Fashion spans all ages and Adenike Ogunlesi, founder of Ruff n’ Tumble, was not about to leave the kids out.
It all started when she was unsatisfied with the Law degree she was pursuing at Nigeria’s Ahmadu Bello University in Zaria. She decided to drop out in her second year. As she figured out what to do next, her mother invited her to work at her women’s clothing boutique, Betty O at Ibadan. Working with clothes sparked something within her and years later when her children lacked pyjamas she was able to make some for them. A friend saw them and ordered some and the rest is history. Now she is the CEO of Nigeria’s leading children’s clothing line.
So how did she do it?
Market research. Even though she did not know it, she carried out some market research early on. She looked around at what was in the market, and found children’s clothing was very restricted. The colours were very bland and it was not very creative or attractive. She then wrote a list of what she felt other companies were doing right and wrong, and from there she drew her own competitive advantage. Market research gives upcoming businesses an edge and helps the m realize what part of their industry they can fit in to.
Knowing the right time. After getting married with kids, she took a break from the clothing business to be a full-time mum. She knew it was not yet time to dedicate herself to the business and waited until she was ready. This is important for any entrepreneur as building a business from the ground up is hard full time work. According to Forbes, one of the key factors in knowing you are ready to start your own business is being aware if you are really ready for it. Are you comfortable leaving a previous job? Do you mind managing your career job and a start-up?
Dedication. Before she was established, she was selling the pyjamas out of the boot of her car after dropping her children at school. When they sold, her husband suggested she make other clothing for children too. She took all her children’s clothes apart to see how they were made, developed patterns out of some of them, and started making trousers, shorts, shirts and skirts, and all kinds of things. She also started selling them at church bazaars and school markets. Ogunlesi also used her personal savings and money borrowed from her older brother to open her first store in Lagos in 1998. Again, Forbes considers passion for business the number one factor in deciding to take this giant leap. Otherwise when the hard times hit, you are unlikely to survive.
Adaptability. When she opened her second store, she introduced computerisation and started using an enterprise resource planning (ERP) system. Her and her team also put in place all the customer engagement strategies, such as getting customer data, sending them text messages, thanking them when they shop, and calling them when they have not been by the store for a while. Globalization is has become a buzzword for technological advancements and a more connected world. How ready a are you to take advantage of this phenomenon? China is set to become the world’s leading economy by 2020 (Forbes). This is majorly due to their ability to maximize on upcoming technologies. These facilitate maximum profits with the least amount of effort.
Constant learning. At the time her husband was studying towards an MBA and she started reading his textbooks, and eventually attended a short course with a focus on customer experience and supply chain management. Dr. Suess once said, “The more that you read, the more things you will know.” This can apply in business. It never hurts to keep learning about your industry from your peers, predecessors and even from school, as Ogunlesi chose to do. It counts towards sharpening your business acumen.
Today Ruff ‘N’ Tumble is a thriving business with 50 employees and distribution along the West African coast. However, Ogunlesi plans to bring her number of stores in the country to over 40 from their current 15 stores, in the next two years. Surprisingly, she is not interested in exporting to England and the USA reasoning that if 40 percent of the 120 million people in Nigeria are children, she has the potential of a huge market right at home.
Adenike was featured in the Africa Open for Business documentary and was recognized as the FATE Foundation Model Entrepreneur in 2005.
Credits: howwemadeitinafrica.com and Forbes