Anita Ajayi a fashion entrepreneur, stylist and business coach who runs the Katie Wang company, a fashion outfit opens up to OLUWATOYIN AGUDA in this interview on the inspiration behind her unique business idea
You started Nigeria’s first mobile fashion business, what motivated you?
Shop rates weren’t favorable in the areas I desired and I had to look for a way out. My existing customers worked 9am-5pm, Mondays to Fridays, so I had to find a way to make their shopping experience convenient and more fun. I am doing what a thousand others are doing, selling clothes but I am giving it a unique edge by making it mobile. This ensures that we are able to take our shop to customers, any day anytime. This is beyond thinking outside the box; I had to think like there was no box. It is a good alternative, especially in this period of economic downturn where I am learning to adapt.
How did you start your business?
I started late in 2011 when I just moved to Nigeria and I needed somewhere to shop. I realised everything was triple the price. Knowing how much things were in the United Kingdom. When I went back in November 2011, I went to some stores, met with some suppliers and they gave me a very good price. I tried that around December 2011 and everything went in just five days. I thought so I could actually turn this into a business. The major reason why I started was because I wanted to provide people with affordable goods.
What challenges come with this line of business?
I wouldn’t say funds, but rather moving the goods to Nigeria and sticking to affordability. There was the issue of synergy as well, working with Nigerian designers I promote. I, however, surmounted the challenges by being creative with my idea. I also looked for people with interests in fashion. We moved from speaking to managers of businesses to business owners who understand the benefits of partnering with us by offering them incentives. For us what matters is satisfying our customers.
I believe business owners should rise above challenges and make the most of every situation. I am of the opinion that knowledge, contrary to the very popular belief of funds is the major factor militating against the growth of Nigerian enterprises. Nigerian business owners seem to always look for limiting factors. It is rather unfortunate that a lot of business owners don’t even know what funds are available; there are funds with interest rate as low as 9 per cent.
You also style people, what are the things you consider before styling a client?
Apparently, you give the client what they want. You don’t have to style the client wrongly; you have to think of what is appropriate for that occasion. Then you have to think of how the person is perceived.
A lot of Nigerian fashion brands are retailed at exorbitant prices, is it a deterrent to your line of business?
The truth is that I don’t blame them because of the cost they incur in the production process. They don’t have the level of cash and expertise the foreign brands have. A brand like H & M will produce en-mass, thereby reducing cost while the Nigerian designer who has a store at the back of her home makes just a few. She may also have to source for her fabrics locally, while also factoring in the cost of labour. Some reasonably priced ones are justified because it costs a lot to produce at the moment. However, I still quite agree that some designers want to make theirs a luxury brand which is not good to start out with in the Nigerian fashion industry. I think we should focus more on people appreciating and loving our products first.
What inspires you?
People do, when I see what people need, I always try to figure out how to get a way out of it. It goes beyond business; I am a fanatic of personal development. As funny as it sounds, music does. I love jazz, then ideas come when I am in a good mood.
So far what have you learnt?
You have to think like there is no box, though people say think outside the box. Don’t get into that point where you say there is no money. I started this business with a hundred and twenty pounds and I made so much from it. But I need to add that it is very important that you keep the right set of people around you. I have mentors for the retail side of my business, for the truck business I have mentors, for the styling I have mentors. I am here because of those people who actually gave me the right atmosphere, there was no pressure, and there was no negativity. I am not surprised I am finally here and I am grateful to those people.
How do you cope being a mother, an entrepreneur and a business coach?
I am not overwhelmed by my roles as a mother, an entrepreneur and a wife as I find juggling between my home and career a learning process. A woman adapts to any kind of situation. I flew my last child back to Nigeria from London just after three weeks of having him because I needed to get back to work. I can’t take any credit for it, it is God given. I have a great team so I can take a back seat because I have given the ball to those I know can get it rolling.
Keep at it. It may seem like you aren’t making progress but you are. It is just that you can’t see it. Like somebody told me recently “write down the things you have done as against those you haven’t, you will see that you have done so much.” My mentor said to me that so far you don’t stop moving, you will get to where you are going. I will say keep moving, try and get someone to lean on in case you get tired and that’s why I said surround yourself with the right people. Come out of those who keep questioning your ideas, who keep telling you, you need certain qualifications. Change friends, change associations if need be and you will get there.
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