Inspirational Woman: Aqila Agha | Founder, PapillonKia

Aqila AghaMy background is in Banking and Finance, and it was whilst on a career break after my second child that I decided to venture alone and set up my business Papillonkia – a business selling authentic preloved designer handbags.

I have been purchasing Luxury handbags for my personal use for over 35 years. It was whilst I was on maternity leave from my role in an Investment Bank that I decided I should open my own business and it had to be an e-business as I truly believed that was the future. My priorities had changed and I couldn’t just nip out on my lunch break and buy whatever I wanted from the Gucci Store in the City, so I looked into the pre-loved luxury designer handbag market and could see this was an opportunity to develop a business around this area, as buying new was becoming less accessible in terms of price and affordability for a lot of people. In addition, there needed to be a process where sellers could sell their used items to buy new – The Circular Economy where 1 product had many users in its lifecycle. This resulted in the launch of Papillonkia in 2014.

Did you ever sit down and plan your career?

Very much so! I started a trial in my study in my house. I sold items on Ebay as they had the best marketplace at the time and their reach of customers is worldwide. During the first 3 months, we became a top seller with a 100% feedback score. The business outgrew my study and so the next stage was to have our own e-commerce website and office space. That’s when I knew this was a viable business. It’s always been our mission not to have retail shops as we want to keep costs down so that the end user, our clients, will benefit.

Have you faced any challenges along the way?

In the beginning it was having the pieces authenticated without making the customer wait long periods of time. We now have in-house authenticators and we have also partnered with a company called Entrupy, who use AI to authenticate our products.

What has been your biggest achievement to date?

It has to be watching the business grow from where I started, into the success it is today. I still want to pinch myself sometimes! Being an advocate of using and selling preloved items is incredibly important to me so expanding the business and spreading the word to consumers makes me very proud.

What one thing do you believe has been a major factor in you achieving success?  

I would have to say having a great family behind me who encourage me to go for it and achieve everything I set out to achieve! Another is working very hard and having a good work ethic, which was instilled into me at a young age by my parents.

How do you feel about mentoring? Have you mentored anyone or are you someone’s mentee?

I fully support mentoring and although I am not mentoring anyone at the moment, (except my daughters!) I have mentored a few interns in the past in my Banking career so realise how important it is to impart knowledge on to those who also want to join your industry.

If you could change one thing to accelerate the pace of change for Gender Equality, what would it be?

I am a firm believer of people being hired and promoted based on merit regardless of race, gender, sexual orientation or disability. This mindset change has to start from the top and filter down through any organisation. Diversity and Inclusiveness is a must for any industry, or company, to survive. 

If you could give one piece of advice to your younger self what would it be?

The World is your oyster with many opportunities, go for it!

What is your next challenge and what are you hoping to achieve in the future?

Building my business to the next level and one day to go public and list on the Stock Exchange. That is a dream I will always strive for until I succeed.

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