As #MotherlandMoguls, no matter what is thrown at us, we need to bounce back stronger.
Enter entrepreneur Veronica Otogo. Ronnie as she is fondly called, has been hit by her fair share of challenges however, she is not letting up. Veronica Otogo was recently all over social media and in our prayers. With SLA contributor Ugochi Obidiegwu, she shares her entrepreneurship journey and how her business runs in her absence.
What lead to the Asoebi Guru business?
I have a degree in accounting however, I have always wanted more than a degree and a job. I graduated and got a job in an investment company but something wasn’t just right, I just wasn’t happy even though I had started my business.
My sister and I co-founded AsoebiGuru Fabrics. We started fabric retail in 2014 because it was something we both knew about. It wasn’t easy at first, reaching our target market and finding loyal customers due to our location (we weren’t very visible). In 2015, we lost our dad. He had been our main pillar of support and had convinced us to quit our respective jobs to grow AsoebiGuru Fabrics since we loved it. Even when we felt the stress was too much, he encouraged us. When he left in January 2015, it was devastating, even now, nothing has come close to the pain we felt (and still feel).
We closed down the business, but with God, we picked up again in October and from then it was all about making our dad proud. AsoebiGuru Fabrics is better than ever, we have the best customers, we get to meet new people everyday especially women and get to share in their stories and experiences. In 2016, it was all about growing the business, having a good background and a sustainable system.
I am a strong believer in this -there’s nothing that can stop you from achieving YOUR greatest except you and this has pushed me. I’ve always been driven to be the best version of myself, to motivate someone to go higher than they are.
Why did you choose fabric retail despite other businesses similar to yours?
I’ve always wanted to be in the fashion industry, but I wanted to do something different. So we decided to make the best of the fabric business my sister started when she was in school.
We don’t just offer the regular fabrics you find in a typical Nigerian fabric store, but something exceptional, something different.
How did you make it in a seemingly overpopulated industry?
When you have a vision of what you want to do, you cannot afford to second-guess yourself. You have everyone else to do that for you so, focus on the vision.
Next, you have to find people who are already in the business to learn from. It is important to find these mentors and watch them. The importance of mentors cannot be oversold. If you are in an overpopulated industry, you cannot afford to be mediocre, strive to have the best product, the best service.
Recently, you were away from your business, did business still go on in your absence? How?
My business did go on in my absence but it wasn’t easy! It was like everything was paused for 10 days. Yes, we had a structure and staff who work in our store, but it wasn’t just the same.
Business was really slow then (I could tell from the records). Some customers were scared of coming to the store, my sister was only concerned about my whereabouts and safety, staff input was really poor. I am a strong believer of “a happy heart produces good results” and at that time, no one was happy.
In all, I am grateful for my team. They stood by us through that rough period. We came out stronger. I am not one to stay down after a fall. I am blessed to have amazing people around me so the healing process was fast and easy. Business is back to normal now, and we are looking forward to an amazing year ahead!
Why are systems necessary even in a small business?
When you have structure everything flows. When people working with you understand your vision and know where you want your brand to go, it automatically makes your business easier.
We cannot control what happens around us but we can control how we react to it. Setting up a system not only eases your business but it prepares you for the unknown.
What is the most difficult part of being an entrepreneur and how do you manage it?
There are a lot of ‘difficult parts’ of being an entrepreneur but I’d say one that is tough to fight is unfavourable government policies that affect everything from travelling to sourcing for fabrics to shipping to renting shop space.
We have no other choice but to push through it. When a new policy is enacted that makes business tough, we always find a way around it. God is on our side.
What do you wish you knew before you started your business?
The power of advertising. For about a year when we started, we struggled because we didn’t get the word out.The secret to being a successful woman in today's market is to walk to the beat of your own drum Click To Tweet
What are your final words to young women in business and career.
I’ve not had a lot of experience, but one thing I am sure of is the secret to being a successful woman in today’s market is to walk to the beat of your own drum. Always listen to your intuition. Use your stumbling blocks as stepping stones.
When you feel you have greatness in your heart, go for it! The worst thing that can happen is that it wouldn’t work out, but you get a medal for trying. Always keeps moving, even if you have to crawl or jump, JUST KEEP MOVING!
Be a lifelong student. Never get tired of learning. Continuous learning leads to continuous improvement. Cultivate a network of trusted mentors and colleagues. Dream big and stay committed to what you love to do. Never let anything or anyone limit you. My mentor Steve Harris always says “it is not what you don’t have that limits you, it is what you have but you don’t know how to use”.
Women are natural leaders and entrepreneurs. We all have the ability to grow our businesses with our skills and our brains. So set reasonable goals, stay on track and you’ll get closer to reaching your dreams.