‘Why I left veterinary medicine for tailoring’
Fibafunjah Dosumu is a veterinary surgeon-turned- fashion designer. He tells FAITH AJAYI about his fashion outfit, FAAW
Tell us about your journey to becoming a fashion designer.
I am a third-generation fashion designer. My grandmother was a tailor and stylist. And, that’s what my parents do too. Some of my uncles and aunts are also into fashion designing. Indeed, it is a family of. Although I had my formal education in Veterinary Medicine and I was inducted as a veterinary surgeon, I work full-time as a tailor.
I am the creative director and business lead at House of FAAW in Ibadan, Oyo State.
I often crack a joke about tailoring being in my blood. But really, I feel very fulfilled whenever I turn a flat piece of material into clothing that makes a statement. I consider it to be an honor to be able to clothe people and help them feel more confident.
Tell us about your educational background.
I studied Veterinary Medicine at the University of Ibadan. Before that, I obtained a Ordinary National Diploma from the Federal College of Animal Health and Production Technology in Ibadan, Oyo State. It was while doing that, I realised that Veterinary Medicine is quite a good course. I then decided to go further to study it.
How did you start the business?
It started during the second semester of my third year in the university. I had just completed my first professional exam as a veterinary medicine student. I had taken some courses on entrepreneurship, business management, and project management. During one of those programmes, I was required to present a business idea. My presentation was on tailoring. The feedback I got was encouraging.
I launched the business officially during my faculty dinner programme that same year. I collaborated with the leaders of the faculty, and I staged a mini runway. I presented some of my styles, and gave out my contact details. My first client came some weeks later.
Tell us about some of the challenges you face in the business.
In the early days, people looked at the company like any other tailoring service out there. But, I was projecting it as a ready-to-wear line for men. The most daunting challenge was getting people have a change in perspective.
We created different styles, and made them in various sizes.
Also, production was a challenge. Initially, I was working alone, so I had to run every aspect of the business. It was very clumsy for me.
How did you overcome those challenges?
I constantly explained to clients that we were different from what they were used to.
How do you get customers?
I get most of my clients through referrals. I also do social media marketing.
Have you ever had any bad experience with a customer, and how did you handle the situation?
A client once made a request, but he was not so clear about what he wanted. When I made the outfit, he said he wanted something different. I had to remake the attire from scratch. Because he did not specify what exactly he wanted, he still did not like it. I eventually had to refund his money, because he kept changing his mind. Even though it was challenging at the time, I eventually got more clients from that experience.
Did you undergo any form of training before going into the business?
My parents were fashion designers, so I practically grew up in a tailoring shop. I also worked with a more established brand as the operations manager for some months. I worked in the sales and management department of that brand for a some months as well.
As time went more, I took underwent more training, especially in business management. In 2019, I was part of a two-week training for creatives in the fashion industry, organised by The Assembly at the British Council. I also regularly attend masterclasses that help me get better at my craft, and handle the business better.
Have you ever thought of quitting?
Quitting tailoring? No, I have never entertained that thought. Quitting the business? Yes, sometimes in the past. I was frustrated by the unstable economic situation of the country. There were so many policies, which did not conform with the reality.
How many employees do you have?
I have two full-time members of staff, and two others on contract basis. When we have lots of orders, we call in the two contract staff. I also have a friend who works with me as a strategist. He is a sales expert, and he drives the marketing and sales arm of the business.
What form of supports have you enjoyed since you started the business?
When I started out, my best friend, Olakunle, supported me financially. He funded my first runway exhibition. Some of my classmates were also supportive.
In my years of running the business, I have realised that without human resources, it is practically impossible to succeed. I strongly believe that people are not self-made. One always needs support.
How do you manage your business and still have time to do other things?
I spend a good part of my mornings on the board, where I outline everything I want to do and when they need to be done. Anything that is not part of my plan will have to wait till it is either convenient or sensible to do. Like I said earlier, I also have a great support system; from staff to family. Everyone in my life makes my work easier by being at their best.
How do you handle online customers?
I have a rather small online presence, so it is easy to deal with. I manage my work offline much better.
What are some of the highlights of your career?
Being nominated for the 25 Under 25 awards is one of the highlights. I was 22 years old when I was nominated for the first time. When I got to the nomination dinner, I met young trailblazers who were so smart and energetic. They were doing great things from their little spaces, and they inspired me greatly. I got nominated twice, but I did not win the awards. Still, I am grateful for the experience.
I also applied for the EO Global Student Entrepreneur Awards. I was called to be part of the cohort, but I could not continue at the time because I had not registered my business. However, the lessons from the classes impacted me significantly. I am grateful for it.
Where do you see yourself and your brand in the next five years?
My dream is to become a master tailor myself. My fashion role model is Andrew Ramroop, a fashion designer from Trinidad and Tobago, based in the United Kingdom. He teaches suit making on Saville Row in London, and I hope to be in his class someday.
For my brand, I want it to grow to a point where it can service a large part of the population in Nigeria. I will also love to open retail stores in all capital cities in Africa.
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