I found Nedoux where I find everything cool nowadays; the internet. It was amazing to me that this young woman was teaching people sewing skills in a different way than I’d ever seen in Nigeria! I discovered then that she actually read my blog pretty often and even left comments on nearly every post. Sewing is such a valuable skill and Nedoux teaching people the basics one Saturday every month is simply God’s work to me. See how she managed to get the business off the ground using her personal funds, why she decided to invest in this and how she deals with criticism and bad feedback. Enjoy.
1.Tell us what you do for a living and how long you’ve been working at your own business.
I run the Nedoux Sewing Club, a monthly one-day sewing workshop designed to equip absolute beginners with DIY sewing skills. I launched my business in June 2016, and the first workshop held a month later.
In addition to this, I have a full time job, working as an Investment Analyst.
2. How did you start sewing and why start a workshop?
Well, when I was a child I wanted to be a banker. The first 6 years of my working career were spent in the banking industry. I have a Masters degree in Economics and Finance, and my 9-5 job utilizes my finance-related skills properly.
Most people have a tailor-related angry story or two, but in my own case, my tailor actually inspired me to learn how to sew.
I had given her aso-ebi fabric for a dress I planned to wear for a friend’s wedding. For some reason, I was only able to get to her shop on the evening of the wedding eve, and when I arrived, she hadn’t even touched my fabric yet. I was very disappointed. She then apologized and promised me that I would leave her shop with my dress.
At first I was skeptical, then I became very curious, and so I sat down to watch her sew. She kept her promise; I left her shop with a beautiful dress 3 hours later.
What she did and the way that she did it was remarkable. It taught me a lifelong lesson; that most skills are learnable, if only one decides to learn. And so when the opportunity came a few years later, I enrolled in fashion school and took a dressmaking and pattern-drafting course.
A year after I finished from fashion school, I started writing a blog (www.nedoux.com) where I fused my witty musings and sewing projects in an engaging manner. I’d get emails from people asking me for sewing tips and recommendations.
About a year ago, I had a Eureka moment, and decided to convene a live class, where I could teach and share my passion for sewing with other people.
3. At what point did you make the decision to start your business; what convinced you? How did you generate initial capital?
The decision to start the sewing club was made when I recognized the opportunity to provide a service to those who wanted to learn how to sew but didn’t have time to commit to long-term training courses.
Then, I identified my target market, which includes people who have their careers going for them but also want to acquire valuable vocational skills. My goal is to demystify sewing for them as easily as possible.
When I first started the workshops, it was on very small scale with minimal capital investment, I actually used to teach hand-sewing techniques only; my students would sew with hand needles, which isn’t the easiest thing to do!
By the 3rd workshop, I decided to upgrade, and purchased 20 electric sewing machines, sewing furniture, and also paid rental fees for a comfortable space in central Lagos.
The seed-capital for my business came solely from my personal funds.
4. How was the response from your SO/parents/family?
I remember my mother being a little concerned when I first enrolled in fashion school, she was worried that it would cause me to lose focus of my career in finance.
Now, she is the biggest cheerleader of the Sewing Workshops and is very pleased that I’m able to juggle both.
5. How did you build a customer base and market yourself effectively? How long did it take you to start getting enough people to attend the workshop?
At the inception, I believe my blog gave me the credibility I needed to sell my brand.
I’d sew a garment and then put up a witty blog post about the sewing process, sharing with my readers the sewing techniques applied to arrive from fabric to dress. A friend of mine who reads my blog once said to me “You make sewing seem so glamorous”.
Social media, specifically Instagram has been a wonderful tool for gaining exposure organically for my business and brand. New students would register for the workshops based on referrals, and a number of my students are people who follow me on Instagram.
As at the 4th workshop, the class was getting sold out. I suppose people like to also experience something that seems appealing to others. It’s the aptly termed “Fear of missing out”.
6. What challenges did you face at the beginning? And how did you cope? What challenges do you still face currently?
Marketing was a big challenge for me, I’m a bit of a closet introvert, and I wasn’t sure how to put my brand out there without exposing myself too much.
Also, advert placements aren’t exactly cheap and I had a very small budget. So, I was quite concerned about choosing a cost-efficient marketing strategy, as I didn’t want to spend too much money on an advertising medium that would neither give me adequate exposure nor connect with my target audience.
I remember having to ask/beg people over and over again to help repost my fliers on their social media pages.
Now, I’ve learned to delegate by outsourcing the task of marketing to a social media publicity agent, which gives me more mental space to focus on organizing the workshops.
7. What do you love most about teaching a sewing workshop? How have things changed since you started?
There’s a joy that comes from positively impacting other people, inspiring and reminding them that they can be more and can do more.
It’s a wonderful feeling watching people who had no idea about how to sew, end up cutting, sewing and wearing a garment they made themselves during the workshop. By the end of the workshop, they feel so good about themselves. Teaching is so rewarding.
Regarding change, I’ve learned the importance of being flexible as a business owner, by being open to tweaking the blueprint as one goes along.
When I first started the workshops, my teaching technique involved me cutting the fabric pieces for each student, and so they all they had to do was sew. It was a time-consuming process.
5 months ago I decided to switch things up, by making them responsible for both cutting and sewing, this has improved the learning experience, and made the teaching process more efficient.
8. Creative businesses are becoming quite popular in recent times. It feels like a lot of people want to become entrepreneurs. How do you deal with competition in your field? Is that something you struggle with?
I was fortunate to have First-mover advantage with regards to my business model. There are lots of fashion schools, but what I do differs from what they do, in the sense that I run a sewing club. My workshops are an event rather than an institution.
