House of Afrika

We interview a lady cut from a different cloth and how she is weaving the fashion business.

What led/inspired you into fashion?

Whilst I love fashion, I have never thought about carrying out a business in fashion; after my call to the bar, I realised that the level of commitment required to be a successful barrister was such that it would take me away from home, which was never the vision I had for my family and home.

Whilst working with my local authority, I sought God about starting a business, but it had to be something I loved and could relate to. On visits to Ghana, I fell in love with the amazing prints and designs, which stirred me into thinking about the endless possibilities of creating gorgeous wearable pieces. I loved the fact that I could actually make clothing that fitted and suited my body shape.

When women came for private viewings after I made the capsule collection their excitement and delight when they tried on styles and colours that they would otherwise not think of was encouraging. They bought them! The feedback from these sessions was motivating.

What are the challenges?

There are the usual challenges of starting a business, limited resources, time management and ability in a given area. I believe these can be overcome with proper management of what we already have. Start small, taking one step at a time with the little you have and as you go along, you learn and develop vital skills that will stand you in good stead as the business grows. As the money comes in you build a strong foundation to better manage what comes in. The truth is if you are waiting for the big amount to come in before starting you will never start. So goes the Chinese proverb, “The journey of one thousand miles begins with a single step”.

How do you cope with stress?

The beauty of my life is that I am rooted in the Lord Jesus; this gives me a perspective on life that I cannot find anywhere else.

When I get to the point of stress and overwhelm, I pause and ask the Holy Spirit “what do I do”? He knows the ins and outs of every situation; he has never failed me. Relief may come through direct inspiration or someone may come along with help or advice or circumstances will work out in a way that will help me.

Also I try not to put my life into compartments as each part affects the other. My well-being, spirit, soul and body is equally important. Ultimately, our wellbeing determines the way we handle the stress that arises from knocks and setbacks. Knowing that Jesus has my back and has me covered makes the difference. Knowing that if I keep depending on Him and stay sensitive to His counsel, the answer will come through in whatever way He chooses. A great de-stresser.

How do you deal with challenging customers?

Where I have to deal with the odd difficult customer, I remind myself that I am here to serve and not merely to make money. This changes my attitude. When things go wrong as they sometimes will and a customer’s expectation is not met they may become rude and aggressive. This is especially true of online transactions. It is important not to take it personally and react in anger. Understand that this comes with the turf. Patience is key. You can stay level-headed and professional yet assertive without the need to reciprocate in kind.

Do you have role models?

This is a question that periodically comes up. Whilst there are elements of people’s lives that may inspire me or that I admire, the only person I can think of as a role model is Jesus.

Everything about Him was excellent. His standard of truth and how it applied to the practical matters of day-to-day living, the way he dealt with challenges, the way he dealt with difficult people and even the way he handled moments of plain glory and success. Additionally, his heart full of love for man is always with a longing to lift up; He placed such value on each one regardless of their spiritual condition or societal status. He is in a class all by himself. That is my model and standard.

Your advice on beginners?

I would advice that you stay true to yourself. Authenticity is key. This applies on many levels but to keep the story within words limit, l will address three only.

Firstly, there would be pressure to do things a certain way to get ahead, even if that is not you. Whilst we do not want to stay in our comfort zone and fail to take risks, it is important that we engage in activities that give us life and bring joy. If we do things that leave us with a feeling of dread or bring no joy, we eventually lose our desire and strength. Be true to yourself.

This would also apply to creating a design or a product. When you are authentic, it is easier to market and sell your products because it is something you are passionate about and believe in even if it is something not yet hailed out there. That is how pioneers are born.

Secondly, seek advice from coaches or experts in areas of your business where you lack expertise; such as, you may need advice on how to use social media to promote your business; whilst we may think we have an understanding in certain areas, an expert will help you tweak what you are already doing and that simple adjustment could make all the difference. Be selective about who you use and get recommendations if need be as there is so much out there. Also do not neglect your gut reaction. Your intuition has been placed there for a reason.

Additionally, there are many free online resources that I find helpful, motivating and get me thinking in ways that I had not considered and show me how to raise my game.

Thirdly, network. I do not believe in being all over the place however, I am intentional and selective about where I go. I have found networking to be useful for various reasons; others can signpost you for help, you meet people who have skills you need to progress your business and you get support among other things.

Being an entrepreneur can be a pretty lonely journey, but when you meet others on the same journey, you get advice, insight is given on a challenge and you see that challenges you face are nothing new, someone has been there and done that, so you need not become discouraged. There is a need for resilience, patience and perseverance.

I believe that the above will relate to any business venture.

Why the African print?

The beauty of the print speaks for itself. I love its vibrancy and colours. Even for those scared of bright colours, there are multitude tones and patterns that one can choose from. In the UK, it is not easy getting clothing on the high street that is multi-dimensional; the freedom to work with vibrant prints making beautiful clothing that is exciting and different continues to be a great motivation. MT


Tel:   +44 7526 264112
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