5 female entrepreneurs on success, diversity and style – and why MCQ is their go-to label
Get to know the five young women who have co-founded a flourishing e-commerce agency, as they discuss the need for diversity within the tech industry and the important role that fashion plays in their everyday lives – from selecting the right WFH outfit to why MCQ’s new Eden High Icon collection is a firm favorite for any occasion
Perola Da Cruz, user-experience lead
It’s so rewarding seeing a project through from conception to delivery and bringing clients’ dreams to life. When we’re designing and developing, it’s easy to get caught up in the aesthetics and ignore the actual functionality of, for example, a website and how people feel while interacting with it.
When it comes to clothes, in my opinion, when you look good, you feel good and just naturally exude confidence. You feel unstoppable. Which is why I personally I like to make an effort for work – I always have my nails and hair done. And I find that the effort I make is reflected in my work’s results. MCQ is my go-to label because it has something for every occasion, and pieces that can transition easily from the office to a formal client dinner.
Co-founding Clamp Agency has been an incredible experience, building something of your own and watching it grow is an amazing feeling. The Clamp girls constantly encourage me and push me to be better; I feel grateful to have such an amazing support system. It’s so important to have people that look like you in spaces such as tech; it shows you that those industries aren’t out of reach. I’d advise anyone who wants to start their own business or break into this industry to be very intentional and stay consistent. Be confident. Don’t try to be like anyone else – just try to be the best version of you, unapologetically.
Laila Katumba, technologist and chief diversity officer
My role is to ensure that there is inclusion and diversity across the business from our community and culture to our people. One of the biggest challenges of my role is understanding our identity and culture as a business. It’s so important that, as we make changes, we are inclusive and diverse so that every voice is heard, and every idea is considered.
The tech industry is constantly evolving and there is a real need for people from different backgrounds to bring new ideas and concepts to the table. It’s so important that we all contribute to an industry that impacts our day-to-day lives. I feel that responsibility keenly as a woman working in this world. If you have an idea, go for it! Don't allow fear to cloud your success to come. Be bold. Be courageous. I apply that to the clothes I wear too. A great outfit always makes me feel confident, more alert and ready to take on the day. For example, wearing a blazer makes me feel empowered to take control and ownership of my work. Which is why I love MCQ – its pieces stand out but also let the wearer’s individuality shine through.
Ultimately, though, you need to surround yourself with creatives and inspiring people – learn, grow and conquer! One of my professional highlights was founding Code Collabs, a company that promotes coding among people from diverse backgrounds. And, of course, building Clamp Agency from the ground up with a great team of ladies – and becoming female bosses within the e-commerce industry.
Aurelie Tshiama, architectural and creative director
A key part of my role is having to constantly learn new skills to remain a master of my craft. It’s crucial for the tech industry to start working towards becoming more diverse, because it helps bring out better products and better user experiences. Innovation from a team of different backgrounds and cultures is the recipe to making the world a better place for every single person, now and in the future. The most important lesson I can impart to aspiring female entrepreneurs is to never forget that you are more than capable to do anything you want. The only limits are the ones we place on ourselves.
My style is a reflection of whatever I’m feeling in that moment. I am more productive when I purposefully choose a strong outfit, which is something I’ve kept up throughout the last year, while we’ve been working from home. I don’t know what it is, whether it just gets me into a certain mindset or that I don’t want to waste a good outfit. I think it’s really powerful to wear pieces that you can see yourself wearing in your dream future – it helps you embody a certain type of attitude, a kind of swag to match the outfit. It’s magic.
Mabintou Kolley, chief creative officer
I feel my job is my purpose – and it’s such a blessing to be able to say that. Entrepreneurship is a lifestyle choice. I definitely don’t enjoy how much I struggle to switch off sometimes but that’s a necessary part of it. You have to constantly show up for yourself in a way you’re not required to when you work for someone else; and that can be draining for some and empowering for others. Comparing entrepreneurship to jobs I’ve had in the past, I have never really felt like I had any impact wherever I’ve worked before.
When it comes to my wardrobe, the clothes I wear are very much in keeping with my work – very luxurious boss meets nonchalant creative. So a label like MCQ feels like the perfect representation of my style. I love to be comfortable in athleisure but work does mean I also get to wear heels – and I’ll take that opportunity whenever I can.
High heels aside, the greatest reward at Clamp Agency is constantly seeing and reaping what you sow. My professional highlight has to be starting and running the agency. It takes a lot for five first-generation Black women, all under the age of 26, to come together and do something like that. The odds stacked against us were quite astronomical, but I’m proud to be the change I want to see in the world. My advice to other aspiring entrepreneurs is not let anything or anyone hold you back. People will try but you can’t let them.
Claude Kiseke, chief technology officer
It’s my job to oversee the many tech projects we work on at Clamp Agency, and also keep up with everyone’s side projects, as we’re such a creative and innovative team. Everyone comes up with cool ideas, and I make sure we can bring as many of them to life as possible. Working in a team of five strong-minded women can be hard because we are all very opinionated, but we respect each other’s vision. I would like to be able to teach young black women how to navigate the tech industry. There are so many change-makers in the industry that get overlooked because opportunities are not distributed fairly to people with ideas. A more diverse tech industry would pave the way for more innovation.
My top tip for aspiring female entrepreneurs is to be resilient. Feel the fear and do it anyway. Recover from failure quickly and keep going when the going gets tough. Being an entrepreneur can be draining because the work-social life balance is almost non-existent.
As far as clothes are concerned, I’m either in a tracksuit, working from home, or super-dressed-up, because I hardly ever get the chance! I love how expressive MCQ’s clothing is. I like telling a story with my look. I love how something as simple as smart pants or a power blazer can make you feel. The better you look, the better you feel. And when you feel good, you perform better.
MCQ’s new Eden High Icon collection is available exclusively at NET-A-PORTER until wider release on April 26