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 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.
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