Onovo Tessy is the brain behind Tessy Empire an Abuja-based fashion outlet. In this interview with NJOKU KELECHI FAVOUR she speaks of her beginning, the challenges facing the fashion industry in Nigeria and other matters
Your early days
Before I started my fashion business, anything I put on matched. I always got it right. I noticed that many people were admiring this and they asked where did I get this and this from and how? They said, they liked what I was wearing. That’s just the way it started.
How did you start your fashion business?
With that, people started giving me money to buy what I was wearing because they liked it. Some people asked about and got to know about anything I put on and they liked it. So, I felt that from helping them to buy, let me start selling. Hence, I tried saving some amount of money – about N15000. And with this I started the business of selling fine unique slippers. Gradually, I went into selling both shoes and handbags. Then from there I got into selling other stuffs too. The way I carried on, they liked it too. I moved around by going to offices and homes for sales. After, I got a shop and today I’m into everything including unisex.
How do you keep your competitive edge in the saturated market space?
The way I keep my competitive edge in the market is that I try to make sure that I get unique things. And I don’t like what is common that you can see everywhere. My customers like what they see in the shop and make sure that it’s unique not a rampant outfit. Also, I make the price to be affordable and reasonable. This helps clients go for whatever they want without having to break the bank. It also helps keep them to my side for years.
How has social media fashion helped your business?
The social media has really helped us a lot because I can get my things from suppliers and agents. It has really helped us a lot because I can get my things from overseas like Turkey, USA and China as well as others that come from within (Lagos). So, social media has helped when marketing. One can make choices and their products could be sent them. And even marketing one’s goods on social media handles like Facebook, Instagram and Whatsapp, the customers see them and demand for them. Easy delivery makes it comfortable with much stress.
What are the fashion trends now?
Most things we’ve used before in olden days are coming back in fashion and most people think they are outdated. These days they have come back in a modernized way that everybody is going back to.
How has COVID-19 pandemic challenged your business?
The COVID-19 pandemic was really a big challenge. It was a year one could not forget being at home, being idle, people were not going out, no partying. It really affected the business as people were no longer buying things (cloths and shoes), because they were not going out again. It really affected us because there was no longer income from the business. But now we thank God we overcame all that.
What is your advice to others out there who want to do the same business you do?
For others that want to do same business as me, everything has its own starting point. You mustn’t wait for big money before you can start the business. The little you have, you can start with it no matter what because the most important thing is to start first. One thing about business is the moment you start with the little you have, you get more experience. You may start with a huge amount of money and the business will fail, so start little first.
What are your fashion secrets?
My fashion secrets are that I like unique things. What I can’t wear, I can’t buy or sell. So, I buy the things I like to wear because people will admire them on me. It makes them want to patronize me and ask me for fashion advice.
Where do you see your business in the future?
In the future I see my business expanding to different places aside from Abuja. I see it in places like Calabar, Port Harcourt, and other states. I also see it getting a bigger space where there will be different sections like: salon, nails and spa sections and boutique as well. So whenever people visit my place, they will advise others to go to Tessy’s Empire because she has everything. This is what I plan for my business in the future.