During my college years, I explored many fleeting interests and changed my major at least 3 times before setting my sights on Communication. I dabbed in becoming a teacher my freshman year, before my ears encountered the shrill screams of children. I then decided that I wanted to pursue Business, before realizing my limits in comprehending mathematics. My last switch to majoring in Communication was spent exploring PR, filmmaking, and media studies before stumbling upon Journalism. I became very interested in the field of Journalism and as a result, took a few classes to enhance my knowledge in the subject. I wrote many articles whether it was for a class or for the school newspaper. I loved interviewing people and creating pieces of writing that could entertain, educate and most importantly, inform people. Here is an article I wrote as part of a Fashion Beat, mainly focusing on style in the Bay Area:
WILLOW GLEN, Calif.– Standing next to the counter, Ibi Oluwole is carefully arranging a new shipment of necklaces and bracelets she ordered into the store. Amethyst druzy cut stones and delicate gold owl pendants dangle from her hands, reflecting off a sliver of light, provided by three o’clock in the afternoon. Draped in a cobalt blue blouse, she greets me with a smile so genuine, it’s as if we are old friends meeting for coffee.
Five years out of college, Oluwole is exactly where she wants to be in life, and where she always knew she would be. She graduated from Santa Clara University with a major in Marketing in 2007. She initially wanted to attend the Fashion Institute of Design and Merchandising to study design.
“My parents really wanted me to go the traditional college route, so I ended up attending Santa Clara,” she shrugged.
Sticking to her guns, she continued to pursue her interests in fashion, learning the business side of the industry. While at Santa Clara, Professor Shelby McIntyre helped her narrow her focus from fashion design to fashion retailing. It was then when pieces of her future began to fall into place.
To gain experience, Oluwole worked as an intern at a mini chain of stores in San Francisco while working towards her degree at Santa Clara. There, she learned how smaller business retailing worked opposed to chain store retailing. Her experience only further solidified her interest in pursuing a future in fashion.
“I always knew I wanted to work in fashion,” she firmly stated, “but my internship showed me how smaller, non-corporate stores work.”
After graduating in 2007, Oluwole opened up her own boutique, located just a few blocks off the Santa Clara campus. Oluwole explains how the naming of her store came about.
“I wanted something that would not only be catchy, but also brand well,” she said. It was soon she decided on the name ‘Ibis’, but her mother’s suggestion of adding an extra ‘s’ on the end sealed the deal.
Oluwole’s dreams, ambitions, and hard work became what is now Ibiss Boutique. Ibiss Boutique quickly gained the attention of Santa Clara students and locals looking for affordable fashion. In 2010, Oluwole expanded Ibiss Boutique, delegating a spot in downtown Willow Glen. The venture was completely serendipitous, as she explains it.
Walking down Lincoln Avenue in Willow Glen, Oluwole peered into an empty storefront, covered with For Lease signs. She called the realtor who also happened to be near the store and as it turns out, the realtor (also a Santa Clara Alumni) was able to show her the space then and there. That space eventually became the additional location of Ibiss Boutique.
In commission for five years now, the boutique’s success is not only credited to the flock of shoppers, but also Oluwole’s dedication to her customers.
“She really knows what she is doing and wants to cater to all of her customers.” said Nora Hanafy, best friend and customer. Describing Oluwole’s process in choosing products, she not only takes into consideration her personal taste, but also the demographic for each store.
Among the factors in choosing pieces include price, quality, and look. From there, Oluwole considers which styles would fit best at each store, based on the type of customer in each area.
It is also her compassion for customers that she also has for her employees. Always armed with a smile and accessories, Oluwole is always there for her staff when they need her.
“Just the other day, I wasn’t feeling well and Ibi told me to immediately go home and rest,” said Ashley Smaldino, sales associate at Ibiss Boutique. And while Oluwole is always considerate, she also has a fountain of knowledge.
“Having a mentor [like Oluwole] is great in learning to have a concept and knowing what market to appeal to,” Smaldino added.
As she twirls her almond shaped necklace, Ibi’s demeanor does all the talking. Sitting back in a chair sipping on a soda from Subway, she talks about the future of Ibiss Boutique.
“Currently I don’t have any projects I’m working on, no expansions yet, but I’m always buying for the store,” said Oluwole. Putting her degree to use, she also spends her workdays marketing the store on social media such as Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter.