Nnanke Essien is a HR professional and a business consultant. Her experience in business began when she was 14 years and helping her mom with her crayfish business.

Since then she has been a business partner to many business owners leveraging on her experience in providing strategy and human resource solutions for diverse industries including manufacturing, oil, and gas, consulting, communications, retail, energy, education, etc.

Her core is transformation, (people, process and culture integration) and her superpower is helping businesses with interventions for value-based/profitable visibility, resonance, growth, and sustainability.

In this interview, Nnanke Essien talks about her introduction to business consultancy and her just-concluded event for fashion entrepreneurs.


You recently organized an event for fashion entrepreneurs. What triggered it?

The dream began for me in December 2017, when I began to observe the behavior of attendees at a goal setting hangout. It was fascinating watching folks create their vision board by tearing pictures from magazines and posting them on cardboards.

My analytic head kept wondering if this was just a fun activity or it made sense to them.

I knew something had to prepare them for this experience to be worthwhile and useful and that thing was beyond the five-hour business lecture they had just received.

Fast forward to March 2018, one of the participants at the event sent me a lengthy message beginning with “coach how can I be visible? I have tried everything and nothing seems to work”.

I immediately put on my business growth doctor hat and began to teach.

I spoke to her about the psychology of her business, her products, her promise, the right platforms for her, promotion style etc

Alas! her reaction simply showed that what I was saying didn’t sound like the solution she wanted, she just wanted a quick solution to help her be visible.

How can fashion business owners optimize their businesses?

The fastest way to optimize your business is through service and collaboration – @gnnanke Click To Tweet

While growing up, my church used to be in a location where spare part dealers were dominant. I used to marvel at the apprenticeship structure, a young boy will learn and aspire to be like or even greater than his master.

Likewise, new fashion designers should take time to learn under someone they aspire to be like not for three months but for an extended period, where they can gain mastery.

There are a lot of advantages to this model. They gain undisputed mastery and get leverage riding on the positioning of that person they learned from. The market also trusts them faster and they have a reference point and a benchmark for success.

They exhibit great business success skills because of their learning process.

I don’t believe in quick fixes, I believe in sustained consistency over a period of time – @gnnanke Click To Tweet

You are guaranteed to get results. Don’t be in a hurry to get on the gram and then begin to run helter-skelter with the excuse that the fashion industry is over saturated

Know what you want to be visible for, find out what the leaders in your space have done to get to their positions, mirror them especially those that align with your values, get results and remain on top. 

The biggest question for me was “how can we be a part of the solution?”

So in 2019, we began planning in earnest, The business leaders breakfast meeting, a platform where we bring the best minds (leaders) in business to share insights and experiences as well as to equip business owners with knowledge that will prepare them for the massive opportunities in these industries.

The mandate for us was simply to create a market space that encourages inclusive growth especially in a challenging operating environment like Nigeria.

We positioned our platform as a catalyst (incubator) to help entrepreneurs have access to market, access to untapped opportunities, access to financial services, to even just dream big, know that their dreams are possible and position their brands for global leverage.

For us, It is
our utmost desire to see SME’s go from struggling businesses to growing
businesses, from no systems to systems of optimal productivity, from business
underdogs to business leaders, from zero productivity to optimal productivity
and finally, businesses that contribute strongly to the local and national
economy.

We wanted to bridge the huge divide between business leaders and business freshers. To build an ecosystem of support, collaborations, and access to opportunities within and outside Africa.

We had Mai Atafo, Valentine Ozigbo, Joycee Awosika and Adaora Mbelu headlining our first event

What key lessons do you wish more fashion business owners knew based on what was learned at the event?

  1. Tie your fashion business to a bigger vision
  2. Be an endless learner
  3. Seek continuous improvement
  4. Focus on excellence and excellent service delivery
  5. Understanding your business model and reviewing it consistently is key..I can’t even stress this enough
  6. Stay on top of industry changes, be aware of global trends that impacts your business locally and adapt accordingly
  7. Network more
  8. Don’t be afraid to express your creativity because you assume the market won’t respond
  9. Don’t be afraid of collaboration and scale
  10. Keep your promise to your tribe, never compromise

The value
pyramid is divided into three: the bottom 30% (no go area) the middle 70% (the
average, normal space where most people play) and the top 10% (where the
leaders play).

What’s your advice to a struggling fashion business

You don’t need more visibility or brand awareness storms (with loud music and an open truck) to build a profitable and sustainable business, what you need is people who can’t stop raving about what you do…

I call it “raveonance” rave+resonance.

You can’t achieve this without self-awareness (understanding why), client awareness (understanding the who) and market awareness (understanding the what and how).

The best place to start is to understand whom you do what you do best for, why you do it, know yourself and these people like the back of your palm and —then start creating something those people love.


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