Business of Brands – Creating Valued Relationships With Mentors is a fashion designer’s essential

The relationship between a mentor and a mentee is an ever useful one. So many successful brand owners we know and admire today have gotten to the success point by riding on the shoulders of those who have gone before them.

Having a mentor helps to avoid mistakes that brand executives would have ordinarily made; Damilola Oshifodunrin the creative director at Ara Crafts NG, also agrees with that.

She began her business in 2014 as a bag making brand under the name Ara Designs. In 2017 she added accessories and other crafts to the mix and then decided that her brand needed a name change. 

For her, she says the day to day operations of building a brand has been an interesting journey, however, it is not a journey she has been on alone. She shares how mentors have been a key part of her brand’s journey.

It all starts with picking a mentor

When I see a person who is strong, a goal getter who is positive and approachable, I reach out immediately. I searched and reached out online to some of my mentors while simply watched and learn from others from afar.

For those I had access to, I made myself useful to them first and in turn it became a win-win situation as we both benefit from the relationship

How to get the best from mentors

One practical approach I think has really worked for me is the “being useful” approach. An instance is volunteering to help out on their personal (brand) projects, checking up on them and being interested in them. 

It is important to find that balance between being available and being unduly attached orbothersome. 

Asides being ‘useful’, I ask questions. I let them know if and where I need assistance in my brand’s operations and I’m very teachable. I update them on moves I make that they inspired, so they know their ideas are being explored

Curiosity is important in getting value from your mentors, Curiosity no longer kills the cat, it births opportunities.

How Mentors Can be useful

They listen to the thoughts I share with them and in most cases, expand it beyond what I thought was possible and they are always willing to answer my many questions.

After opining that you can have as many mentors as you can handle because “everyone is in your life for a season”, she had a long list of mentors to share with Mauvelli and one of them is Aderayo Animashaun of De’rayo

Mauvelli had an enlightening chat on the topic of Mentorship with the Creative director of De’rayo, a brand that makes innovative shoes, bags and accessories with a fusion of African art and classic fashion.

De’rayo has been in business for not less than 8 years and definitely has a lot of experience, which she shared with Mauvelli in the ensuing conversation.  According to her, here are some things to look out for.

In looking for mentors, first, determine exactly what you need.

You need to determine the skills you need to learn right now and a year from now. Career/business development is never linear, the same mentor who can support you today may not have the skills to help you five years from now.

That’s why you need to analyze your current development needs and your future ones, before choosing a mentor.
Other things to look out for are the mentor’s strengths and weaknesses, empathy, honesty, lifelong dedication to learning, alignment with your personal views and philosophies.

Aderayo Animashaun

Can you return the favor?
Mentors are supposed to get value out of your relationship as well as you. Like the rest of us, mentors have their own immediate needs and priorities.

It pays to give back to your mentors, as they will be inclined to stay engaged in the mentoring relationship for longer. Successful mentorships are those in which the mentor learns new things as well.

It is important to create a valuable relationship that can be enjoyed by both parties. No matter the quantity or form, ensure you have value to give. Always.

Earning the attention of your mentors
Most times, when young people ask “mentor me”, I usually don’t have an idea of what to do and how. The best way to go about it is to make yourself easy to be helped. You have to earn a mentor’s attention. A million “please mentor me” won’t make that happen.

Nobody owes you and mentoring you is not anyone’s full time job. There are many other people like you who also want to be mentored, so you have to earn spot, and own it.

Buy your mentor’sproducts/services, volunteer at their events, buy them gifts if you can, be a solution provider; doing this while they also add to you will help in creating a valueable relationship.

Creating valued relationships and keeping them, is one major way that Aderayo has grown her brand in the last 8 years. The success story of the brand cannot be told without mentioning her mentors, one of whom is Atinuke Smith of Datina Designs.

The beauty of mentorship is the value in the relationship from one end to the other. Anyone who has room for growth should have room for mentors.






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