We had the pleasure of speaking to Adesola “Addie” Olutola, the founder of D’IYANU, a lifestyle brand selling African inspired clothing and accessories for men, women and kids. In just a few years Addie has grown D’IYANU into a thriving online business. It was great to hear Addie give the real nuts and bolts of starting a successful business.
NHM: What made you take the leap into entrepreneurship?
Addie: I believe I’ve always wanted to own my own business. I didn’t see myself climbing the corporate ladder. While working a corporate job that I didn’t like, I was inspired by the book “Rich Dad, Poor Dad” to start looking for a business opportunity. I figured I would rather take the risk than remain stagnant. I really want to live my life to the max and playing it safe doesn’t get you very far. Taking the leap and believing it was possible to start a successful business is one of the best decisions I ever made.
NHM: What were the biggest initial hurdles to building your business and how did you overcome them?
The biggest hurdle was figuring out how to reach my ideal target market. After I figured that out through FB Ads, sales increased and I was able to become profitable and grow my business.
NHM: Did you ever deal with contention from your family concerning your entrepreneurial pursuits? How did you handle it? What would you do differently in hindsight?
I didn’t really deal with any contention. I did have to just figure everything out on my own. I had to be extremely self-reliant.
NHM: What was your business’ original mission? How has that mission evolved in the time since?
My original mission statement was to “Become a global brand name for African inspired fashion by creating quality, trendy, and affordable African inspired clothing for fashion conscious consumers around the world.” My goal was to become the H&M for African Inspired Fashion. Our current mission statement is to “Become the world’s household name for African Inspired fashion”. So we just simplified it.
NHM: Do you prefer to pursue funding or build organically, and why?
I believe a business needs both depending on which stage the business is in. At the beginning, I believe it’s best to build organically so you can fine-tune your processes, really get to know your customers and your market and define what works and doesn’t work. Once you understand those elements and have demonstrated proof of concept, then you can pursue funding with a better knowledge of how to strategically apply the funds so it’s not wasted.
NHM: Did you have major competitors when you started, how did you plan to compete with them, and how did that plan play out?
Addie: We did have major competitors when I started. I had to figure out a unique value proposition in order to stand out from the crowd. When I launched my line, most other African inspired lines were very expensive, offered slow delivery, and weren’t customer friendly. I committed to making my clothing more affordable, having ready-made items so they could be shipped out right away, and offering excellent customer service. Those unique value propositions paid off and helped D’IYANU get to where it is today.
NHM: What do you look for in an employee?
Addie: The most important thing we look for in an employee is someone with a positive, can do attitude because that goes a long way. Secondly, someone who’s a team player who is willing to go the extra mile to make sure things get done. Since we’re still a small team, it’s imperative that each team member wears multiple hats and is willing to help out where needed. Thirdly, we’re looking for smart people who can take ownership of their role and make improvements that contributes to the growth of the company.
NHM: How did you build a consumer culture around your product?
Addie: We really didn’t have to build a consumer culture around our product. There was already a need in the market for modern African inspired clothing and we were simply filling the void.
NHM: What is the biggest mistake you’ve made as an entrepreneur?
Addie: I make mistakes all the time and I’m constantly learning. I can’t really point to a big mistake, but one mistake I catch myself doing often is trying to retain responsibility for everything and not delegating as I should. A business can’t get very far if the CEO is doing most things. I’m learning to train and relinquish tasks to others.
NHM: What has been your greatest moment of success?
Addie: My greatest moment is seeing how happy our customers are with our items and reading their rave reviews. I still find it hard to believe sometimes and it moves me that people are so excited about our products.
NHM: What do you do to recharge when you’re feeling drained?
Addie: I recharge by reading, writing, watching tv, hanging with friends, or just having a quiet moment to myself to reflect.
NHM: How do you approach marketing your business?
Addie: We mainly use FB and other social media platforms to market along with email marketing. We’re working to add other marketing tools to our mix in order to grow the business.
NHM: What do you know today that you wish you would have known when you first got started as an entrepreneur?
Addie: I wish I had learned how to market on FB faster, but I also appreciate the struggle because it helps me better appreciate the success.
NHM: What 1 book would you recommend that every entrepreneur read?
Addie: I would recommend 2 books: “Rich Dad, Poor Dad” by Robert Kyasaki and “Think and Grow Rich” by Napoleon Hill
NHM: What are some strategies that you would recommend for making the best use of one’s time?
Addie: Don’t watch so much T.V and minimize social media usage. It’s amazing how much time we spend on things that don’t take us closer to our goals. You have to be very focused on your goals and work on it daily if you want to succeed at anything.
NHM: Who is your hero and why?
Addie: I have quite a few, but the one who comes to mind right away is Jack Ma. Jack Ma is the found of Alibaba (the online site for connecting with wholesalers) and other ecommerce sites. I’m inspired by him because he is a very humble, down to earth, tenacious, and caring visionary leader—the type of leader I aspire to become. Though he’s the 2nd richest man in China, he believes that he’s a steward of the money and that it should be used for the benefit of others and not simply to hoard. He wasn’t considered smart when he was young and barely got into a teacher’s college in China. Nevertheless, he worked hard to build one of the most successful businesses in the world. I identify with him because I haven’t always considered myself smart. I did poorly on most standardized testing which lowered my belief in myself. Because of his success story, I believe I too can go far with the right mindset and attitude.
To see D’IYANU beautiful creations visit, www.diyanu.com.