Building a successful brand in the fashion industry can be tough. But for Nigerian entrepreneur Eki Okubanjo, founder of Eki Oris Fashion Company, she is proof positive that it is possible by knowing your customers and their needs. Today, Eki is creating beautiful and practical clothing for both her discerning and chic women customers, and also their kids who want to look just as good.
LoA found out more about this growing and successful business from founder Eki Okubanjo this month.
What does your company do?
Eki Oris is a fashion company that specializes in both custom made and ready to wear clothing for the fashion-conscious woman who appreciates finely constructed, well thought out pieces with timeless and impeccable quality, targeted at females 15 years and above. An Eki Oris woman is confident, classy and beautiful. Our designs are influenced by simplicity, individuality and comfort of our customers.
We recently launched our kidswear line called Eki Oris Kidswear. Eki Oris Kidswear is a clothing and accessories brand for kids (male & female) aged 0 months – 12 years. It’s a bespoke & ready-to-wear brand which has found its niche in using unique African prints and other fabrics to tailor exquisite and comfortable outfits for children. Our goal is to offer quality fashionable pieces with impeccable finishing at affordable prices.
Over the years, the Eki Oris brand has been able to cater for a wide range of customers around the world and different facets of life. Our designs have been featured on Ebony Life TV, TVC, Silverbird TV, Leading Ladies Africa website, Ono Bello and Bella Naija. Beautiful women like Uru Eke,Tomike Alayande, Bolanle Olukanni, Omowunmi Dada have all worn Eki Oris designs.
“The Eki Oris brand has successfully maintained its integrity over four years, and by integrity I mean putting our customers first, keeping to deadlines, being dependable and also giving out quality products and services.”
What inspired you to start your company?
Before starting my business, I was working full time in a private company where I was the customer relationship manager and also did a bit of business development. During this time I was running the Eki Oris brand as a side hustle. I always wore my designs to the office and I got a lot of beautiful comments and I even made pieces for some of my colleagues and received a lot of referrals from them. It got to a point in my life where I felt like I wanted to do more, I wanted to be more, I wanted to stop rejecting orders because my 9am - 5pm job was very tasking and it didn’t give me the time to take as many orders that I would have loved to take. In my quest of becoming more and doing more I decided to resign from my corporate job and to face my fashion business full time. It has been an interesting, challenging and also a rewarding journey so far. I honestly don’t have any regrets quitting my job to run my fashion business.
Why should anyone use your service or product?
Our attention to detail and the quality of our work has set our products apart from similar ones in the market. The Eki Oris brand has successfully maintained its integrity over four years, and by integrity I mean putting our customers first, keeping to deadlines, being dependable and also giving out quality products and services. These are some of the things that make the Eki Oris brand special.
Tell us a little about your team
I’ve been lucky enough to have the best people working with me. I currently have 3 full time tailors, 2 of them have worked with me for 3 years. The first is focused on making lace/custom pieces, the other is focused on making our Ready To Wear pieces and the third is focused on making our kidswear. We also have a team of contract workers that we call upon when we have tight deadlines and huge volumes. I am the head designer, the accountant, the marketing executive, the quality control staff, the fabric buyer, the office assistant etc. I plan on relieving myself of some of these roles as my brand grows. As an entrepreneur, I am very involved in the day to day activities of my business. My team and I have a very close relationship and we work passionately to create beautiful pieces for our customers. From my days of working in a corporate environment, I understood the importance of having a conducive and happy working environment for your staff, because once your staff are happy and comfortable, they’ll definitely deliver their best and I have implemented this principle into my business.
“An Eki Oris woman is confident, classy and beautiful. Our designs are influenced by simplicity, individuality and comfort of our customers.”
Share a little about your entrepreneurial journey. And, do you come from an entrepreneurial background?
Growing up my mum was a fashion entrepreneur; she had a tailoring shop so I’ll say I learnt the basics of fashion designing from her. During my National Youth Service Year, myself and my friend started a fashion company called “Prints by Kira and Eki” in Lagos, Nigeria. We later went our separate ways and I decided to start Eki Oris Fashion Company. Eki Oris was founded in 2015 as a home-based business, and also a side hustle which I ran alongside my corporate job. People would come into my room for fittings, and during that period I did a lot of home deliveries because not all customers liked the idea of them coming into my room for fittings.
