She Leads Africa connected with Alima Bello, a fashion entrepreneur from Accra, Ghana to learn more about how she’s turned her passion into a full-fledged business. This is part of our series, From Startup To Grownup, which shares how young women entrepreneurs have moved beyond the startup phase and transitioned their businesses into sustainable enterprises.
How did you start Bello|Edu and what did you know about business before getting started?
This might sound cliché, but Bello|Edu started off as a personal need. It was hard looking for clothing or fashion pieces of my own aesthetic so I started designing my own stuff to have them made for me. This developed into designing for family friends and then later on I took a pattern drafting course to further develop my passion.
I majored in business administration both in secondary and undergrad so I had theoretical knowledge in business. I was also fortunate enough to work in a family-owned company so I had a bit of experience in business management before I ventured into Bello|Edu.
How long did it take for you to view your company as a serious business and start to professionalize it? Did something happen to get you to that point?
I always viewed my passion as a business. But I guess what you’re trying to ask is at what stage I started treating it as business. There came a point where I had to be firm with myself and admit that it was becoming an expensive hobby and I needed to put certain things in place in order to realise my dreams.
I tell myself that until I am able to lock down 300 – 500 orders per collection or season, this will remain a hobby.
What bad business habits did you need to give up in order to help your business grow?
Just because I like it doesn’t mean it has to make the cut. That’s a grown-up decision. This is where the business side of me has to override my creative side. I know most creatives go through this process where we tend to create or design something that speaks to us or reflects our mood at any point in time.
In business however, that design piece might not be feasible and so you have to do the bold thing and drop it. And oh, I have this impulse to buy any fabric that speaks to me. Now, that’s not a smart business choice.
What business investment was hard for you to make that you are now so grateful for?
With my theoretical and practical knowledge I don’t think any decision was hard to make. It was just a matter of prioritising and timing.
What advice would you give to young entrepreneurs interested in building a sustainable fashion business?
There’s never the right time to start a business. The time is always now.
Data is also very vital for your business. Keeping the number trends will let you know which smart and not so smart business choices to keep or to drop.