From $6,000 to $3.3 million, she is putting the boss back into BossBabes

When you think of most 25 year olds, you don’t usually expect someone who has sold two companies, and has launched three more. Someone who has done partnership deals with the likes of Kylie Jenner or who has secured their own spot on TVNZ.

Iyia has done it all, and more. And even deeper than her crazy work ethic and her well deserved results, she has also built a 50,000 strong community around girls in business and connecting others to do the same.

I was super excited (and a little nervous) to reach out to her and her answers are amazing. So without further adieu, here’s Iyia!

S: Before we jump into it, can you explain who you are and what you do for those few that don't yet know?  

My name is Iyia (pronounced E-ya), I’m a 25 year old of NZ based entrepreneur. I founded my first successful business Waist Trainer at age 21 after graduating from Uni, selling thousands of products per week to over 90+ countries around the world, in 2016 I launched a supplement and fitness company (Luxe Fitness), again growing it into a multi-million dollar global business within a few months, and sold both of those businesses in 2017.

Since then, I have started a fashion e-commerce retailer (Bambi Boutique) December 2017 which I sold in early 2019, and a Gift Boxing e-commerce business (Celebration Box), which I currently run, as well as running the women’s organisation Girls in Business. The Girls in Business group has garnered more than 50,000 NZ and Australian members, and has now become a string of networking and conference style events, to inspire other women to achieve their goals and dreams.

With your first company Waist Trainer, you started with $6,000 in savings. Where did you put that money to grow it into the $3.3 million dollars you netted in the first year?

With limited capital when I launched, I put that initial investment into a small amount of stock, set up a website with a $200 Shopify template, and some marketing (Facebook ads, sending out product to people to review). I continued to re-invest the profits, and grew like that.

What blows my mind is that you haven't launched one successful business, you've launched four (that I know of). From Waist Trainer to Celebration Box, how did you consistently build brands and businesses that work?

All of my businesses have had the same business model. An e-commerce business model with a heavy focus on digital marketing. Because this model works for me, I’ve stuck to the same model with different product(s). I like to try new marketing techniques and am constantly tweaking my businesses, if I see something works, I will repeat on a larger and larger scale, if something doesn’t work I might try it again, make some changes, or not do it again.

What has been your main motivation as you've launched all these brands? 

I love the challenge of growing something, and seeing something develop from nothing. It’s the journey, challenge and experience that really motivate me. 

Tell us more about Girls in Business. What's the motivation behind that? What's the goal?

When I started my first business I was 21. I had no one to talk to about anything business related, my friends were all finishing Uni or working, meaning I had to google my way through my first couple of years in business. Girls in Business is a group and string of events where women interested in business can connect and help each other out. It’s been an invaluable resource for myself, it’s a great place to find new clients, vendors and meet other business owners or aspiring business women.

From the events you've done so far, what are the biggest takeaways you've learned from the speakers and your community?

Our speakers and community range in age and ethnicity, are from different industries, from start ups, to some of the top business women in NZ - so there has been a lot of wisdom and different experiences shared from a diverse range of people. I think my biggest takeaways have been: 

  • Taking action is key, too many people plan and plan and try to perfect things before they take action. Sometimes you just need to try something, see what happens, and improve from that.

  • Relationships are so important (relationships with other brands, other businesses, your customers, other) - collaboration will get you much further than working on things alone

  • Don’t be put off by what others say. Take opinions and feedback into consideration, but it’s impossible to please everyone, so just do your best.

You started your first business at what some people would consider a young age. What advice do you have for other people who are younger and are wanting to start their first business?

I think the younger the better. You have less to lose, you don’t have to worry about supporting children, paying a mortgage etc. meaning you can take more risks.

Are there any daily / weekly actions you make consistently that you feel are a big part of your success?

I spent a lot of time on my own working, including after hours. A lot of people become content with their 9 to 5, they go to work, go home, put their feet up, and rinse and repeat. Theres nothing wrong with that, but if you have a dream to make your business work, you need to really put in the time and effort. When I started out, I didn’t mind working late on my laptop, finishing my website, answering customer emails, sending orders, I used to ’Netflix’ and print orders after work until bed time. At least until I got things off the ground, then I could afford a team to help me.

If you today could give yourself advice 4 years ago when you were just starting off, what would it be?

I don’t have much advice for myself 4 years ago. I’m a firm believer in ‘everything happens for a reason’. There have been happy times as well as hard times along my journey, it goes up and down, but after a rough patch I always seem to end up in an even better place, so now I just ride things out and roll with it. Although I definitely used to stress a lot more. Every time something went wrong e.g. shipment stuck at customs, shipment arriving wrong, items out of stock etc. I used to freak out - which is wasted energy. Now, I just immediately acknowledge there is a problem, problem solve and move on.

What's it like leading a growing organisation? What's the best advice you would recommend to other founders when it comes to building culture and incredible teams?

I have found the hardest part of running a business is managing people. Not everyone has the same goal as you, and it’s hard to keep everyone motivated and passionate. I’ve found that having an open plan office space and allowing the team to mingle is great for relationship building. It’s important to make sure your team wants to be there. It’s also important to provide meaningful and challenging work, even just occasionally, to break up a repetitive work cycle.

Tell us more about BossBabes? How did the opportunity come about to film this? What can the audience expect?

BossBabes will be released on TVNZ On Demand shortly, I was approached to film a series focusing on influencers and female entrepreneurship, documenting the adventures of myself and my good friend Edna as we embark on life and business. I really hope it’s funny, and people don’t take it too seriously. I never say no to a good opportunity, and have had a blast working on this show and that’s really all I wanted out of it.

What's your favourite quote at the moment?

My favourite quote of all time is:

“Day one, or one day?"

What's a random fun fact about you that most people don't know?

People probably expect me to be quite a serious person, but in reality I’m quite crazy, random and don’t take life too seriously. 

Based on what you've seen and done, if someone wanted to follow in your steps to creating an impact, what should they do?

Follow their dreams. Starting my own business, I never thought “I’m going to start my own business to make money”, I just wanted to work for myself, and be my own boss for the challenge, the flexibility and an accomplishment. If someone has a dream, no matter what it is, as long as they take actions towards it, step by step, they will get there. 

Also, things don’t always happen in the order you think they will, but they will eventually so don’t lose your patience, there is more than one path to the end goal. 

When I started my very first clothing business straight out of Uni, just before Waist Trainer, I thought this was going to be my big break. Unfortunately, I had to shut that business down when Waist Trainer grew. I had no expectations for Waist Trainer, and it grew beyond my imagination. So again, don’t be discouraged if things don’t work out immediately, persistence is key.

And finally, where's the best place people can find out more about you and follow your journey?

My website is but for more regular updates, my Instagram is best to follow @iyialiu for regular updates

I’m also trying to delve into youtube shortly too, and am currently working on some business vlogs and tutorials for my channel.

Steven Male