In July 2017 I resigned from my 9am - 5pm job to focus on my business. I had saved up some money, and I got some funds from my dad and boyfriend (now husband) to set up. I was able to get a physical shop space for my business and I was so excited because I felt like people would finally take me seriously and no longer under-price my products. I had no prior knowledge of running a business, I didn’t know how to calculate my cost, the overheads were a lot, I didn’t know the best salary method to use for paying my tailors. I made mistakes with designs, fabric etc and I have had to refund money back to some customers, but all these experiences helped shape me into becoming a better fashion entrepreneur. Having worked in a corporate environment before venturing into full time entrepreneurship, I have also brought in a lot of knowledge I learnt while I was with my previous employer into my business. I, more than anyone understand the importance of customer management. I brought in my negotiation skills, marketing skills etc into my business and I understand how important it is for a business to keep their business data as this is what will help you make better decisions. I have implemented all of this in my business. In retrospect, when I think of my entrepreneurial journey, I’m honestly glad for how far I have grown. I have learnt from all my mistakes, challenges and also my customers. Experience is something that cannot be bought and my experiences so far have helped me put in proper structures and policies in place that are currently helping my business.
What are your future plans and aspirations for your company?
We are looking at expanding the Eki Oris brand beyond Nigeria and getting our products stocked in major departmental fashion stores around the world, and to have Eki Oris flagship shops in major cities in the world. We are currently working on having our website up and running. Our vision is to be the one stop destination for everything female fashion and we plan to do this by rendering more fashion services. We plan to have a swimwear line, a bag and shoe line added to the Eki Oris brand.
“We are looking at expanding the Eki Oris brand beyond Nigeria and getting our products stocked in major departmental fashion stores around the world, and to have Eki Oris flagship shops in major cities in the world.”
What gives you the most satisfaction being an entrepreneur?
Personally what gives me the most inspiration being an entrepreneur is IMPACTING lives. I love that I’m able to impact lives through the beautiful clothes I make for my customers. An Eki Oris woman is bold, and confident and I love that my designs automatically instil confidence in my customers. An Eki Oris woman goes about her daily activities with her head up and ready to conquer the world because she’s confident in herself. In the course of running my business, I have met a lot of people with different body insecurities, some feel they are not beautiful, some feel their legs are too big or their tummies are too big and as such, they don’t worry about wearing some kind of clothes. I always find ways to make them feel confident and beautiful in their skin by designing clothes that will suit their body types and also make them look elegant. I remember this particular feedback I got from one of my customers she said “ Oh Eki I felt so beautiful in my off shoulder dress and I got so many beautiful complements at the wedding”.
This particular customer had always felt her shoulders were too broad and her arms were too big hence she never wore an off shoulder dress, but I was able to convince her that she’s beautiful and would look lovely in the dress I designed. Such things give me joy and I am glad that God has given me a business where I can touch the lives of people in this capacity.
I also love that I can positively impact the lives of my staff through the jobs I have provided for them, they in turn can impact their own lives and fend for their families.
What's the biggest piece of advice you can give to other women looking to start-up?
There’s no better time to start than now! Just start. You don’t have to wait till you have everything sorted out to start your business, Rome wasn’t built in a day. Don’t rush the process as well, allow yourself to grow and learn and celebrate the small wins.
Most importantly information is power, equip yourself with all the necessary knowledge needed to grow your brand. Develop yourself, know your strengths and weaknesses, focus on your strengths and work on your weaknesses. While you work on your weaknesses, employ capable people to fill in those positions where you consider your weakness. You honestly can’t be everything to your business. For instance, if your strength lies in customer relationship and PR service and you have little or no sewing skills, Focus on your customer relationship and PR skills and work on your sewing skills. This way, the business does not suffer and your skills are effectively and efficiently utilized. Also, you honestly need a trailer load of patience and hard work to survive in the fashion industry. Finally, please always remember the God factor. Always pray to him for wisdom to help you run your business, pray for your staff and also your customers.
Contact or follow Eki Oris
Why LoA loves it….
To succeed in the fashion industry you have to bring a combination of big vision, consumer insights, technical know-how, and ultimately passion - lots of it! Eki Okubanjo has all of these things in large quantities and that is what underpins her successful and growing brand. She understands her customer segments at a personal level, and importantly, knows exactly what is needed and what appeals to those customers, delivering product and brand happiness to her clients. Eki is poised to become a real fashion mover and shaker over the coming months and years as she builds this great brand. --- Melanie Hawken, founder and editor-in-chief of Lionesses of Africa