7 June 2021|Female Founder Spotlight, Latest Posts, Meet the Successful Founder
We recently interviewed Ulviyya Ismayilova, the founder of the luxury lingerie brand Dare to Desire. It was created as an online retail business during the pandemic in 2020. Here she shares her entrepreneurship journey.
Can you tell us a little about your background and the company?
I was born and raised in Azerbaijan and came to London at the age of seventeen to pursue my studies. After getting degrees in Finance and Accounting from Cass Business School, I initially worked in banking and real estate.
Traditionally, most people would go into the luxury or fashion industry because they have a passion for design, but this was not the case for me as my background was in economics and accounting. I had no experience in fashion design, but have always expressed interest in entering the luxury industry. So towards the end of my accounting degree I decided to pursue a master’s degree in Luxury Brand & Management to see where that path would take me.
Then a year ago, in the midst of the pandemic, I finally realised my dream, and created my own luxury lingerie business Dare to Desire. The collection comprises soft, silky lingerie pieces, ultra-feminine nightdresses, as well as accessories such as mulberry silk face masks and sleeping masks. They are all available online, which is what’s needed at present, especially in the retail sector.
How did the idea come to you for the company?
One year after I finished my master’s studies I looked at trends in various industries. I wanted to see where I could add value, specifically in the womenswear market, and where there were opportunities. I found that the lingerie market was lacking products for women who wanted something feminine and sexy but also weren’t looking to spend hundreds of pounds on luxury lingerie.
Dare to Desire was born during the pandemic which had a very negative effect on all businesses and offices. However I felt this was a huge advantage for me as it gave me the time and opportunity to put all my energy and focus on my vision for the brand. I started to take the necessary steps such as research, which involved many hours of looking at different types of bras that already existed in the market, and taking notes on what I did or didn’t like. I tried to substitute expensive fabrics with more affordable ones while keeping that feeling of luxury, and creating the prints and designs which would stand out from the rest.
I read stories and watched documentaries about successful women entrepreneurs who gave me inspiration and the courage to launch my own business. So in 2020 Dare to Desire was born.
How did you achieve awareness?
Dare to Desire is an e-commerce business. We don’t have any physical shops and operate only online, so we try to focus on social media marketing to bring awareness to the brand.
We use tools such as Facebook Ads and Google Ads to run our campaigns. We also work with local as well as international Influencers and Bloggers. Since we launched in August 2020 our Instagram profile has grown to 12.1k followers and our website gets traffic of 1000-2500 viewers per month. We also focus on other social media platforms such as Facebook, Twitter, TikTok, Pinterest and YouTube.
How have you been able to gain funding and grow?
I started with a small budget with money I saved over a period of time and worked from home initially. A few months later I had to find some office space as business was growing and I couldn’t store the stock in my flat any longer. We now have a small office where we keep our stock and send the daily orders from there.
What are the key successes?
· Growing our Instagram account to 12.1k followers
· Returning customers
· No returns issued since the brand was launched
· Having 5-star reviews on our website
· Launching 3 Lingerie collections
· Selling out on some of the products within 3 months
What were/are the challenges and how have you overcome these?
We had a question to answer: Why would someone buy from a small, unknown brand when there are so many big well-known lingerie brands on the market? Thanks to clever social media management, very competent people and our passion for our business, we have overcome this challenge. We found out later that many people prefer to support and buy from small local businesses rather than from big well known high street brands.
Our second challenge was the online campaigns. Being a lingerie brand and having pictures of models wearing underwear, our ads were always being rejected or blocked because of nudity. We then found that a better way to promote our business was to work with influencers and comply with Facebook policies as well as communicate with them directly to solve the issues.
What are your plans now/for the future?
Our plan for now is to grow our customer base and continue building the trust of our clients. We aim to build a huge and well-known platform which will become a one-stop destination for anyone looking to buy lingerie.
Something like Net-a-Porter or Far-fetch but only for lingerie. We want to start working with small lingerie brands all over the world and collaborate with them to bring their products to our platform so that anyone can go to Dare to Desire and find the style and brand they’re looking for.
What would you like to share with others to encourage them to start their own entrepreneurship journey?
My view is that people should dream, set goals and materialise these goals. Sit down, take a pen and write down everything that you’d like to achieve in your life. Then point by point write down HOW you’re planning to achieve these goals.
Put your whole heart into it and remember details are important. Forget about profits initially, put your vision first and profit will come later. Focus on the business, care for it, love it, work hard and make each day better than yesterday.
Can you share your top 5-10 tips for entrepreneurial success?
1. Work on the business that you enjoy
2. Be organised and punctual
3. Marketing and Advertising online are very important, invest in those the most
4. Remember that you’re not going to sell the product straight away, it will take some time. Be Patient.
5. Use every opportunity to Learn
Who are the people who inspire you the most?
The person who inspired me most is my father. Although I come from a country where women often take the role of a housewife, he always encouraged me to be strong and independent with dreams and goals. He always told me I needed to explore my full potential. He taught me that even in the toughest situations in life you should never give up but continue to work hard and stay strong.
Negin Misraleh is an influencer who grew her fashion platform, and then launched her own hair care brand. She used her father’s Bee Garden and helped her father by using the honey in her hair care products such as oils, masks, shampoo etc.
Chiara Ferragni is an Italian influencer who also started as a fashion blogger but then launched her own clothing brand and became a successful entrepreneur.
What is your favourite inspirational /motivational quote?
Never leave that till tomorrow which you can do today Benjamin Franklin
What are your social handles and website links so our readers can connect with you?
· Website: https://daretodesire.store/
· Twitter : https://twitter.com/DARETODESIRE1
· Pinterest: https://www.pinterest.co.uk/daretodesirelingerie/