Violet Simon, is a Media and Lifestyle Brand based in London, UK that is aimed at empowering women. Their mission at Violet Simon is to share authentic stories and insights of women from different backgrounds regardless of race, sexuality, gender, and age. These stories and insights exemplify rising above cultural and societal stereotypes and constraints with the objective of inspiring women.
As we all know, every success or triumph comes with a story and a path filled with hurdles, and lessons, Violet Simon continue to engage women from all works of life to uncover these stories and lay them bare for other women to know they are not alone. By sharing these authentic stories of women whether they are popular or not; focusing not just on the tail end with glitz and glamour but on the journey to the glamour, the journey in the glamour, and especially journeys without glamour, Violet Simon aim to give a voice to every woman; share their successes as well as their challenges.
We talk to the founder behind this incredibly liberating movement Sophia Ukor, about why she champions women who are pursuing their purpose and how she is offering her support and tools through the Violet Simon medium.
Hey Sophia, can you introduce yourself to us?
Well, I am Sophia!! I honestly do not know how to answer that question and I get asked that a lot! Well, I am a survivor, a strong woman, down to earth, multifaceted, driven, ambitious, complicated, loving and just an all-around beautifully perfectly imperfect woman.
Can you take us through your journey to where you are now?
Hmmm.. that will be like asking me to write a book in a few minutes because my story is one long ass journey. Where do I begin?… let’s see.
Okay, my journey has been painful, bittersweet and a blessing to me and the people I come in contact with. It’s taken me all my life to realise that. When you go through half the shit I have been through there’s something it does to you. It changes the way you see things and that should not be hushed or taken for granted by you.
I had an abusive upbringing mostly and a very crazy past and childhood that affected in me in more ways than I was willing to admit. I wasn’t aware of what it meant to be sexually assaulted and mentally abused. It was only when I became an adult and not just an adult but ‘exposed’ and educated on what is what that I knew most of the things I experienced were abusive. I understood why I felt uncomfortable around certain family members, men and even women in general, why I was angry all the time and so on.
I was sexually abused at the age of 5 and started attempting suicide at the age of 7. I didn’t know what was wrong with me. I was not perfect, I don’t think anyone is but most of the things and burdens I took on, most of the ways I reacted and lived was due to the unresolved issues I buried and shut out.
Opening the door to all of those memories.. or at least most of the memories were gut-wrenching. I almost died so many times and I have been through hell and high water. God only knows ‘cos I can’t explain it in words. I still go through my lows and rock bottom but somehow at the end of the day, I manage to find my way back up, recognising that I am the light that lights up the tunnel and God is in me as me so I have got whatever challenges come my way.
I am not a Christian or Muslim or anything like that. I am just a human being who manifests God every day as I believe we all do in one way or another and we are all a part of Her. I am where I am today because of God in me. I practice a lot of meditation, mindfulness. I like Buddhism. There’s a lot to learn from the culture.
I started as Violet Couture, 9 years ago. It was a clothing line for women and I expanded with a second line called – Sophia Simon that was for men and also more affordable women wears. I had about three or two failed business at that time and decided that I was going to take a step back and also get to know me better.
I didn’t really know why I was saying that at the time, but I guess something in me felt there was something missing and I wasn’t doing what I was created to do. However, the path to where I am now, was all part of the process and I am so blessed and grateful for that as painful as it might have been, and it gets sometimes.
I started violet Simon three years ago rebranding it from violet couture. I wanted to use my art, creativity, passion, and journey to empower women from far and beyond.
Let’s just say, my journey cannot be summarised. We’ll need to write a book or do a movie for that one and yep!! Soon enough!!
What is a day in the life of you like?
Gosh!! I am trying to learn to go easy on myself but it is not so easy. I try to relax with slow instrumentals – ‘music for concentration’ playlist on Spotify to allow me to meditate, think or ease into work and sleep when I want to. I have loads of meetings, therapy sessions weekly.
Oh! movies!! Movies calm me down too and give me lots of ideas. Some of the thing I want to do and I have done were inspired by movies. It could be a sentence in the movie that inspires me or the characters in the movie. Anything!! I am a movie junkie. Oh!! Shopping too! I end my day with cuddles, snuggles, good sex (sometimes) with my husband and ease into bed with some meditation affirmations or my music of concentration.
Can you tell us about Violet Simon and the concept behind the magazine?
My life’s journey is the story of violet Simon. We started three years ago as I said earlier, and it has evolved over the years into this huge vision and purpose that excites me. I am a very passionate person and I feel things deeply. Due to my experiences, as a woman, a mental illness survivor as I like to call it, abuse survivor and a black woman, I have realised that there is so much that one can do and a need for what we do.
Fashion, art, beauty, media, lifestyle, and wellness are all part of our company, including the magazine. We want to use violet Simon to explore the journeys of women, support women, create opportunities for women and so on.
Every day there are women trying to rise above cultural and societal stereotypes and constraints – be it in Africa, Europe, Asia, America and so on. From popular people to everyday people – be it in career, mental health, body image, religious dogma, misogynoir, abuse and so on. What most people don’t get is that the so-called established and rich people who seem comfortable still struggle and deal with stuff. These people also have lots of insights and their journey to where they are is what needs to be looked at closely to learn and be empowered.
