To say that Nigerians know their onions when it comes to fashion is stating the obvious. Fashion is our culture; a way a life and fashion is good business. Happenings Magazine correspondent, Kikelomo Onigbanjo had a chat with Oriyomi Abass, the MD/CEO of Tito’s Signature, a fashion outfit and she shares her journey into the fashion business, challenges and tips on becoming a successful fashion entrepreneur, amongst other things. Excerpts below:
My name is Abass Oriyomi Bolatito; I am a graduate from the University of Lagos (UNILAG) where I studied Educational Administration. I hold the position Chief Executive Officer of Tito’s Signature. Tito’s Signature sells fashion items clothes, shoes, bags and accessories for women and we are located at 19, Ogudu road, Ojota.
What prompted you to go into the fashion and beauty business?
I decided to go into the fashion and beauty business largely due to an observation I made in the course of my four year stay as an undergraduate in UNILAG. Most, if not all students on campus regardless of their backgrounds and place of origin have something in common – the desire to look good and presentable at all times. After I spoke to a whole lot of ladies and I found that it was a needed thing, I started to meet these needs in a small way by selling to my friends, course mates and later widening my reach to a few family members. Of course they ended up not paying as I would wish – I still have some debts classified as bad debts and written off in my books.
How has business been since you started?
Fashion and beauty business is generally a lucrative venture considering that we sell ‘consumables’ and wouldn’t be affected so much by a dip in the economy, however, Nigeria’s economic nose dive has adversely affected the business. People’s disposable income has taken a hit and the ripple effect is evident in the volume of sales we make.
How do you feel being an entrepreneur?
Let me start by saying that I’m really excited about the position I am in, and my number one goal is always be better than I was yesterday. Having said that, I am really passionate about what I do and I would love if there were opportunities for me to also be able to mentor other upcoming entrepreneurs or new people coming into the industry.
What are the challenges you have faced in this business?
Starting up as a rookie or a new comer, or being relevant in the fashion and beauty industry is not easy at all. You face daunting challenges every day. Each day brings its own unique challenge, but the major challenge I have and I’m really facing now is that the foreign exchange (FX) is so high due to the fall in the Naira against the Dollar which has resulted in a situation where you need comparatively a lot more Naira to buy the same quantity and quality of items. And the Dollar issue is so unpredictable that sometimes I have to wait for days before I can restock. Sometimes my goods will be held up by Customs and I have to use a lot of money to bail it out.
As someone in the beauty industry, do you think Nigerians take care of themselves?
I am of the opinion that a great percentage of Nigerians pay attention to their looks and they spend time and resources to look good. I believe Nigeria as a nation is a colourful one with blend of cultures from North, South, East and West which is put on display during celebrations (weddings, naming ceremonies, even funerals, etc.) of any kind and sort. We are beautiful people in this country and we know how to take care of ourselves.
Where do you see yourself in the next five years?
I see myself being on the same level with the Louis Vuitton, Versace, Guess and Gucci’s of this world in the next five (5) years; won’t be a bad one too.
What advice do you have for people who want to go into your kind of business?
Going into this kind of business is simple; you just have to follow these simple procedures and you will be fine: get your capital, know your clients and what they want, be conscious of one fact-that the market is not stable, so always plan for unforeseen business expenses, contact your distributors twice or three times to be double sure of when they are bringing in stock. Get a good manufacturer; it’s always good to spy on competitors so that you can discover your strength.
How can you describe yourself as an entrepreneur?
I can describe myself as a successful entrepreneur. Being successful often means learning from those who have already achieved their goal. Having a mentor is an amazing blessing to an entrepreneur. All I do to be successful is just keeping it simple, being original, challenging myself to be better, and taking risks.
How do you combine work and family?
As much as possible, I try to create time for family. I am not married yet; I try to spend my free time with my fiancée. He is not complaining though, but sometimes I feel guilty that I’m not spending enough time with him. I’m so busy, we don’t even have enough ‘us’ time. I am still working on that.
How do you unwind?
Unwinding is not all about parties and going out; not that I don’t party. The first thing I do is to take a break from everything; nobody can keep going on full throttle without taking a break. Another thing I do to unwind is to sleep well, sleeping is a way to shut down and restart your body. Forget about the external strife and rest for internal strength, so I make my bed comfortable by adding lots of throw pillows, I throw a nice blanket over the top and add whatever makes me sleep easiest, sometimes soft music, sometimes reading, etc. Most importantly I ‘pamper’ myself. Sometimes I go to the spa for my beauty routine.