GBEMISOLA SEGNORA COLOGGI, chief executive officer, Segnora Luxury, speaks to ANGEL JAMES on how she turned her love for high-end brands as a personal shopper into a business.
Gbemisola Segnora Cologgi’s brand name, Segnora Luxury, is coined from her name Segnora, a Portuguese word that means ‘a lady’ or something feminine.
The name Segnora was given to her by her husband while they were living in Portugal. Most Portuguese couldn’t pronounce her Yoruba name, Gbemisola. Therefore, her husband came to the rescue when he nicknamed her Segnora. The name has since stuck and has now become her business name.
Segnora Luxury sells authentic high-end designer bags and shoes, sourced directly from the high-streets around the world ranging from Chanel, Christian Dior, Prada, Gucci, Ferragamo, Hermes, Christian Louboutin et al., in Africa.
“Our sister brand Segnoragems sources for SCAVIA, David Webb, Cartier, Johnny Lu, and sophisticated high-end statement jewellery for our clients and the elites. I also design trendy, unusual and timeless jewellery with authentic precious stones, gold and diamonds,” she says.
Segnora holds an MSc in Diplomacy and International Affairs. She is a member of Chatham House, (Royal Institute of International Affairs), GIA Gemologist, and a Jewelry Artist based in Abuja and Nigeria. She is married to a retired Career Diplomat turned businessman.
She started as a personal shopper 18 years ago, sourcing for high-end jewellery, bags, shoes and clothes for extremely busy ladies, rich homemakers, senators, House of Reps Members, in Abuja, Nigeria.
She is motivated to build her business around an idea that is bigger than just making money.
“My greatest motivation is that I am building a business that is making an impact on my clients. I run a business that creates freedom and financial security at the same time. I meet good people on a daily basis,” she explains.
She narrates her experience as a personal shopper to the First Lady in one of the West African Countries, 16 years ago. The experience helped her to develop her business and know many places as a Wardrobe Consultant. It took her to high-end streets round the world.
Some luxury shops strengthened her job as a personal shopper. She saw these stores while living in Manhattan, New York, with her husband.
“When I finally met my husband, we stayed in the middle of Manhattan, waking up and peeping through the window every day, I see all those brands. It is something I cherish and love.
My view, the high-end stores, the advert on the billboards give me so much joy, and I know all the nitty-gritty of the high-end brands. I love shopping, and I was doing it every day. My husband encouraged me. When I finally moved to Africa, I discovered I have unused bags which I used to open a shop. I started Segnora Luxury online, and luckily I met good people and channel of distribution than was from New York to the customers.”
To her surprise, Segnora sold 40 bags in a month. Her husband was impressed, and he had to borrow her money to expand the business.
She says she has some customers that prefer to negotiate with her to get Hermes bag than to walk into a Hermes Shop to purchase a bag.
Her clients mainly influence her choice of design and brands to stock.
“I must have in my collection quality and unique items. I deal with luxury goods, both jewellery and bags. I love my collection to be always different, unusual and something you can’t get anyhow,” she explains.
Among her A-list clients are busy female executives, wives of head of missions, senators, House of Representatives members, ministers, governors, first ladies, diplomats, businesswomen or men and trophy wives.
“I also have in my chain men that want to spoil their wives silly, they call me and ask me to package luxury items like jewellery, bags, clothing which I deliver myself.”
One of the challenges facing her business as a luxury retailer is the inflation rate, high exchange rates and high taxation on luxury items.
“It’s so difficult to do business nowadays in Nigeria thank God we have customers worldwide and we like mix it up to keep on going,” she laments.
Segnora Luxury is an appointment-only retail store located in Abuja. There a private lounge where customers are first received with a welcome drink of canapes and champagne. The client is then taken on a video tour of some high-end shops in Europe and America to show what they currently have in stock.
“Our stock, she adds, “are mainly shipped from New York directly to clients. We only keep some samples here in Nigeria. I have been personal shoppers to some families for years. When a particular bag or jewellery is out, I send samples to my clients and wait for the go-ahead to get it shipped down.
“We sell strictly luxury items, and any item you buy from us has guarantee just like when you buy at high-end shops directly. We take responsibility for any damages and send it directly to the shops to get a refund or exchange even after a year. You can’t get that anywhere in Africa.”
The next big step for Segnora Luxury is to get a franchise of some high-end luxury brands to West Africa. Going that route require a lot of capital.
“Insecurity and capital have been a huge challenge so far for our expansion plans. Dealing in luxury goods is capital intensive. Insecurity has not also helped. Therefore, I have limited my stock of jewellery and bags to just a few pieces.”