She Leads Africa

SLA Logo

Addie Olutola: Building a Fashion Line for the culture

Addie Olutola is the founder of D’IYANU, a ready-to-wear clothing line that offers African inspired fashion for men and women. She thought of the business idea while working as a buyer and also attending a Masters program in International Marketing. Her professional and academic background, coupled with a love for fashion and a passion for African-centered art set the stage for D’IYANU. A regular on my Instagram Explore Tab featuring #datenight outfits and a go-to brand for the culturally-conscious fashionista, D’IYANU encourages self-expression through its bold prints and unique pieces. The meaning behind the brand name draws from French (D’) and Yoruba (IYANU) influence, translating to “of something wonderful”–a reminder to everyone that they’re uniquely made and to dress like it. What makes D’IYANU even more special is Addie’s commitment to seeking ways her business can empower her community and help address the social issues it faces. The company has grown to 12 employees, many of whom are Nigerian women, and has donated a portion of its profits to nonprofits that provide clean water and education to African communities. In this interview, she gives a sneak peek into her world and shares her wisdom on how to build a purpose-filled business. Tell us about your journey of starting D’IYANU. Since university, I held a purpose to help build schools and clinics and provide opportunities to people in underdeveloped communities in Nigeria and other African countries. I later launched D’IYANU with a mission centered on community engagement. Since our start, we’ve donated over $20,000 to causes that support African communities and the D’IYANU brand continues to grow daily.   What were some important lessons you took your work experience to your business? My first job out of school was for an online pet store. I learned a lot of valuable lessons about inventory and website management that helped me when I launched my own business. My second job as a buyer helped me hone my vendor and customer relation skills which was much needed as well in my business. All my previous jobs really contributed to my success as an entrepreneur. I would advise aspiring entrepreneurs to regard their current and previous jobs as stepping stones and commit to gleaning as much knowledge and skill as possible from that role [bctt tweet=”Not every business is the same. Don’t make the assumption that what worked for another company will necessarily work for your own – @AddieIyanu” username=”SheLeadsAfrica”] What did you learn from your biggest failure? One failure we experienced was trying to implement an ERP system that was too big for us. It was an archaic system used by larger companies and thought it would work for us. We made many assumptions, and it ended up costing us a lot. The lesson learned was that not every business is the same and not to make the assumption that what worked for another company will necessarily work for your own. Also, make sure you do your due diligence and get as much of your questions answered as possible. Who has influenced you most when it comes to how you approach your work? I listen to some motivational speakers regular such as Les Brown, Jim Rohn, and Tony Robbins whose words have helped me through tough times with my business. Words from Les Brown such as “It’s not over until I win” or Tony Robbins “I can, I will, I must” ring in my mind when I’m feeling discouraged. As your business grows, what are some core values that will remain important? Always keep customers first and maintain excellent customer service Hire great people and keeping them happy within the team Continue to innovate and try new things with operations and fashion Make sure that D’IYANU continues to give to great causes The African fashion market is heavily saturated, how do you cut through the noise to differentiate your brand?   Since starting D’IYANU, my goal has been to make sure that we’re differentiating ourselves by offering quality, ready to wear clothing at reasonable prices, quick delivery, and quality customer service. Our men’s fashion line, for example, has allowed us to reach a rarely tapped market and to gain a competitive advantage in the African-wear industry. With the substantial relationship between e-commerce and social media, what are some creative strategies you’ve experimented with or want to explore? With social media, we recognize that the possibilities to connect with new customers are endless. We’re currently exploring our options in using more video content and collaborating with influencers. What is your personal brand mantra? “My mission in life is not merely to survive, but to thrive; and to do so with some passion, some compassion, some humor and some style.”- Maya Angelou What’s your advice for a budding entrepreneur? Write down why you want to start your business. Make sure the reasons are compelling enough to get you going on tough days. If your reasons are compelling enough, you’ll figure out a way to make your dreams a reality and continue to push in spite of failure. [bctt tweet=”Make sure your reasons for starting your business are compelling enough to get you going on tough days. – @AddieIyanu” username=”SheLeadsAfrica”] What are you most excited about at the moment, and what are your next steps? I’m excited about our use of a new type of fabric that’s woven but has a little bit of spandex for stretch. No one else in the African fashion market is using this type of fabric to my knowledge. We have to get it special made. It looks like cotton, but it’s made with a rayon/nylon/spandex blend. It can stretch to accommodate curves nicely. We have a few pieces that we will be launching in January 2019 with this material which is exciting!  Interested in contributing for She Leads Africa? Click here.

Miyoba Buumba: Venture into areas that haven’t been explored

Miyoba is a designer, entrepreneur and environmental advocate with two years work experience with the nonprofit sector. She owns a Zambian design brand called Mwabonwa which makes African print beddings, Jewry, adult and children’s wear. Miyoba is also a youth leader of Echo Change Zambia which conducts environmental awareness activities in schools and communities and has spearheaded the planting of 33,571 trees in Monze District of Zambia from January to March 2017. She holds a Bachelor of Education with environmental education form the University of Zambia. Her main skills include capacity building, community mobilisation, advocacy and enterprenuaship. Miyoba plans to expand her brand and open a design school where she will teach young girls and boys entrepreneurship skills. What’s your strategy of being in the forefront as a young African entrepreneur? My strategy is venture into areas that have not yet been explored and capitalise on them. Unlike most fashion entrepreneurs who run either a small tailoring shop or a sales outlet, I plan to set up a clothes production factory and sales outlet that will have various sections which go above and beyond customer’s expectations. How long do you think it will take to kill the second hand clothing business? If more textiles industries are established, more designers begin to use local raw materials and local consumers see the value and begin to support locally made products, it will take 20 years or less. The second hand clothing business is so popular because it’s cheap. Do you think it will be cheaper when we produce ourselves? Absolutes yes. The reason why brand new clothes are expensive is because they are produced internationally and involve a lot costs from production to consumption. If we produce our own clothes using our local raw materials, we will not only making brand new clothes affordable but also creating employment from  textile manufacturing, clothe production and later on sales and marketing. How are you planning on bridging the gap for those that are struggling to also sell better quality clothing? Miyoba can you share with us your environmental concerns? I have beliefs and values that guide me to protect the environment in my every day activities. The environment is our home where all life only thrives when it is safe. A defiled environment can not support life, businesses and economies. We have not done so much in protecting our environment in the past as the resulting impacts are threatening the very lives we are trying to improve and the very businesses or economies  we are trying to build. What are some ways l can help the environment that l might not be aware of? One can help the environment by reducing the use of plastic bags when shopping, choosing to buy environmentally friendly products, use less water, recycling products,  planting trees, growing organic products and generally speaking to friends about good environmental practices. If you were to be reborn, would you rather live at the beginning of the world or at the end? I would live at the beginning because I feel we have wronged the earth so much without realising and now that I know what damage we humans have done to the planet, I would love a second chance with mother earth, just to start all over again.