Luckily, the fashion space is so diverse and cannot really be overly saturated even when there’s competition.The entrepreneurship sky is big enough for everyone to carve their own niche and excel.
9. What’s the biggest lesson starting a business has taught you?
As cliche as it sounds, I’ve learned to do it afraid because the best things in life are on the other side of fear.
I’ve had a mild stutter since I was 10 years old, and so public speaking used to frighten me. Ironically, my business involves teaching and so public speaking is inevitable.
I learned to conquer this fear by being knowledgable and prepared. I’ve taught over 150 people since the inception of my business, regardless of this supposed imperfection.
Quite simply, perfection is overrated, but practice does make perfect.
10. There’s always a bit of a money vs passion debate; What do you think should be the motivation for starting a creative business? What was/is your motivation?
Honestly, I’ll say half and half. Passion was my original motivation because sewing is something that I truly enjoy doing, and when my business started generating a decent revenue, making it worth my while. Money then became an incentive to keep at it consistently, and to keep improving.
Especially because people expect value for their money when they pay for a service.
11. What would you say has been the worst time/experience so far in your journey as an entrepreneur?
The times vendors disappointed me. Sometimes forces outside one’s control can cause havoc to the business planning process, I’ve learned to find alternatives so that problems don’t reoccur.
12. If you had to choose three qualities anyone starting a business needs to develop/have what would they be?
Passion, Resilience, and Honesty.
13. How do you work through times when things are at a low? How do you get back up? How do you deal with criticism and bad feedback?
I literally step back from everything that’s going on and I read a good book to take my mind off things. I pray, it’s amazing how God actually listens to even the most random, seemingly mundane requests.
I actually formed a habit of calling my students after each workshop to get a sense of their experience. I take their praise with joy and their criticism with even more joy, I am very perceptive and can sense when things aren’t going according to plan and when they are.
There’s always room for improvement and I always ensure that the workshop gets better each month, based on the lessons learned from the previous one.
14. What sacrifices have you had to make to grow your business, if any?
The biggest sacrifice has been my time; planning and execution take quite a bit of it. My weekends sometimes feel like workdays.
15. What has been your proudest business achievement so far & what future goals (that you can share) do you have for your business?
When I finally invested in electric sewing machines, I felt so proud of myself. And also when I got called for an interview on the Arise TV morning show, it felt so good to be acknowledged on such a respectable platform.
16. What do you wish you knew about starting and running a business in Nigeria before you started; what would you do differently? Do you think there’s enough support for small business owners in Nigeria? What is one thing you think would be helpful?
I wouldn’t do anything differently. I’m actually glad that I’ve had to find my way as I’ve gone along. It’s made my business experience more robust and has toughened me.
No, there isn’t enough support for small business owners in Nigeria. I was fortunate to have the seed capital for my business, but there are people whose brilliant ideas haven’t come into fruition because of lack of funding.
I think that easily accessible funding systems, without all the usual cutthroat requirements, would be a good way of encouraging more people to start small business.
17. How did you figure out how best to price your services? That’s something a lot of business owners struggle with.
My finance skills have come in very handy in working out an appropriate pricing model.
It’s important for business owners to keep a solid record of their finances, every penny spent and penny earned must be accounted for. A business should be able to pay for itself.
I’ve observed a funny thing on my entrepreneurship journey; some people do not like to pay for anything. Some will even send you on an all-expense paid guilt trip for charging them a reasonable price for your service.
But I’ve realised that if you know your worth, and are certain of both the quality and value that you are offering, then, you should be adequately compensated for your effort.
18. Would you ever leave your full time job to focus on your side hustle? How do you balance both?
I believe that ‘multi-potentialites’ live very interesting and diverse lives.
Presently, I still feel capable enough to handle both my full time job and personal business. However, it is my future goal to grow my business so that it becomes big enough to replace the 9 to 5 grind someday.
In finding trying to a balance with all the things I do, my life mantra has become “Who says you cannot be more than one thing?”.
To be honest, balance is a myth. One just keeps pushes through with all the drive they can muster to make it all work somehow.
19. What are three things that are part of your morning ritual?
Ah…I’m not a morning person, but I do quite a bit of planning in my head in that golden hour just before I get out of bed.
20. What three people in your field or not inspire you the most?
- Deola Sagoe, her impeccable dressmaking craftsmanship is so inspiring.
- Timi Yeseibo (she’s a writer) the way she fuses life and words is amazing.
- Ozoz Sokoh– ‘Multipotentialite’ extraordinare! She juggles raising a family, a career and her many vocational interests seamlessly.
21. What do you love most about yourself as a business owner i.e any personal qualities you feel have helped you excel? What advice would you give to anyone currently struggling to stay afloat/ just starting their business/contemplating starting a business in Nigeria?
There are 3 personal qualities I love about myself:
My passion for my sewing craft, because it’s made my business work seem like play for me.
My resilience, I didn’t give up even after the embarrassing cringe-worthy mistakes I made in the beginning. I simply focused on improving; I’m so determined to make subsequent workshops better than previous ones.
My honesty, I genuinely want to help my students succeed, and even after the workshops I offer free follow-on lessons to encourage them to improve. I take great pride in their achievements.
I advise new or potential business owners not to give up even when they have a few false starts, To properly identify their target market, know who you need to sell your product to. And not to take criticism personally, because it’s wise to focus on fixing past mistakes, whilst also celebrating the sweet victories.
Nedoux is an investment analyst and founder of the monthly Nedoux Sewing Club Workshop. She also has a YouTube series “Stitched with Nedoux” -a collection of videos that demystify sewing with easy steps.
Connect with Nedoux:
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