Ladybrille® Fashion Business With . . . Adama Sallie Kargbo, Founder & Creative Director Aschobi

“Ladybrille® Fashion Business With . . .” is a feature on Ladybrille® Magazine that is focused on entrepreneurs in Africa’s fashion industry, with a heavy emphasis on fashion designers. There is simply too much empty hypes, overwhelming and redundant fashion weeks with such overlaps of collections shown; and a BIG need to edit out the noise so the industry can focus on building a proper business foundation for African fashion and African fashion designers to thrive and increase their bottom line. This feature highlights business principles, business practices, follows the money, discusses the challenges faced by fashion startups as well as offers pragmatic tips that should help stir the Ladybrille fashion entrepreneur towards success. If you would like to be featured, send an email to (, indicate the kind of fashion business you operate and what you intend to share with our audience that you feel will be beneficial to them. Tell us, briefly, how and why you decided to strike out on your own as a fashion entrepreneur?
Initially, I definitely did not think of myself as a fashion entrepreneur but to answer your question I had a desire to explore my creativity. After working in the industry with so many amazing people and seeing their own careers develop and flourish, naturally this influenced me to pursue my own dreams of becoming a fashion designer. When I got on the ground in Sierra Leone and started operating my design studio that’s when the word entrepreneur began to have resonance in my life. From then on my passion became to build a successful fashion business whilst allowing my creativity to evolve as the brand grows. Describe the exact goods and services you provide?
Aschobi is a luxury womenswear and accessories brand. Our products range from dresses, top wear, evening wear, trousers, skirts and accessories. Aschobi is a contemporary and stylish international brand with bold collections for those seeking global sophistication and sensuality What is the core mission of your business?
To build an international heritage brand built on the foundation of quality artisanal craftsmanship that celebrates the female form through contemporary and modern styles that are inspired by multicultural ethnic cultures. What clearly defined business goals do you have for your brand within the next two years?
Oh wow, . . . there are so many of them… I like to call them my objectives… I will list six below…

  1. Re-launch the Aschobi brand internationally at the Spring/Summer 2013 presentations in Paris.
  2. Re-launch and introduce the new digital home of Aschobi.
  3. Develop good reliable relationships with my manufacturers and sourcing vendors.
  4. Hire key staff: Business Development Coordinator and a Garment Production Technologist.
  5. Set-up and operate out of our new design atelier and offices in Paris.
  6. Continue building and getting to know my customers. For your products/services, what is the distribution system you have in place to make sure customers get your products when and where they want it?
With the re-launch of the brand and the website Aschobi will be available internationally for purchase. This website will be the window to the collections, generating interest from consumers through our highly interactive design. The website will be search engine optimized and contain a number of features including: shopping cart, product information, client testimony, photo gallery, company profile, location, list of services, and links to social media platforms for easy information sharing. The site will be multilingual, and will evoke an energy that is consistent with the Aschobi brand and our message. Customers will also be able to keep track of the international tradeshows we plan to attend as well as boutique and department stores where the brand will become available for purchase both on and off-line. What has been your biggest business success to date?
It is having a business plan that clearly outlines the various components and stages that will guide me through this next phase of Aschobi’s development. My business plan has helped me to address all aspects of Aschobi’s growth that will directly affect my profit margins and determine the bottom line and pace at which I want my brand to grow. More importantly, coming to an understanding that my business plan serves as a guideline and things can change. Knowing this makes me that much more prepared for any changes, should they occur. What has been your biggest fashion business mistake so far?
(Laughs)…I would have to say my biggest fashion business mistake has been making the decision to start a business without a business plan. However, I am a true believer in learning from ones mistakes. Sometimes you have to make the mistake more than once to truly learn the lesson, and I can attest to having learnt some very valuable lessons in the past 3+ years. Give us an example of the valuable lesson(s) you learnt from that mistake?
. . .I have learnt many valuable lessons, the most important and the one lesson I practice everyday is patience. Patience to take my time when making my decisions, patience to seek out advice from those more knowledgeable and to research to ask the right questions, patience to endure the hard times, patience to understand the role of “time”. As a business, what is the customer experience you want each customer to take away every time they experience your fashion brand?
I want my customers to feel good, like they have made an investment and already they can see the rewards and they are pleased with the experience and their contribution in making it happen. What are your plans for expansion?
Aschobi will be re-launching and presenting our next collection in September during the spring/ summer 2013 Paris Fashion week presentations. I plan to introduce and make available the Aschobi collection to a wider demographic. I plan to introduce a winter collection to the brand. I’m really excited for this next phase of growth and development with my company, as you can imagine there all kinds of ideas and plans floating in my head. What do you believe are the key qualities of a brilliant (Ladybrille) entrepreneur?
Someone that understands the importance of taking calculated risks, someone hardworking with passion for the things they do, someone with vision that is inspiring.

