Here on Whoot Africa, we not only showcase brands, but we also talk to the people behind those brands and have them share with us their back stories as well as give tips on how to successfully start and run a business.
Welcome to Whoot Africa’s – 15 Questions with the CEO.
Today, we will be talking with Temitayo Eyitayo, CEO and Creative Director of 24 APPAREL Limited
1) Can you tell us a little about Temitayo Eyitayo and 24 Apparel as a brand you represe.nt?
My name is Temitayo Eyitayo. I am the second born child in a family of 5 (Dad, Mum and three boys). I am from Kwara state but have lived my life between Lagos and the UK.
24 Apparel Limited, more popularly known as 24, is a casual fashion label, aiming to provide the fashion conscious Nigerian with Quality, Durable, Trendy and Affordable clothes they can wear at any time of the day, depending on what they are doing.
2) How did you get started in business and what did it take you to get to where you are today? Why did you decide to start 24 Apparel?
My journey into business was destined. I knew I was never going to do a 9 – 5 but I also knew I had to eat. So I knew I had to work. If I was not going to work in an establishment, then I knew I had to create an establishment. Also, my parents are business people, so it is all I grew up around.
It took a lot of sacrifice to get into business. It took denial of many luxuries and things I preferred. It also took discipline and dedication. It took focus, as many people tried to sway me into using my capital otherwise, after I had denied myself and saved up for a very long time.
I decided to start 24 for a very simple reason. I realised that Nigeria was still stuck in the boutique niche of fashion, which is good for finding amazing bargains, but to me, it’s like playing the lottery. Standard fashion retailers produce their items in styles and size ranges. I wanted to bring that to the Nigerian fashion scene, but through casual fashion.
3) The fashion industry is saturated, with most foreign platforms like Asos, River Island et al tapping into the market out here with perks such as free delivery, direct card acceptance and massive discounts. How do you manage to stay profitable and competitive?
Going beyond the niche 24 operates in, where the likes of River Island, ASOS and many other worldwide retailers are trying to satisfy the hunger of the Nigerian population, we see couture fashion designers, open markets and our local tailors all having good pieces of the market, yes, we do not have a problem with clothing ourselves in Nigeria. It is a matter of affordability and disposable incomes.
24 has never thought of competition. All we focus on is our work. We have a 360 degree thought process of our operations from idea generation to production to the hands of our customers. The truth is, if a person likes an item, they will try to get it; so long they have the funds to. We only try to make sure we don’t compromise on quality, style, affordability and always making sure we stay trendy.
4) Your brand has grown in a considerable short time and remarkably too. With celebrities across the country wearing your 24 Apparel label, what are some of those things that you think are critical success factors to pushing the 24 Apparel brand to where it is right now?
When we launched 24 in late November 2012, the response then was so remarkable, we knew we had something. We sold over 2500 units of polo tops in the space of 6 weeks, all from the boot of a car. Our point of evaluation was that, success cannot be determined by your first outing. Try again and see the response. It was even more encouraging the second time round as we were already on Jumia.com and Konga.com. Now we had customers we did not know personally. I believe this was caused by us pushing aggressively. We made sure we put our name out there in the right ears.
Also, I believe Nigeria is the best place to have a business. If you have something good, it will be publicised by those who patronise you. Word of mouth is key to our success. So critical to our success is everyone who has ever worn or spoken about 24.
5) What inspires your fashion creativity? Your creative muse!
Fashion creativity comes from anything. The main point to consider is having a chain of thought. In fashion, things have to follow through. So I simply get an idea, and build around it. Practically, if you want a collection about fruits, then think of all the fruits you know, narrow the colours, shapes and sizes down, and you have started. My muse is always the idea. That’s what I nurture
6) With your knowledge and practice of entrepreneurship today, what are some of those things you’d do differently if you had the chance to start all over again, also what are those things you need young aspiring entrepreneurs to know about doing business?
To know if you will do something differently is to have come to a place where you have a score card and have been assessed a success or a failure. After just over 2 years in business, we have not been able to determine if we have been successful or if we have failed. We are still learning. Hopefully, in the next 5 years, we will have an answer to if we would have done things differently or not.
Young aspiring entrepreneurs (not in the person’s age but in their stage in business) need to shy away from the glitz and glamour of business and focus on the work to be done. Every business has its share of glitz and glamour. Simply knowing you are a business owner can make you proud and you then lose focus. One must always work hard at the initial plan, while watching current trends. So have a rigid plan but be flexible enough to make it work in your favour, based on what your market requires.
