Olusola Babtunde’s fashion business started as a hobby in 2009 and has since grown into an established design house with an attached College of Fashion. Before that, she worked for an NGO teaching people how to start their own businesses. Despite her professional background, Olusola knew she needed Road to Growth to create the step-change in her business she was striving for. We find out more.
What was it like, starting your own business?
As a woman trying to do business by herself, I had to do everything – from the marketing to sourcing the fabrics and the making. It was very hard. We used to do things without actually seeing if it was profitable and seeing what percentage of profit was being made. We did not realise that we were making a lot of losses from the wastage. When I did the Road to Growth training and we had to do the profitability ratios, I saw that we were wasting money because we had a lot of materials we did not need. I was so upset, it made me go back and change how we do everything.
How have things changed?
Now we work from the back to the front, to see for each thing we’re going to do how profitable it is going to be. We’ve saved so much money from not buying excess fabrics we don’t need. We now buy in bulk from a particular supplier and they’ve been able to give us credit facilities. We made sure that all the structures are put in place, so we do our books regularly and we have periodic meetings. The impact on our bottom line is that we’ve been able to have a steady 15-20% growth over two years.
What has been the impact on you personally?
It’s made me grow. I’m more financially independent. In parts of Africa, a woman has to always look to the man to make certain decisions. But because of the training and the sound knowledge it’s given me, now I can say, ‘No, this is how I think it should be done’. Because of that it just gives a woman more… I don’t want to say power, but it just gives you more say in your home. If you’re married in Africa, it makes the man see you as equal, as intellectual. With this kind of training the woman is able to contribute and help the whole community, so everyone will gain. Everyone blossoms from a woman being trained.
Has your relationship with your husband changed?
Because I’m more financially knowledgeable, that has earned his respect. Before he didn’t expect much from the business but ever since I’ve revamped the business, he’s seen how big it’s blossomed to be. I see the respect in his eyes or when he speaks or he tells his friends, ‘Oh that’s my wife’. Now he’s seen that it’s a business that has the capacity to earn billions of Naira.
How have you sustained the training?
I love the fact that we left with a good plan. It’s like a mini business plan that we all have. I still look at it to see whether I am in line with everything I’d planned. It gives me the feeling that I have some people to report to, to account to. It made me feel I can’t let them down. Some of the goals I’d written in the growth plan, I’ve far exceeded.
How important was the networking?
Meeting other women has been really good. The WhatsApp group has been great; women from all over Nigeria, from different fields, coming together. We realise that there are similar issues we have all faced and one person will be able to share how they overcame the challenge. Having someone of a like mind to share your challenges with, or your victories with, is very good.
How are you passing on your learning?
I’m using all that I’ve learnt from the programme to mentor other women. Our curriculum at the College of Fashion now includes costing in the business side of fashion. I show the young people who I mentor some of the videos and I tell them how finance is extremely important to a woman-owned business.
My ambition is to have my training available to everyone in Africa, starting in Nigeria. I want people to have quality training and when I say training I mean a holistic view of training. In my industry most people in Nigeria just focus on the creative part of it, but I want them to become celebrated business entrepreneurs. So even though you are a fashion designer, you’re thinking in a global way, you’re thinking of running a successful business that will outlive you. That’s my ambition. If I could have that in every major African city, I would be very happy