At some point in your entrepreneurial journey, you realize that what you know is no longer enough. The experience and knowledge you have cannot take you past where you are or take you where you want to go. At this point, you have to take a move towards learning new stuff or unlearning old ones. In my interactions with many business owners, I have observed how different people respond to this realization. There are people like Grace who at 38 realized that almost nothing she learnt in business school or through her 7-year career in banking had prepared her for the harsh realities of doing business in Nigeria and the business of fashion specifically. Grace got unhinged!!! She said she felt dizzy trying to manage the many moving parts in fashion retail. Eventually, she dusted up her CV and went begging for her old job back. Grace did not need an old job, she needed new solutions and a different mindset.
Then there are people like Catherine. Catherine is a force of nature!!! Her work ethic is unrivalled, and her parents taught her that hard work was the secret to lasting success, so she worked hard, extremely hard. Sure enough, like most fashion preneurs, she hit a roadblock. She was only 7 years into starting her dream label, and it was just not working. But she kept at it. Late nights, long travels, endless consultations with bespoke customers that did not respect her time. Giving up on this dream was not an option, she was not a quitter. Unlike Grace, Catherine knew what she was doing was not working, but she was not ready to do things differently. Catherines are the hardest to watch, expending time, passion and energy on a formula that no longer works.
Catherine threw good money and invested lots of energy in a business that had stopped moving. She was doing all she knew how, and the ghost of her past successes haunted her. She could not change the methods; she was not even open to the idea. By the time I met Catherine, she had pivoted. Long before pivoting became a buzz word due to the pandemic, Catherine was pivoting for survival to manage a crisis of her own. She started catering but still ran the fashion business in the same old painstaking way. I learnt from Catherine that sometimes strategy and insight trumps hard work (they do not replace it though).
There is a right way to embrace change when your old ways fail you. Enter Chinasa… oh Chinasa. I got to hear Chinasa’s story during our one-on-one session after she had completed my online course “How to start a ready-to-wear label in Nigeria”. Chinasa had been in business for 6 years before taking my course. Her business had taken a life of its own… It had become something she resented. The bespoke model worked in the early days before hubby and kids came into the picture. Her work did not reflect her style, and her bank account did not reflect her efforts. She watched my trailer and signed up for the course immediately. In her words, “I just knew transitioning to ready-to-wear was my lifeline”. Chinasa devoured the course and by the time we had our consultation she had taken the course 5 times over. She shut down her business and started from ground zero. Long story short, her business earned 3 times her previous sales. She was making clothes she loved, clothes that represented her. She was happy. Chinasa is a teacher’s dream. Chinasa taught me something that day. If it is not working, complaining won’t change it, hard work may not, time will pass but your frustrations will remain. What you need is to learn how to do things right and do it.