7) Doing business in Nigeria is not for the faint hearted, if you had to sell doing business in Nigeria in a few words to an investor, what would they be?
I will tell them that doing business in Nigeria is the most tedious thing. I will also tell them that doing business in Nigeria is the most rewarding thing. The rewards are both in sense of achievement and financial. I tell people that Nigeria is the only place I see myself living and working. This is because it is truly the land of opportunity. Get you mix right and you have created a recipe for success.
8) Looking at the Nigerian fashion industry, what are some of those things you have observed that needs to change for Nigeria to really experience a boom in the fashion industry like it does in Italy, United Kingdom and the US?
The Nigerian fashion industry is not a computer mainframe remote somewhere being controlled in secrecy. It is comprised of people and businesses, working daily in this geographic space. Therefore, it is up to all stakeholders in the business to realise that we have not reached the point where we undercut each other or try pulling each other down. The market in Nigeria is so vast that if we were to tap into its full potential, there is a piece for everyone. The knock-on effect of that will be the international market clamouring for goods we produce. What we need is true togetherness, and helping each other grow.
9) Fashion brands and labels in Nigeria offer some of the most expensive outfits in this region, which doesn’t inspire much confidence and patronage for home brands. Why is this so?
I have enquired about some brands in Nigeria, and yes, some are very expensive. Unfortunately, this is a question with a two-fold answer. The first reason why some items are very expensive is because of the factors of production. The fabric, the labour, the rent and rates, and generally, the cost of doing business in Nigeria, are very high. In fashion, the reason for existence is selling fashion items; therefore, these costs have to be put into consideration when fixing selling prices.
Another reason is because of the brand itself and its clientele. If a brand is positioned as a luxury brand, it has to live up to that standard in all things, and price goes hand in hand with luxury. So if a brand can produce items and its clientele will buy for that price, then they have their marketing mix right.
10) How would you describe your leadership style and where do you see 24 Apparel in 5-10years from now?
I wouldn’t say I have a leadership style yet. I see many people as equal. The only thing I use to differentiate people is how you apply yourself and your work ethic. So if you do your work and do not have an attitude, we are cool. We most likely can sit at the same desk all day.
5 -10 years from now, we hope to have grown our categories. We currently have Polo Tops, T-Shirts, Summer Dresses, Maxi Dresses and Snapbacks in our collection. We hope to increase our range and also work on more awareness in Nigeria and across the globe. The road is still long and we only just started.
11) What do you think are the most important personal skills someone must have to be successful in business?
The most important skill to have is discipline. This is not to say that I am a strict person. I am a regular guy. I party with friends, I socialise (extensively), I am playful and I crack a joke every 5 minutes. The issue with discipline is knowing when to work and doing the work right. Having a focus and sticking to it. Without discipline, there is no way one can attain full potential, but live a little.
12) Who was the most influential person or mentor in your life? What was the biggest risk you have ever taken? Would you do it again?
I do not do mentors as such because we are all human. Even your mentor has a mentor, so you may just become the watered-down version of 5 generations of mentors. I try to be myself, seek inspiration from God (I am a Christian and believe in God) and look in the mirror a lot, asking for what direction to take, searching inwardly. On the flip side, my biggest influencer has to be my father. He beat all odds in life to be who he is today and I marvel at his achievements. His support in all aspects of my life has been immense.
13) What do you think about college education? Should kids go to college now or get into business if they feel it’s a better choice? Considering some of the world’s greatest never had college education, your thoughts?
Education is key! Most of the greatest do not have any college education. This is a fact, but we should not discount the fact that many have attained great success with education as well. It’s a glamorous story to hear of the person who dropped out in secondary school and made it to the pinnacle of their endeavours, but how many are they, compare to the multitudes who hold good jobs or have even delved into innovation. It’s an individual’s choice to get educated but success in itself is the coming together of dedication, ability and luck. We must never lose sight of that. What education will give you is a base, an entry point, which is always a safe haven.
14) What would be the most important piece of advice you could give to young entrepreneurs and why?
The only advice I offer anyone going into business is to have a plan. Have a structure you want to go by, after researching what you want to do. This will help you have a focus and a direction. Then be sensitive to the environment. Notice changes and adapt quickly.
15) Lastly, in the fashion world, what is the one thing you’d like to be remembered for when the name Temitayo Eyitayo, Creative Director of 24 Apparel is mentioned around the world?
I would like to be remembered as the man from Nigeria who started a fashion line with the aim of making its products and essence meet up to all international standards, holding a prominent position in the Nigerian fashion scene and exporting our great values abroad as well.
If you missed the previous parts of the 15 Questions with the CEO series, please click here