As fashion entrepreneurs, it is helpful to learn from the experiences and mistakes of others in the industry, as this would help prevent similar mistakes in the future. The Fashion Phoenix column in Mauvelli was birthed to focus on the challenges fashion business owners have had in their brand over the years, and how they have been able to overcome them.
Previously, we have looked at the challenges Tomi Ajao of Dots fashion had in building a world-class brand and fashion school, how Omotola Bakare of Tola Bakare balanced school and building a brand, and many more.
In this exclusive interview we had with Mrs Tinu Smith, the CEO and Creative Director of Datina Designs, we spoke about some of the challenges she has encountered in building a fashion brand that has been in existence for over 20 years.
About Datina Designs
Datina Designs is an indigenous fashion brand that produces Afrocentric outfits for both males and females. The fashion brand was founded by Mrs Tinu Smith about 26 years ago when she discovered her burning desire for fashion.
“I started our mostly in casual, corporate, ethnic and evening ready-to-wear outfits for women. However, when men started coming to my fashion retail stores to buy outfits for their wives and started asking if I had anything for men, I started designing unisex wears. It was basically a response to demand.” – Tinu Smith
Her love for fashion designing was greatly influenced by her mother, a fashion designer who graduated from a prestigious fashion school. Following the launch of her fashion house, she launched her fashion school when she saw the need in the fashion industry for people to acquire knowledge in the area of fashion designing.
Just like she shared with us after having trained over 10,000 students; despite the availability of fashion schools which were launched to cater to people’s needs, most of the courses taught are substandard.
“A fashion school is not just about cutting and sewing, some students may simply be interested in fashion illustration or even sketching. Different fashion courses should be offered to give room for each individual’s self expression.” – Tinu Smith
First Year Of Datina Designs – Rocky Or Not?
Like many fashion entrepreneurs and business owners, the first year for Tinu Smith was a challenging one as she had to navigate the fashion business with little or no prior knowledge. Unlike now where training around entrepreneurship and business can be taken by SMEs owners before they launch their business, such wasn’t available then.
Just like she shared with us, most entrepreneurs who started then had to learn on the job.
Another challenge she had in the first year was a lack of financial grants and aids like we have now. Often, fashion entrepreneurs apply for grants and competitions to acquire financing to scale their business. Unfortunately, however, she had to save every naira and kobo when she needed or desired something to improve her business.
Also, access to networking opportunities to interact with mentors, fashion industry experts or like-minded individuals was not readily available. So, she had little chance to learn from experts and carve her brand around their experience.
However, all these didn’t deter Tinu Smith as she merely saw it as a process to growth.
Challenges In Building Her Fashion Brand
Book Keeping and Accounting
Whether as a small business or a large scale enterprise, bookkeeping is important for helping business owners maintain accurate financial records. Poor accounting is one of the top reasons businesses fail, as bookkeeping helps you budget, analyse the business strictly, and keep it organised so every fashion entrepreneur needs basic accounting skills.
Just like she shared with us, she experienced a lot of setbacks in growing her brand because she had little knowledge when she started. But, in a bid to correct this and make her brand thrive, she spent over 5 years taking different courses on bookkeeping to fix that area of her business management.
“Knowledge is power, and not understanding the business side of your skill can really cause a setback. So, as we learn the fashion designing skills as entrepreneurs, we should also learn how to run the business properly.” – Tinu Smith.
In sharing the story of the evolution of Datina Designs, what stood out to us was the fact that she was continually improving, not just herself, but her staff as well to achieve the desired result.
How has she done this?
She develops herself and her staff in the areas of business management and fashion designing by regularly taking courses to improve their knowledge. She also ensures to network with other brand owners, widens her insight and scope by travelling, as well as finding and connecting with inspiring mentors.
The Datina brand has grown and strategically positioned itself for global opportunities and to suit the modern-day trends and demands.