The Importance of Investing in Yourself…

The Importance of Investing in Yourself…

FINALLY!!!!  It appears I’m back on board!  I’m trying out a new ISP and I sincerely hope this one’s much better than the last one.  Goodness!  The past few weeks have been SUCH a challenge!
 
 
Great!  So here I am talking about the importance of investing in yourself today.  
 
I would like to discuss the benefits of investing in the knowledge required to set up any fashion establishment AND implore anyone who would like to run a business on the importance of getting the requisite skills and the relevant knowledge necessary to operate in that industry.
So there I was going through my previous blog, t-twayne.blogspot.com, when I stumbled upon one of my favourite posts, “Do You Really Need to Study Fashion Design to Succeed in the Fashion Industry?” http://www.t-twayne.blogspot.com/2008/02/do-you-really-need-to-study-fashion.html
A pretty freaky image yes I know but please focus on the message passed across in the picture.  

Now when I wrote the post, I knew going to fashion school was the best decision I ever made.  BUT I still felt the need to challenge that mindset, after all… some of the richest men in the world today dropped out of school.  In fact, Ralph Lauren didn’t go to fashion school yet made loads of money from the fashion industry.  So why exactly is getting the knowledge in the chosen field necessary I wonder?!  

 
Truth is, yes many of these people may have dropped out of school or other forms of formal education but many of them, if not all, must have invested a lot of time and money getting all the knowledge they possibly could to excel in their chosen field.  Take for example, Dr Maduka of the Coscharis Group.  Yes he may not have completed Elementary 3 BUT he spent years as an apprentice learning all the tricks of his trade and spent time studying his industry before setting up in his own.  
 
Let’s bring it home to the fashion industry.  Case Study:  Mrs Nike Ogunlesi of Ruff N Tumble.  She also dropped out of school but had spent years working with her mother and therefore thoroughly understood the trade.  Needless to say that every speaker at the  Creative Business Expo 2012, Lola Maja-Okojevoh of Sacred Group, Orighoye Dore-Job of Nylah’s Catering and Babasola Bamiro of Babz Bamiro Photography and, of course I :-D, left promising degrees and career paths to pursue completely different fields BUT still went back to school to get the relevant knowledge before broaching their new areas.  

NOW!  I have spoken to many designers who believe their love for fashion and the fact that they can sketch is really all they need to start a fashion business.  HA!  I only wish.  Yes your love for fashion goes a long way…. it is all that will keep you going when the going gets tough but it is not enough!  Even those who studied it in formal environments, backed with our work experience STILL face those challenges.  After all, that’s why even the most successful businesses like Coca-cola still spend so much time and money rebranding themselves.  But you know what?!  When we hit the roadblocks, we knew when to bow out and choose different routes.I also say, when you thoroughly understand fashion, your clients will feed off the confidence and enthusiasm you exude when you talk about your product or service.  More often than not, people want to patronise those they can trust and who seem to know what they are talking about.  They also want people to advise them based on informed decisions and conclusions reached rather than just gut feeling.  If you understand fashion and colours for example, you can explain why certain colours will not work for certain people and certain spaces simply because you understand the psychological effects of colour.  Those who attended FEC 3 will tell you that.


I recall extracts from a 4-part series from my church’s sermons, “The 7 Principles Jews Teach Their Children” and the reason for the success of the Jews.  I learnt a lot from those cds and have listened to them so many times, I know them by heart.  I have even bought them as gifts for people simply because it highlights many things small businesses often neglect and take for granted.  One of the most important things I gained from sermons was the fact that Jews ALWAYS invested in the knowledge or gained relevant work experience in whatever field they chose to operate in.  They would rather take a loan to fund their education than buy expensive cars or live in expensive houses.  Needless to say that almost every successful business person would tell you that they read, read and read, conduct lots of research to broaden their minds and attend various seminars relevant to their chosen fields.

So why oh why do we fashion designers in this environment not do the same?!  Why do we hesitate to register for courses or buy books or conduct research on the internet.  Why do we rush into setting up our businesses without studying our environment or conducting proper research before we set up.  We need to understand the processes involved in setting up the businesses and that is why I decided to run the Fashion Entrepreneurship Courses.  Yes it is costing me a lot to run the courses but for me, every single time a designer tells me they are quitting, it breaks my heart because I know there is so much money to make from this industry.  If only they were better prepared for the challenges they would face and there are a lot of them.  

