BY AYO ALONGE email@example.com
When you notice a lad showing interest in a particular activity, that lad is better left alone and encouraged because that might be the beginning of a success story for him. Lekan Balogun, a Lagos State University graduate in Business Administration who left his juicy banking job to pursue his childhood passion, earlier discovered by his late father, is one of such lads. A custodian of some awards, Balogun runs a classy fashion outlet, with clients from across the world. Sunday Sun had an encounter with the Lagosian who was eager to share his success story in business while fielding other questions of importance to budding entrepreneurs. Excerpts:
How did you start your business? I started very early. McCoy Clothing was conceived in 2000 and I registered it in 2006. I was still in school then and when I graduated, I landed a job with a bank where I worked for seven years. I was a marketer with the bank and related to customers very well. It got to a stage that I was getting tired and business was coming from the banking sector and even pressure from my customers who I had to satisfy. I had to weigh my options and I saw that I was passionate about this even before I got my banking job. It was not easy for me taking that decision but with the help of God and my late dad, it became a reality today.
Did you take up the business from your father? Not at all. He was an estate surveyor but he died last year. He gave me the suggestion when I was younger because he discovered that I had the flair for fashion. Every time he took us to a tailor’s shop, he noticed that I was always meticulous about how I wanted my own clothes to be made. He approached me one day and said I should go for it, because he saw it in me. That was how I started it and I was still in secondary school by then in the late 1990s. In the polytechnic and the university I was still doing it.I love innovation and that was what my dad discovered. I was a science student and when I obeyed my dad, he bought me a machine and I still have that machine .
How did you develop your business that started small to the level it is today?
Everything works for good. When I got an appointment with a bank, people thought we earned ‘armed robbers salaries’ but it’s not like that. My brother, when I was resigning, I must confess to you, I never had up to N100,000. When I resigned, I was managing an office with my friend and I thought I needed to change so many things. I started thinking of getting a good office in Surulere, because I felt that if I come here, it would be very easy for me to satiate my big clients that live on the mainland and the island. I started gradually and because of my experience in banking, I was able to leverage on the people that I had told I was leaving banking for my own business. Majority of them accepted me and that was it. One thing you must know is that if your job is good, you don’t need any advertisement or public relations. I have not seen some of my customers before and I have been working for them for years. There are some clothes that we have completed already and we are sending them to the US. We have clients in the UK, Malaysia and the rest of the world. We put products online and people just go online to contact us and place their orders.
How lucrative is the business? Honestly, I must confess, it’s very lucrative but the only problem we have is that the profit is not ours alone. Here, power does not favour us. The only time we are given power is late in the evening when my staff would have gone home and I work for corporate customers, politicians and celebrities. You don’t need to work for everybody. It’s for you to manage your client base and form your network. If you have 20 customers today, those 20 can introduce you to another 20 and the 40 doubles like that. That’s how you grow. Customers want a tailor who is trustworthy and who has integrity. I worked in the banking sector and I know what customers relations entails. If you have a function to attend and your tailor disappoints you, you won’t be happy. That does not happen with us, because we go the extra mile to satisfy our customers. We are running a fashion business which is not just a shop deal. My staff strength is about 25 workers. We have people sewing and packaging and I do the quality control because I know that paying attention to details is very important. The people that you work for are not people that would like to see your stitches and bending not well done. You have to pay close attention to such detail
What are the false assumptions about the business that you would like to correct? Fashion transcends just clothes alone. It includes other accessories like wrist watches, shoes, glasses, jewellery and the like. You need to learn how to combine all these before you can be adjudged very fashionable. Fashion will make you stand out among your competitors. There is a saying that ‘if you cannot stand out among your competitors, just dress better’. Looking good is very important,because the way you are dressed is the way people will address you. You just have to be fashionable. Even perfume is fashion and people have to embrace that. Life itself is fashion.
What does it take to achieve huge success in the business? You have to be trustworthy and you need to have integrity.
In the nearest future, what target have you set for yourself? I set targets every year for myself and if I don’t meet my targets, I try as much as possible to make sure I surpass them the following year. In the next 2-3 years, my target is to ensure my products are well known so that when they mention McCoy, people would raise their heads. We have an outlet in South Africa and we are looking at expanding our business to Ghana and Cotonou. I am also working on our Abuja outlet, because we have a lot of clients there. I just want McCoy to be a household name.
How were you able to spread your tentacles across the places you mentioned and how do you intend touching the parts yet to be touched? Thank God for the internet. Most customers see my designs online and they send me personal messages. We have Nigerians across the world and one person only needs to wear your design for the others to see it. When I discovered that the market keeps coming from South Africa, I decided to open up an outlet there where we do ready-to-wear here and we send there. Some of my clients come for vacation from Ghana and ask for 20, 30 or 40 units and I know they go there to sell. That is cool so long as I am making my own money.
How do you cope with the challenge of clients not willing to pay adequately for the services you render? It’s a normal issue we face. We have prices for different categories of people in the world. Like we say, if you want good things, you have to be willing to pay well for them. You cannot be everybody’s person. We try to encourage people to pick additional products so we can work out a good discount plan for them. We also have this plan that enables people pay monthly. We also have a plan for people who don’t have time to check us due to their busy schedule.
What can you say about Nigerians and their fashion sense especially when compared to the rest of the world? The way we run our fashion system in the country has really changed compared to what we had before. Thank God for our FADAN. We have runways where we display our wares and people attest to that from every part of the world. We have a lot of creative people in the system. We are getting there and the government is trying to really assist us now unlike before. We need to put in more effort so we can improve more.
Source : SunOnline