Recently lots of youths have ventured into the fashion business and more are still aspiring to join the industry, so learning from a successful Fashion entrepreneur like Jibolu “J.G.” Ayodele will be of much importance to their career.
Jibolu is the co-founder and the chief exponential officer at Thando’s, a Lagos-based entity specialising in the design and the distribution of African-inspired women’s fashion footwear. All of Thando’s footwear, primarily women’s pumps/flats, are designed, developed and prototyped on the continent.
So far Jibolu and his team as developed their fashion brand into a successful on in Africa, so we are sharing his interview so both existing and aspiring entrepreneurs in Africa can learn from him.
His Interview Excerpt
1. Tell us about one of the toughest situations you’ve found yourself in as a business owner.
Without a doubt, overpromising and underdelivering to our Thando’s customers who we fondly refer to as Team Thando’s. Our customers are at the core of everything we do at Thando’s and we pride ourselves on being transparent to them. With this situation, we learned just how important it is to be radically transparent.
Now, here’s what happened. It was the spring of 2017 and we were getting a record amount of orders. We sold out a lot quicker than we thought and were very excited. We planned on replenishing the sold-out styles quickly and so felt confident enough to start taking pre-orders from our customers. Well, things didn’t go according to plan as unforeseen challenges emerged with two of our suppliers that caused major delays.
These delays could have potentially breached the trust we had built with our customers, especially those who had pre-ordered. In embracing our “radical transparency” philosophy, my co-founder and I decided to record a personal video message and shared it with our customers. The feedback was overwhelmingly positive. The majority of our customers were understanding and willing to wait for their shoes.
2. Which business achievement are you most proud of?
When we started Thando’s it was my vision not only to create a company that provided great products to our customers, but one that also truly made a measurable impact on African communities. Our goal was to establish a process that engaged every one of our stakeholders in an intimate way.
The process starts by first identifying a cause that resonates with my co-founder and I. Once the cause is established, we host a design competition, using the cause as the theme, among African artists. We then have Team Thando’s vote on their favorite design. The winning design is placed on the shoes we put into production.
Finally, we take a portion of our sales proceeds and pay a royalty to the winning artist, as well as make a donation to an NGO that helps victims of the cause that inspired the design in the first place. We like to call this our “virtuous cycle”.
What makes me proud is that we have made this vision a reality. Thus, we have been able to help 600 families through our donations, as well as paid royalties to the winning artist of our current collection that have multiplied the artist’s monthly income seven times.
I believe that you can do good and do well.
3. Describe your greatest weakness as an entrepreneur.
I have learned that it is important not to get stuck in a silo, but rather immerse yourself in all aspects of the business. That is why we encourage our team members to learn about other parts of the business that are not part of their core responsibility.