Contrary to popular opinion, being an “outsider” can come with many benefits, like allowing your creative process for your fashion business to be inspired by what people around you wear. For many young Nigerians running a business, it may seem like the odds stacked against them are never-ending.
In a conversation with Omotorera Awotimide, she shares her two cents on what it takes to run a successful business and her journey so far running her fashion brand, Oyiza.
How did you get into fashion making?
I always knew fashion was something I wanted to do but I wasn’t exactly sure when I was going to get into it. Before the pandemic, I had a fast-fashion business and was interning with some fashion brands where I was the creative intern. Then, the pandemic hit, and I couldn’t continue with my business because my supply chain was affected. I also had to quit my job. I had just one interest so I decided to explore it. It was very important for me that whatever I ended up doing could finance the type of lifestyle I want to live. So I challenged myself to learn how to sketch clothes by watching YouTube videos.
Now that you have started your fashion business, do you see it financing the lifestyle you envision for yourself?
Definitely. I suffer from imposter syndrome so I wasn’t really sure people were going to buy into what I was going to offer but now that I have started, I get fantastic feedback. I launched in April, I’m not even six months into the business and to be honest, I think I’m doing pretty well. Imagine in the next ten years, that’s going to be something. For me, I want to spend my twenties working and enjoying after. So it is very important that whatever I’m doing now can actually sponsor all the trips I want to take in the future.
In your opinion, what does it take to run a profitable business?
Running a profitable business everywhere is difficult but running a profitable business in Nigeria the odds stacked against you are a lot. But I would say, knowing your business numbers, understanding your target audience, outsourcing whatever you can outsource and welcoming new ideas are the things that are essential to running a business.
What advice would you give to anyone trying to start a business?
Honestly, I would say just start. To me, Oyiza would probably still be something I’m talking to people about, but I had people around me that didn’t let me rest about it. Whatever lessons you need to learn about your business, you’ll learn along the way. There is no better teacher than experience.
What are your favorite things about running your business?
My favorite thing about running Oyiza is fabric sourcing and feedback from my customers. When my customers tag me in random snaps, I’m like “wow okay you people are actually wearing my designs out and feeling great in it”. I enjoy fabric sourcing because you get to feel different textures and patterns. It overwhelms me. It's like I'm in a candy store and I’m trying out different things.
What inspires your creative process?
My creative process is inspired by people. It sounds funny but I live in Lagos and I’m an “outsider”. So I go out a lot and best believe, I pay attention to what people are wearing because it sorts of guides my designs. I want to create something that people can hop on. Lagos is a very colorful city, we have different characters, and the way people dress that’s very interesting. So, my design is majorly inspired by people. Sometimes I let my fabric sourcing inspire my plan, whatever the fabric is looking to me, I just let it flow.
What does a day in your life look like?
There’s no routine to my day. It depends on what the day brings. On days when I am not making content, after I process my orders, I can maybe read a book because I started reading again recently. Then sometimes I watch YouTube videos of different designers to see if I am still on track with my journey. My day is very random, there is no routine to it. If I have to go out I go out.
What inspired your brand name Oyiza?
My Mom is Ebira and my Ebira name is Oyiza. Growing up my mom used to make clothes and she kind of influenced how I got into fashion. It just made sense for me to go with Oyiza to honor her more and because I really like the name and what it stands for. Oyiza means goodness, joy, blessing, or any positive vibe.
Where do you see your brand in the next 5 years?
In the next five years, when I think of the possibility of what Oyiza could become, I get really overwhelmed because I want Oyiza to be a global brand. We’re getting there, we have shipped to many counties in just 4 months of operation. In the next 5 years, I see Oyiza as the go-to brand for anything. For a birthday or whatever, if you want something really nice without having to break the bank.
Who is Oyiza’s target audience
Honestly, my target audience is really just hot girls. I try to be inclusive with my designs in the sense that anybody can wear them. With every drop, there is something for everyone I can think of. Whether you want to expose your body or not, regardless of your size, there’s something for everyone. So, my target market is just people that want to have fun in clothes and feel good about whatever they’re wearing.
What are some challenges you face as a business owner in Nigeria?
The number one challenge is the payment portal for international orders. For some reason, most of my customers are not in Nigeria. There’s no PayPal or Zelle. Even when you open a dorm account, there is still some sort of restriction. Secondly, it’s the exchange rate, sometimes I source fabrics from other countries and I have to pay and the exchange rate has you by the neck. Then, labour is expensive and labour isn’t consistent. Nigerians can be very unreliable, It can be very higgy-hagga. Then, there are logistic issues too.
What are some things you wished you knew before starting your business?
I wish I knew fabric sourcing won’t be as easy as I thought it would be. I had to pause some of my designs because I couldn’t restock on fabric. Do you know how unserious it seems when people ask about an outfit and I say the fabric is unavailable? Also, I wish I knew that people are not consistent in terms of labour. I have had people try to steal from me. I don’t pay attention to things like that because I like to deal with people with an open mind.
For someone who wants to start a fashion business in Nigeria, roughly how much do you need to start out?
It depends on many factors. To just start I would say you need like N400,000 as your base fee. You would need more along the line. You might need more than that if you don’t already have a sewing machine. When I started, I was lucky because my mom used to sew, I was just using her machine before I got mine.
Money is an important part of running a business. How do you manage your business finances?
My first rule is that I don’t touch my business money. I don’t care if the world is burning. Also, I don’t pay myself a salary yet until after my first year. I pay for new stocks, fabrics, logistics, machine expenses, business maintenance and other expenses. If I have a particular amount in my business account. I save some in dollars and forget about it. Whatever I need to keep the business running I leave it in the account.
Final question, what are the 5 top apps you use for your business?
I use Barter, Grey finance, Risevest, Canva and Phonto.
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