By Rick Dandes
The Daily Item
LEWISBURG — Bucknell senior Felicia Ngozika Mgbada, a budding fashionista, said she always wanted to infuse Nigerian materials and prints with modern design. And so she has, with a company she has already launched called SOFO — the letters of which are the initials of her grandmother and grandfather’s names.
“As a freshman in high school, I dreamed of owning my own boutique where I could sell such clothing,” she said. “I still dream of owning my own boutique. SOFO has been a passion of mine for a very long time.”
That passion was in full display during Bucknell’s Small Business Development Center’s “Beyond the Bubble: Business Pitch Competition,” which drew 23 groups or individuals, all vying for a top prize of $1,500 and one year’s worth of space in the SBDC business incubator, in the downtown DeWitt building.
That competition was won by Bryan Richman for his Shared Spark online social networking idea.
In second place were the nine students behind Bucksell.com.
Mgbada came in third — a spectacular showing, considering the tough competition.
But she is already beating the competition in other ways: her company already exists in the real-world marketplace.
“My determination to become an entrepreneur, to develop and manage my own brand, to bring a piece of my Nigerian culture to America and to create a stable environment for Nigerian women to work motivated me to start SOFO Collection,” she said.
Mgbada’s grandparents were proud of their culture and family and this sense of pride is what she wanted to cultivate in her brand. “All of these things,” she said, “coupled with my passion for fashion and for how women wear clothes to express themselves has made me more determined than ever before to establish a brand that women all across American will recognize.”
Her collection is different, she said, “because it is not common.”
You cannot walk into a store like Macy’s and find what SOFO offers.
“The fabrics and jewelry are not something you see women wearing in the west,” Mgbada explained, “especially in America. SOFO offers clothes that are trendy, unique and unforgettable.”
Mgbada had the idea for her line for a very long time, she noted, “but I actually started materializing my vision in the spring semester of my junior year at Bucknell, last semester. I wanted to wait until I graduated from college to start the business because I thought it would be the best time, but someone told me that the best time is the present, why wait?
“As far as finding time,” she said, “I truly believe that if you are passionate about something, you will find the time no matter what. Most times I find myself not being able to sleep after a long day of school, homework and [basketball] practice because I have SOFO on my mind. I do most of the work for SOFO very late at night. My passion for this business drives me even when it seems like I do not have the time.”
Besides being the owner of SOFO, Mgbada is a business management and English major, and is on the Bucknell women’s basketball team. She is also president of the Bucknell African Student Association.
One of her major goals at SOFO is to have the collection become a recognizable brand among women. “Moving forward, my next objective is to develop a web site so that I can start selling online as well as in person,” she said. “I’m also just building up my inventory as I continue to sell. I do not have investors, but that is something I plan on doing going forward.”
Mgbada knows she can’t do all this alone, so she will be looking for someone who understands her and is as excited about her vision as she is.