What many of us concern ourselves with is learning how to sew…. and yes it is important but trust me, it is the least of our problems.  Yes we need to learn how to sew but not because we should actually sew but because the knowledge is important to guide our production team.  We need to focus more on running our businesses and conducting research and spending more time planning and developing our product than rushing into setting up or bothering about PR and lookbooks.   I have seen so many people who loved fashion quit the industry out of frustration.  Why?!  Simply because they made some avoidable mistakes.  Hey!  Even I made a lot of mistakes with all the formal education and accounting background I had but I was able to realize the mistakes I made early on in the game and backtrack.  

So what am I saying in a nutshell?  Simple!

1.  Spend more time investing in the knowledge, either a formal or informal education, registering for relevant courses or even surfing the internet.  You will be amazed what the University of Google has to offer.

2.  Focus on turning that amazing love and passion of yours for fashion into a viable business!  As my friend always says, “Unless the Outcome is Income…” – passion to me is completely useless!  So even if it is a mere hobby, think about making some money from it, even if it is just to cover your costs.

3.  Proverbs 21:5   

“The plans of the diligent lead surely to plenty; 
but those of everyone who is hasty surely to poverty”.
 
What does this mean?!  Do not rush into setting up your fashion business.  Study the industry and form strategic networks necessary to establish the business in the most cost-effective manner.  I spent 2 years trying to understand the industry so I could know how to plug into the industry and where to position myself.  And it is still work in progress.  Learn as much as you can and apply the knowledge and principles of whatever work experience you have, even if you are a banker or IT specialist, in your fashion establishment.
 

Great then!  That’s my 2 cents for today!  Remember, knowledge is power!  Trust me, it will be time and money well spent!

 
Oh PS.  I stumbled upon these sites when searching for images on the net.  I’m sure they’ll help you.
 
Lessons Learnt from Dr Cosmas Maduka of the Coscharis Group @ the TREM VI Business Academy (13 May 2012)

Lessons Learnt from Dr Cosmas Maduka of the Coscharis Group @ the TREM VI Business Academy (13 May 2012)

 
Hello Everyone!!!  Hope you had a great start to the week.  Apologies for the staggered posts.  I am still having major internet issues and still on the hunt for the perfect ISP.  As soon as I am sorted, I’ll be back with my regular posts!  I have lots of them lined up! 😀
 
Okay great!  This was my Sunday post and I’ll make it really brief as I absolutely must give you the new information on FEC 4!!!  I am mighty excited!  BUT before then, let me share with you some vital lessons I learnt from one of the most humble people I have ever had the privilege of listening to and more importantly, learning about business from using biblical principles.  I’m sure this will help our fashion businesses no matter how small or big our businesses are.
 
So I was invited by my absolutely fabulous mentor to the Business Academy which holds at his church, TREM VI, Lekki Phase 1, once a quarter.  At the Academy, many businessowners and successful entrepreneurs are invited to share their experiences with the congregation in order to motivate us into thinking big.  
 
So anyway, despite the rain, I headed out thinking I’d spend only an hour thereabouts but ended up staying till 1pm.  I am SO GLAD I did and I just had to share this with you!

Image from http://www.cp-africa.com/wp-content/uploads/2014/11/Cosmos-Maduka.jpg
Meet Dr Cosmas Maduka, Chairman & CEO of the Coscharis Group, an uneducated man who pulled himself out of poverty and became a billionaire simply by working hard, believing in himself and “confessing” himself to riches.  For those who haven’t heard of him, you may read some of his stories here:
 
– http://nationalmirroronline.net/business-courage/26792.html
– http://www.nigeriavillagesquare.com/articles/odimegwu-onwumere/see-cosmos-maduka-a-be-inspired.html
– http://naijaenterprise.com/NE/cosmas-maduka-founder-of-coscharis-group
– http://www.planetafricagroup.com/Awards%20Recipients.htm
– http://www.secnig.com/?topic=8200.0%3Bwap2
– http://ynaija.com/2011/12/16/inspiring-stories-of-business-success-photos-report-from-the-2011-fate-foundation-awards/
 
Forget the fact that his story was touching, what struck me was his emphasis on the power of words.  He kept hammering on the power of words.  To him, “a word is a thought expressed”!  And THAT is exactly what our theme of the year is at my church.  Words and positive confessions.  And you know what?!  It works!  I have first hand experience.  Tried, tested and trusted!  
 
