IBY EGBUSON, FOUNDER OF TISTANGE, ON GRADUATING PARK MASTERMIND
When Iby Egbuson moved from Nigeria to Calgary three years ago, she wasn’t sure how to introduce her fashion line to Western Canada.
“From a very young age, I loved to sew and sketch. I was always getting in trouble for filling my schoolbooks with sketches, but I couldn’t help it. Something in me has always needed to create. Even though I loved designing and upcycling clothing — I used to make backpacks out of sweaters and design new dresses from old ones — my parents didn’t want me to pursue art in college. They wanted me to pick a career that was more conventional. I worked in insurance for six years before I became fed up with the corporate world. I didn’t feel fulfilled. I was going through the motions but there was no passion. I never thought I would have the guts to quit my 9-to-5, but in 2011 I did. I resigned and jumped blindly into starting my own business. At least this way, I could tell myself I tried to do something I’ve always wanted to do. I never went to fashion school or had any professional training, but eventually I debuted at Nigeria Fashion Week and African Fashion Week in London.”
When Iby settled in Calgary, she refused to go back to the world of insurance. She started working in retail to get more involved in the local fashion scene but still found something was missing.
“I wanted to do my own thing like I had in Nigeria. After I attended a fashion show at cSPACE, I realized that Calgary’s fashion scene was bigger than I thought. I went home that night and started researching other fashion shows in the city, which is how I came across PARK.”
It was through Instagram that Iby learned about PARK Mastermind — a unique combination of coaching, training, co-working and accountability workshops specifically designed for entrepreneurs who are ready to take massive action and transform their business
“I didn’t know how to introduce my fashion line to Calgary, and I was looking for guidance on where to start. Going into the program, I felt very anxious. I had so much to do but at the same time I felt completely lost. By the fourth week, I noticed I was actually starting to feeling calmer and more grounded. Alison kept telling me to lean on my strengths instead of focusing all my energy on my weaknesses, which was very inspirational. All of the things I was having issues with were my weaknesses — bookkeeping, e-commerce. I am not tech savvy so the moment I realized I could get people to help me manage those things was a total break through. I didn’t have to learn how to do everything by myself.”
Iby’s fashion line, Tistange, is inspired by two things: her love of colour and her love for travelling.
“I could be driving down the road and see something like a flag with different colours and suddenly there are tons of ideas floating around in my head. Back in Nigeria, I could spend up to four hours shopping for fabric. Just looking at all of the colours and textures would inspire me. I also love to travel. It exposes me to different cultures including the way people dress. Whenever I am in a new city, I observe what people are wearing. Young versus old, student versus corporate. It always gives me a lot of ideas.”
“One of the biggest misconceptions people have about running a business is that talent will carry you through. Loving something, like fashion or food, and running a successful business are two very different things. It is a lesson I definitely learned the hard way, so I never take education that focuses on helping creators run a business for granted. In my opinion, knowledge is more important than talent. I know how to design and make clothing but I was still confused about the business-end of things before PARK Mastermind.”
Iby recognized early on that her experience of running a business in Nigeria wasn’t completely applicable to Calgary, which is why she welcomed the opportunity to collaborate with four other business-owners throughout her ten-week course.
“At the beginning of the course, Alison gave us all non-disclosure forms to sign. I didn’t fully understand why we signed them at the time but it made more sense as the weeks went by. My favourite part about PARK Mastermind is that you get to talk about your ideas, your vision, and your goals with a supportive group of entrepreneurs. Sometimes it’s scary to talk about your ideas in front of people. They might not understand your ambitions or your goals, but at PARK Mastermind I felt like I could speak freely. I could say everything I wanted to say without fear of judgement, and I got amazing feedback from everyone involved. We also brainstormed solutions that we could apply to our business problems within the same day. For instance, I was planning a fashion show and pop-up during the course and couldn’t figure out how to find models within my budget. Aymie, founder of Curvy Collective, recommended I make a post on Facebook. I had people messaging and calling me people calling me asking to be part of the show. If I had been too afraid to ask that question, I wouldn’t have gotten a great recommendation from someone with real experience.”