What is your fashion company, Katie Wang, formerly called Olori’s Place, into?
We are a manufacturing company that produces unisex adult and children apparel. We are not into the core of manufacturing per say but more into sourcing and trading. Formerly called Olori’s Place, I basically went into the fashion by accident and my office was my apartment in Magodo, Lagos. The inspiration or motivation behind my starting the business stemmed from the inability to find moderately priced fashion apparels in Nigeria after my move back to the country on the completion of my MSc in 2010. While bemoaning the outrageous prices, I happened to take a quick trip back to London within that period and got a belated cash gift from a friend.
At about the same time a friend asked me to go with her to a market called Roman and I was stunned at the wide array of very affordable stylish fashion apparels. Instantly I knew what I had to do. I bought some items, took great pictures of them and sent the pictures to a friend of mine who worked in an office. Just like that all my stock was sold out even before I left London and that’s how the Katie Wang company came to be. Since then we have expanded to become a growing global export fashion trading company with operations in four continents: Europe, Australia, Africa and North America. We pioneered the first West Africa Industrial Garment Park as well as the First Fashion Truck in West Africa-Fashion on wheels. We have expanded from just fashion retail, sourcing and industrial park development to supply chain and quality assurance on a global scale.
What inspired your IVLP mentor programme for teenage girls from low income communities?
That was as a direct result of the International Visitors Leadership Programme (IVLP). Formerly called GOC club, I was nominated by the United States Department two years ago to go on a programme; so when we got back we then decided to give back by helping girls in public secondary schools between the ages of 13 to 16. We teach and mentor them on leadership and we have been at it for a while. There is a programme going even now for them.
All about the Ark
The Ark is a coaching company but is a typical. We are not all about living right or being right. We are all about hand holding a group of people who desire change on a journey. I don’t think I have met anyone who wanted change and didn’t get it if they were under the right supervision. If you are under the right supervision that life you know you deserve you will live it! So the Ark provides that for the members and we have so many beautiful testimonials. We don’t promise you an easy ride because the road isn’t easy but we promise transformation and that is what you get out of us as a member or participant. From the market woman owing a stall at Mile 12 to conglomerate and multinationals, our members cut across a broad spectrum of sectors. It’s a hunger thing, not a class thing; if you want more, you are going to get more. Our target audience range from 18 to 55 and we have had clients as old as 52 years old.
Inspiration and purpose of the Fix-It conference
It was purely because for most Africans the problem areas we have revolve around three things, business, money and mind-set. So let’s fix-it! The aim is to repair what is not in operation or fix what is in operation and isn’t working. Our mind-set is the focal point in this conference, Africans’ mind-set specifically. We want people to leave the conference feeling like “if I had known this al my life, I won’t be where I am”; we want to attain a certain level of mind exposure, of “there is possibilities in this matter” COVID-19 or no COVID-19 we will rise above it and repackage not only your business but your mind. I grew up in Mushin but was born in London. How I found myself in Nigeria, Mushin is a story for another day. I even schooled in Oshodi but I fixed my mind and that’s what I am trying to sell to people, that no matter the present circumstances of life you are facing, the future holds endless possibilities but it all starts with your mind-set.
Most pressing challenges in business and as a coach so far?
In my coaching and business journey, the most difficult challenge I have faced has to do with the mind. People don’t want to be challenged on what they know because they think they know. Even if you tell me today that you are making N10m a month, a not impressed, I want to know why you can’t do more. So what I discovered is that people are resistant to the process that you want to take them through in order to get them better result. Another challenge is technology issues, for instance, we want to focus more people in other African countries but some don’t have internet coverage or technology is not really big there so we can’t get there. Especially as the world has gone virtual more rapidly due to the present circumstances that most people planned for.
How did you make the move from Mushin to where you are today?
Growing up, all I had was the love of my grandmother who was very pivotal to my growth. She taught me a lot of what I know but where I grew up, I just knew that I didn’t belong there. I told myself “this can never be me”. Essentially, I decided at a point in my life to rebirth myself. Some people, repackaging but I call it a rebirth because with repackaging, the package can always at some point go back to its original condition. So, I told myself that I didn’t want to live a certain way, or in Mushin forever and didn’t want to end up like my grandmother. These factors spurred and motivated my hunger for a rebirth. I came in contact with my first mentor at eighteen in a church programme I was invited to by my cousin. His name was Action Jackson and his talk that day changed my life.
Lessons learned from life so far?
Anybody can change and everybody deserves a better life. What you are living now is not your best, including me.
What is style to you?
Style for me is just all about standing out by expressing myself through timeless trends.
How do you unwind?
To be honest, I like my space so once I don’t have anyone disturbing me, including my kids and I can just take my passport and fly out first class, I am good.
Advice to people living in present circumstances that is in contrast to what they want or aim to be?
Understand that the good or better life is not reserved for some specific people. It is yours if you want it but you have to have a re-brand or rebirth or even repackaging in some cases. It’s almost akin to forgetting your present circumstances. I mostly forget my Mushin period until I am in a conversation and it triggers my memories in comparison to my present life. I am able to detach myself and not dwell on it but I use it to remind myself that I didn’t start this way. So for all those out there praying or dreaming of a better life, it is very possible, you just need to persevere and want it badly enough. It’s only those who are hungry that will be fed. So people feel because they have suffered, they deserve or are entitled to a good life but that isn’t true.