The “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. 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 our Associate Editor at ([email protected]), 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.
For today’s feature, Ladybrille caught up with Fashion Designer Abena Adjei to discuss the business of fashion. Enjoy.
LADYBRILLEmag.com: Share your background with us?
Abena A.: I am a UK based Ghanaian designer and with a Law degree who began designing at the age of ten. My inspiration for art and fashion came from both a fixation for black and white movies and the glamour of the attire worn in the 1950s. In addition, I was constantly surrounded by various beautiful African prints such as Batik, Holland Wax and Kente fabrics which my mother sold.
LADYBRILLEmag.com: Tell us, briefly, how and why you decided to strike out on your own as a fashion entrepreneur?
Abena A.: I was inspired by various Ghanaian designers who have all successfully created fashion labels and I felt that it was time for me to also introduce myself as a designer and feel confident to finally branch out.
LADYBRILLEmag.com: Describe the exact products and services you provide.
Abena A.: The House of Adjeiwaah is a contemporary women’s clothing line, which was launched in 2011, delivering an exciting fusion of African and Western inspired garments. We produce uniquely designed attires described as a concoction of varied trends all moving away from tradition ranging from eclectic funky, to provocative and edgy but then also including simple but sophisticated pieces. The services we provide are a bespoke dress creation service whereby we cater for all occasions from casual wear to couture evening gowns and have provided outfits for beauty pageant contestants such as Miss Ghana and Miss Black Africa. We have also created outfits for many clients who are getting married or engaged and students attending their end of year prom.
LADYBRILLEmag.com: What is the core mission of your business?
Abena A.: Our core mission is to provide an efficient service whereby we produce unique one of a kind attires allowing you to stand out from the crowd. We want our clients to experience good quality service without delay thus building a positive and productive relationship with all our clients who will influence more business once they are satisfied with the service provided.
LADYBRILLEmag.com: What clearly defined business goals do you have for your brand within the next two years?
Abena A.: I understand that setting business goals is a powerful tool and definitely contributes to successful business growth. Therefore I have set out a framework of timescales in order to meet various goals to achieve in the next two years and the first would be to gain long term financial security for my business. I also intend to increase my monthly income and expand my brand to focus on a variety of areas in the fashion industry and not limited to producing garments and therefore I have long term and short term goals which will enable me to achieve these set goals by a specified period.
LADYBRILLEmag.com: 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?
Abena A.: The distribution system is via Royal Mail and we ensure that every time an item is distributed it is done securely via special or recorded delivery. The Royal Mail also provides Airmail and Airsure for overseas shipment. I use those services for my customers abroad as they are fast, secure, reliable and also traceable
LADYBRILLEmag.com: What has been your biggest business success to date?
Abena A.: I have been approached by a company in Switzerland to be a head judge and an in house designer for the beauty pageant Miss Black African Queen Switzerland. We have recently signed an agreement with the same company to launch my brand in Europe and become the main distributors of my products in Switzerland and France.
LADYBRILLEmag.com: (Congratulations! That’s quite major) So, what has been your biggest business mistake so far?
Abena A.: Listening to negative people who are not going to help me to progress and allow my brand to grow and reach full potential as a designer and as a business woman.
LADYBRILLEmag.com: What have you learnt from that mistake?
Abena A.: To surround myself only with positivity and continue to focus only on my goals and achieve every single one by creating timescales. Personally, I have a checklist I work through. I will not dwell on past mistakes as in life we all make mistakes but how you learn from them and move forward is the best lesson of all.
LADYBRILLEmag.com: As a business, what is the customer experience you want each customer to take away every time they experience your fashion brand?
Abena A.: I want each customer to walk way feeling that they have been provided with a high quality customer service and to feel instantly like a queen each time they put on a House of Adjeiwaah attire.
LADYBRILLEmag.com: What kind of challenges do you face when it comes to sourcing of materials for your fashion business?
Abena A.: Mostly when a client wants a duplication of the same material for a certain style and I am unable to provide this as it is not available in the quantity requested.
LADYBRILLEmag.com: What do you believe are the key qualities of a brilliant (Ladybrille) entrepreneur?
Abena A.: To always and forever remain positive and stay focused when you set your goals and believe in yourself and your brand. Richard Branson’s 5 rules for good business is an excellent guide for me to help understand qualities in running your own successful empire:
1. If you don’t enjoy it, don’t do it. You must love what you do.
2. Be innovative: Create something different that will stand out.
3. Your employees are your best asset. Happy employees make for happy customers.
4. Lead by listening: Get feedback from your staff and customers on a regular basis.
5. Be visible: Market the company and its offers by putting yourself or a senior person in front of the cameras.
LADYBRILLEmag.com: (Sir Branson is definitely one to listen) Can you share with our audience some few tips on financial management of a fashion business?
Abena A.: Effective financial management means that your business is on top of its cash flow and you know what the profit indicators are saying depending on the present economic climate. Failure to do so could be catastrophic. Also, you need to keep a constant eye on your debtors and their ability to pay you. In your business you must put in place excellent financial management tools to help maintain all your finances fruitfully.
LADYBRILLEmag.com: How have you been able to integrate new technologies into your business to make it successful?
Abena A.: I recently purchased a new PC and Laptop complete with a multi-purpose printer and all these are imperative in helping you to maintain a successful business.
LADYBRILLEmag.com: Tell us the three ways you have used social media to increase brand awareness and gain recognition for your brand?
Abena A.: I use various social networking sites to enhance my brand and connect with my clients using my website, face book, twitter and I am currently in the process of opening an account on Instagram.
LADYBRILLEmag.com: In your opinion, why do fashion businesses, especially African fashion businesses, fail?
Abena A.: The failure may be due to various reasons such as the inability to manage your business finances effectively, not creating an efficient client-focused approach to your service and also not getting appropriate advice in various areas from the right people. The collapse in communication with your clients could cost you a lot and is a major contribution to business failure and not meeting deadlines.
LADYBRILLEmag.com: What do you look for when you hire employees?
Abena A.: I look for a person with good communication skills someone who has a professional and polite manner and can use their own initiative. I always ensure my employees understand that their actions will reflect on my brand therefore they must always maintain a professional approach in all dealings. I also always guarantee that the person believes in my vision and understand my mission and what I’m trying to achieve with my brand.
LADYBRILLEmag.com: What drives you as a business owner?
Abena A.: The fact that a customer is satisfied with their product and the response and feedback I receive once they are in receipt of the final product allows me to gain more confidence as a designer and a business woman and gives me the drive to continue to grow.
LADYBRILLEmag.com: What makes you get up to do what you do everyday instead of throwing in the towel and getting a 9-5?
Abena A.: I love fashion I am so passionate especially about the future of African fashion which I see getting bigger and better and I want to be a part of this. Fashion is something I feel is my gift from God as I am able to sit, improvise and create a design within a few minutes so I couldn’t stop even if I tried as its in my DNA.
To view House of Adjeiwaah website, click here.
Elfonnie Inokon Anusionwu is a Ladybrille Woman Alumna. She is also an engineer and fashion entrepreneur. Elfonnie cites her passion for Africa and particularly her country Nigeria as the basis for why she writes. She believes that it is only through journalism that Africans can change the world’s perspective about who they really are. Follow Elfonnie on twitter at @elfonnie.