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Monday, 4 August 2014

Doing What you Love is Key to Being a Successful Entrepreneur - Founder Rhobes Clothing Company

Adetunji Ifedapo Adebiyi is a young Nigerian fashion entrepreneur whose sojourn into the business world began after a candid desire to design and make clothes for himself. Several years down line, he runs Rhobes Clothing Company and now designs for the likes of Ice Prince, MI Abaga, Gbenga Adeyinka, Olamide, Wande Coal and many other A-list artistes. Read excerpts about his journey from his interview with the Tribune below:

I had the desire to make my own stuff, I wanted to wear what I was sure wasn't everywhere and more so, something I could beat my chest and say is original. So that was how I began my sojourn into fashion and began to draw up sketches and source fabrics to make my own stuff. Also, I grew up with a seamstress grandmother and that gave me a good understanding, as it was my earliest interaction with fashion. So after I made my first set of shirts which I planned to wear myself, a few friends saw it and said they liked it and I jokingly told them it was for sale and they bought all the shirts off me and then word spread around campus that I made shirts and so began my life as a designer.

When did you decide to take it up professionally?
After my youth service, I was at the crossroad of taking a job or just going on with my business. It wasn't really a very tough decision though, I had started business from school, I had made my early business mistakes and recovered from them and more so, there really aren't jobs out there, so I thought to myself, maybe I should just create a job for myself and forget about CV peddling, because if we all want to work for the blue chip companies and the large multinationals, then where would the next generation work. I saw a void and I decided to fill it. Thankfully it paid off.

What were these early business mistakes you made?
Mistakes or failures are usually the soil on which success grows. I made a couple of mistakes at the start, one of which was seeing all money made as money to be spent. I didn't see the need to separate earnings or begin to put some aside for future purpose. Second, I made the mistake of not paying myself. Every entrepreneur should see themselves as a staff of the company and pay themselves a salary. There shouldn't be any alternative to this. Without you at the early stages, there is no business. So pay yourself, stay alive and healthy and take holidays when you can afford to.

How did you handle marketing and gaining a celebrity based clientele while you were just starting?
Rhobes didn’t start off with a celebrity clientele that boasts of the likes of Ice Prince, Gbenga Adeyinka, Brymo, Endia and so on. Our first set of clients were students as the label was birthed while I was still in school. We made sure that our outfits were very well made as we considered every order as a request to create a masterpiece and outfits that were fit for royals. We used the best of fabrics and the best tailoring, even if that meant profit was low, but then every outfit we made always brought in a new client. Our products sold with the smallest amount of marketing or advertising and till date our biggest entry is still from word of mouth.

What are the secrets of being a successful designer?

The number one secret anyone can have is God. He is the one that makes rich and adds no sorrow and of course, the customer is king. You wouldn't have a business if you don’t have customers. I am also an advocate of continuous learning, don’t ever think you know too much.

What are the tips for being a successful entrepreneur?

I’d say it’s simply about doing what you love. Don’t go into a business because of money only, be sure it is what you enjoy to do, because there will be dry days. What keeps you persistent is the passion which stems from the love you have for what you do. And most importantly, you have to trust solely in God, it is He that gives the power to get wealth.

Looking back, can you recollect the financial stance you started with and how the company has grown since then?I sold my first shirt in 2006 and I know I invested all my monthly allowance then, which was only N7,000. Now I can say that although we’re not worth billions yet, I’m sure we’ll be on Forbes list someday.

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