So what advice did Dr Maduka have to give us young entrepreneurs?!  His “10 Commandments of Small Business Enterprise”.  And here they are [with of course my comments underneath 😉 ]:
 
1.  Pick & remain focused on a business you understand well.   
 
For me, it’s about spending more time learning the business than rushing into the business.  Dr Maduka spent a long time as an apprentice learning the intricacies of the business before rushing into it and was, therefore, able to use the knowledge gained as a competitive edge over others and he gave practical examples of how he did it. 
 
2.  Thoroughly understand your market.  (Need I say more?!)
 
3.  Look for and hire professional managers 
 
Obviously when you can afford to do so.  You need to hire people with the relevant work experience, particularly with start up companies and not just those with the certificates.  This I learnt from a sermon at church “The 7 Principles Jews Teach Their Children”.
 
4.  Put in place a strong financial and administrative control.  
 
Very important but very difficult for young business owners.  Many people think we small business owners steal from our businesses and dip our hands into the business coffers to sustain ourselves.  Well in my case, my business steals from me if you ask me.  Every dime I make goes into the business… including other monies I make from, e.g. dividend payments.  It is ridiculous and I battled with this for ages.  After all, I have paid my dues and deserve to go out for drink with my friends once in a while or watch a movie to relax.  UNTIL my accountant friend told me what to do about it and when I first paid myself a salary, I was ecstatic!  And now I don’t feel so guilty anymore when I use company funds for personal runs because I just net it off my cash take home every month!  And that is a tip for you! You can thank me later! 😀
 
5. Constantly research the market to confirm the continued relevancy of your pricing and your product to prevent your business from being obsolete.  
 
Need I say more.  Most of us rush into business without understanding the industry, who the players are and what everyone else is doing.  I was also guilty of this but I learnt early enough that I could not bypass the research process.
 
6.  Do not spend too much money on office space and self-serving activities.  You need liquid cash to run the business!  
 
Spot on!  My take on this is many of us are too concerned about branding ourselves when we have no product to brand.  We focus on PR, fashion shows or getting office spaces on the Island when there are cheaper alternatives so the cost savings could be diverted to further developing our product.  My ready question for designers are… ok so you now have the orders from your fashion shows.  Do you have the capacity or the resources to deliver on those orders?!  Exactly!  If you must spend on “tooshing” up your office, know that it must have the capacity to directly influence sales.
 
7.  Have a business strategic plan and constantly review it.  
 
My take on this is, many of us are concerned about writing business plans and I can tell you for free that I really do not have the time to sit and write one or the funds to employ someone to write it for me.  But what I do have is a life plan for my business to guide me and not for investment purposes.  My road map and it reinforced my decision to leave the bespoke route when I realized how far I had deviated from my original plan.
 
8.  Keep proper & complete records of all transactions!  
 
HA!  I cannot overemphasize this enough!  Even I have to discipline myself despite my accounting background and I go about with a small book and record even the N20s I spend.  And if you are too busy to record these expenses on the computer, get an accounting student or even a young school leaver who can assist you in the early days.  I know most students are looking for extra cash.)
 
9.  Make sure there is a job description for every position and find people to fill them.  
 
Very important though I have been writing one for my assistant for the past 6 months.  I kind of stopped when I got to like page 25 or something but it is still work in progress and I still discussed it with him last week.  So we are both clear on issues!
 
10.  Set performance standards for yourself and constantly measure yourself against them.
 
Here again is where my life plan comes into place and the targets I set for myself.  Not sure I have done badly this year but I know I can do better!
 
SO!  There you have it!  Phew!  I didn’t expect this post to be this long but well it’s done now!  Here are some pictures I took of him.  If you want to know more about his success story, you can buy his book “From Trials to Triumphs – The Coscharis Story”.

 

I think the cds of his lecture are also available for sale at TREM VI.  I’ll find out how you can get them if you  are interested.
 
And I also think you should get this cd as well.  It was the first TREM VI Business Academy cd I ever listened to.  The story of Mrs Ayo Megbope, the owner of No Left Overs, a lady who started a successful business from selling moin moin.  Another inspiring story which left me wowed when I met with her.  You can read up on it here.
 
– http://nigeria.smetoolkit.org/nigeria/en/content/en/6107/No-Left-Overs-Limited
– http://knowledge.wharton.upenn.edu/10000women/article.cfm?articleid=6136
 
Great!  My deed is done!  
 
Have a great day all!
 
Cheers!
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