Debbie Ogunjobi-Ojo is an astute entrepreneur who has successfully run a national women clothing brand EveryWoman for more than two decades. She shares her experience with The Interview…
You’ve been running EveryWoman for more than 20 years now: how has it been?
It's been a challenging experience and the Nigerian terrain and government policies don’t favour business.
How did you get your start-up money?
I started small, so I didn’t have the burden of a loan or investors and I expanded the business with the proceeds it generated.
Have you had a reason to approach your banker(s) for a loan for your business and how was the experience?
Yes, but most times, the crazy fees and high interest make the offers unacceptable to me. They charge interest rates that are among the highest in the world and still want annual, legal, management and other spurious fees. That alone can kill any business.
What are some of the things you know about running a fashion business today that you wish you knew when you were starting out?
I have learnt that friends and family add little or no value to your business; never employ family.
Social marketing is seen as the trend, especially for small businesses; has it worked in generating business for you?
Social marketing is the new language for advertising so if you don’t speak it your business crumbles!
Hiring and retaining employees can be a challenge; particularly for not-so-big businesses; How do you go about finding, hiring and retaining your employees?
We advertise and train, pay well and promptly.
What advice would you give to somebody else who wanted to start a similar business?
I would tell to be very sure that they have staying power and don’t be easily discouraged.
What specific advice would you have for a young woman who would like to become an entrepreneur?
She should be ready to work and build the business from the ground up. Business takes time, sweat and dedication, so you should be prepared to wait a few years before you see any meaningful profit.
Are there specific advantages or disadvantages of being a woman business owner?
Not really because we all have to efficient managers of time and resources.
What are some of the personal lessons running Every Woman over the years have taught you?
The greatest lesson is this “people are only loyal to their pockets; if you keep giving value for money, your business will grow!".