The media and the society feed off on negativity and that is where I hope violet Simon also comes in. Using our niche areas – fashion, beauty, art, wellness, and lifestyle to make as much impact as possible.
We love how you are sharing authentic success stories of trailblazing women, are there any particular women you have recently worked with that stood out to you the most?
All the women I have worked with and are working with stand out. I mean, there are stories you hear and you’ll be like, what the hell? How are you still breathing?!!! Still, every story and every woman that I have come across – be it public figures or everyday women, stand out.
I think what makes these people stand out is just how much stuff people deal with. I have met people who are so admired and considered ‘strong’ and have it all together on social media or the news and when I sit with them to hear their stories or get emails from some of these women, I am amazed.
It just makes you realise at the end of the day we are all human; we are ordinary people journeying through life. It changes your perspective on so many things and most importantly, it humbles you.
Who does the team involve behind you at Violet Simon?
Mostly me, to be honest. I outsource sometimes and I have amazing people who assist from time to time but it is mostly me at the moment with the support of my amazing husband. I am working on some stuff and we are expanding with other people who will be part of a sector of the company but I will not say much for now.
Where can you see yourself within the next 3-5 years?
I don’t know to be honest. I just hope to be farther than where I am now and to keep achieving my purpose. A day at a time. I am learning to focus on what I have now which will propel me to my destiny and my purpose. The vision keeps expanding every day and I know we will be big.
How are you planning to expand Violet Simon further?
Mum’s the word for now..Just keep watching but there are lots of amazing stuff and we are open to organisations and brands that want to collaborate.
Can you tell us what areas you have struggled in professionally?
Let’s see, finances. It’s tough out there. Raising funds, getting investors, loans etc. Sales and marketing. Information also which is very important. Everything I know, I had to struggle to get by researching and assistance of my hubby, experiences, lessons etc. That is why I am also very passionate about being able to use violet Simon to create opportunities and a community for growth, mentally, physically, in everyday life and career-wise for women and children.
Have you ever had any other mentor? If so how has this benefitted, you to grow?
Life has been my mentor. My husband has been very instrumental in also helping, advising and teaching me a lot on business – he has been my greatest cheerleader from day one. However, most of what I know, I learned through experience, mistakes, lessons, reading and watching movies actually.
What outlets do use to market Violet Simon?
Our social media platforms, websites, word of mouth. Hopefully, we can expand as we grow.
Which methods are you using to build your own support network?
Approaching people who I think share similar visions to collaborate or help with some projects. Listening to my instincts and working with who I feel at ease within my spirit. I use violet Simon basically, that is what we’re about.
What do you believe are the common misconceptions about being an entrepreneur?
It’s an easy thing and we are better than people who work 9-5. That we have loads of money that’s why we are entrepreneurs.
Also, in the initial stages as an entrepreneur, if you don’t have an office or if you work from home or a café, a lot of people tend to think you do nothing all day, while away time and look down on what you do which is so upsetting. It is really fucked up.
Lastly, that we have it all figured out.No!! We don’t, it’s a lot of work and often it’s the passion and the vision of your purpose that keeps driving you when you have no fuel anymore to drive yourself.
What is the number 1 critical lesson you have learned in your career so far?
You cannot build an empire on your own and it is okay to fall, make mistakes and even be misunderstood. Enjoy the process, be accountable, take responsibility and DO THE WORK to get to where you want to be. Be patient.
How do you create an evenly balanced work and personal life?
I am still struggling with that one, so I don’t know if I can answer that. I am looking for insights on this so if you’ve got any, hit your girl up!
The highlight of your career so far?
The launch of one of the projects we have been working on – our magazine.
What gives you ultimate career satisfaction?
Just doing what I do and seeing how lives are changed and touched by what we do.
What challenges have you seen to have been presented during the growth of Violet Simon?
Finance, having a support or network of people with resources, connections that could help, finding people who believed in the vision, believing in myself and also my own personal issues and mental health diagnosis.
Which other leading entrepreneurs and pioneering game changers do you also admire and why?
Every woman out there doing it and being truly authentic with their vision and what they are all about. I would say, Oprah, Beyoncé, and Rihanna. They are amazing, resilient and change-makers who have defied all odds, stereotypes and set a pace for others.
Also, the founder of Blavity, Morgan, her story is inspiring and she’s accomplished so much.
What is a good article or book you have read recently?
This article on Forbes. I think both small and big or established business should read it.
What does your Podcast playlist look like?
I do not really listen to podcasts a lot, to be honest, but these are the ones I am keen on. I am very picky. We are Phenomena, Verve Up Podcast, My taught you by Myleik Teele, girl boss radio and basically anything on girl talk, mental health and wellness, career and women empowerment.
How do you measure your own terms of success?
Gratitude every day. Success isn’t measured by wealth. Being healthy, happy and able to accomplish stuff I set out to do in a day or projects is a success to me. Even if I cannot achieve a thing I wanted to do for the day or period of time, being able to be grateful, learn from that, show up for myself through self-love daily is a success to me.
What does #BEYOUROWN mean to you?
Be authentic!! Be yourself. Own your truth.
Lastly, what is next for Violet Simon?
The vision keeps getting bigger. I am blown away but mum’s the word for now. Okay, let me spill a little tea. We are launching a women only membership network very soon amongst other ground-breaking projects. So just keep watching and stay tuned!!
Oh!! And buy our magazine please!!