I feel passion and hard work are crucial for a successful entrepreneur. That being said, there also needs to be a balance between exuberant passion and calculated risks. Passion cannot be the sole driving force behind an entrepreneur.

Something that may be overlooked but that is nevertheless necessary in a fashion entrepreneur is inspirational vision. When I think of designers such as Alexander Mcqueen and Phoebe Philo, they take risks and their visions set the standard for the rest of the design world and power like sets you apart from others. Can you share with our audience some few tips on financial management of a fashion business?
I think for all businesses there needs to be a sound system of accounting and book keeping for monies coming in and going out of the business. Investors want to be able to see where their money is going.

Try to keep your overhead costs low (this is generally relative)

When reading financial statements and documents if there are things you don’t understand do not be scared to ask for further explanation to understand what the numbers and figures are saying. How have you been able to integrate new technologies into your business to make it successful?
The most significant technological integration in my business would have to be in production. Working with European manufacturers has forced me to digitize my patterns for CAD use. This has been really helpful in terms of time management and resource consumption. It has also forced me to work with standard sizing and has made the transition much easier to manage since so much of it can be manipulated through the program rather than trial and error in a 3D format. The same can be said for designing my own prints using DTP (digital textile printing) technologies. Tell us the three ways you have used social media to increase brand awareness and gain recognition for your brand?
Currently I am using Facebook, Twitter, and Tumblr. Each serves a different purpose in a way.

The Facebook page Aschobi Designs has become a community, with smaller ones in between, of people from various cultural backgrounds. Originally they started out as mainly Sierra Leonean supporters and customers that frequented my studio in Sierra Leone. It just so happened quite a few of my customers where expats moving in and out of the country. They sort of became ambassadors of the brand in their own countries and this has had an amazing trickle down effect in reaching a wider international audience.

You can follow Aschobi on Twitter I use this site to highlight the various business news, media, social and hot topics in the fashion industry that interest me and are relevant to the world of Aschobi as an emerging brand from an emerging market.

Tumblr is my favourite one because it has such a strong visual medium. You can find me on tumblr under Ouvrez Vos Yeaux. Its been great for collecting ideas for themes I would like to explore for future Aschobi collections and highlighting things I like about other brands as well as visual movements, trends and designers that influence me .It gives me the opportunity and platform to share these ideas with my customers In your opinion, why do fashion businesses, especially African fashion businesses, fail?
In my opinion this can sometimes be attributed to the lack of vision in creating a sound creative heritage that is equally balanced with a vision for laying the foundations for financial growth for the business model. What do you look for when you hire employees?
Someone loyal, hardworking, result oriented, confident, and knows how to take initiative,
I always try to work with people that believe in my vision for my company. What drives you as a business owner?
Seeing my ideas and visions for my company come to fruition is a big motivator that drives me, Money is also a good motivator since it gives me some of the tools I need to pursue developing my brand further. Satisfaction with my team and their hard work, that keeps the engine going. I cannot stress enough the importance of a good support network and team that keeps my motivation going. What makes you get up to do what you do everyday instead of throwing in the towel and getting a 9-5?
I really love what I do. Every day is exciting. I have a big passion for fashion…it sounds cheesy, I know, I just really love fashion, the clothes, the people, the business, the social implication on today’s 21st century modern society and its significance in the history of the 20th century. I love it all and I am glad to be a part of it.

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Ladybrille Magazine

Founded in 2007, Ladybrille® Magazine is a California based pioneer digital publication demystifying the image of Africans in the west through contemporary African fashion and celebrating the brilliant woman in business and leadership, with an emphasis on the African woman in the diaspora. Our coverage includes stories on capital, access to markets, expertise, hiring and retention, sales, marketing, and promotions.

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1 Comment

  1. Adama Kai says:

    Hello Ladybrille,
    Thank you so much for featuring Aschobi in your business and fashion section. We are always happy to contribute to your content in any way that you find suitable. Its really great to read this through again specifically at this poignant time. I look forward to giving you more positive updates.
    All the best to everyone on TEAM LADYBRILLE
    Adama Kai

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