the pictures that so strongly convey the brand identity.
A typical day for you is: Get up at 06:30, whizz through the house getting ready, do some tidy up as I go along, out at 07:45. I read books on leadership on my way to work while putting some social media posts out for the business. I also chat to my other half for a few minutes. Then I do the whole 9-6 thing with an hour’s break for lunch, watch a documentary and eat a good home-cooked meal (my only meal of the day). As soon as the clock strikes 18:00, I get on work for the business. I do that until 22:30, then make my way home whilst catching up with my mother on the phone. If I’m still hungry when I get home, I grab a bowl of cereal, catch up on and reply to all social media messages, watch an episode of something crime-y before bed. Right now I’m making my way through Criminal Minds. I typically fall asleep around midnight.
The last reality check you received: My bank statement (laughing). Being an entrepreneur is tough and everyday is a financial reality check. But I have become so frugal in the process and I can’t wait till things get back to normal because I would have learned to live so economically, that I’ll be a whizz at saving loads in a short period of time.
What legacy would you like to leave? WOW. What a question! To build a global business empire. To be a world renowned philanthropist, making a real and tangible difference in the lives of women. To build a lifelong joyful and purpose-filled marriage. To raise whole and happy children. To leave an enduring legacy.
What is the hardest professional decision you’ve ever had to make? I don’t find it hard to make decisions. I just analyse, then choose. Any decision that involves spending large amounts of money is tough but you just have to do it. And if it doesn’t work out, then you’ve learned, meaning the money wasn’t wasted, even if it didn’t return to you how you expected it to.
Your biggest career mistake: Wanting too much to have it my own way in a negotiation with a retailer. It cost me a potentially huge contract.
Most common & avoidable mistake you see in younger people in your career: They are arrogant, think they know it all but have no wisdom; don’t actively seek it out by finding mentors and when they do, they don’t listen to them. Until it all goes wrong, then they wonder what happened.
Single piece of advice you give your mentees: Get mentors, ask them to review every major move you want to make and do what they tell you. Even if you think they are wrong, do what you want but also do what they tell you so you can benchmark the two ways. If your mentors are wise and have been around the industry long enough, they won’t be wrong, even if you are right. It’ll either be that you were wrong and they were right, or that you were both right and had perspectives each other couldn’t see. Mentors are crucial because you need someone who is experienced and has been where you want to go to take you there. No one would stay on a plane if the captain announces they have no formal qualifications and have no idea where they are going or how to get there.
You live in: London
Favourite food: Jollof rice (from Tasty’s Nigerian restaurant – none other), a good creamy king prawn and mushroom risotto, Eton mess dessert, anything with pavlova, cream and summer berries, salted caramel cheesecake, melt in the middle chocolate cake with Carte d’Or vanilla ice cream, moules marinière, grilled tiger prawns with extra virgin olive oil and fresh herbs … basically mostly Nigerian or French food 🙂
Biggest life lesson you’ve learned: Hope for the best but expect the worst.
What do you do for leisure? I go to the cinema, cook, watch documentaries and crime or comedy series and go for long walks or runs.
One app or piece of technology you cannot do without: Instagram. How did I live before it?
Your most over-used word/phrase: “It’s not the end of the world!”