The Celebrating Women Campaign Series celebrates Tania Omotayo, Founder and Creative Director of Ziva Lagos, a ready to wear retail line which was born out of a desire of the founder to create affordable pieces of clothing for Nigerian women using indigenously procured fabrics, but has grown to be so much more. In less than two years, Ziva Lagos has been featured in magazines, newspapers and music videos, as well as the founder being named on Forbes Africa’s Under 30 List of Entrepreneurs. In this interview, Tania Omotayo shares the story of how she started, as well as practical tips to improve a growing business that every burgeoning lady entrepreneur may take into consideration.
PASSION FOR FASHION
I ask Tania about her growing up and how she developed her passion for fashion and she says:
‘I grew up in Lagos until I was about 13 or 14, then I moved to England and went to school there. Fashion was by mistake. I studied advertising and marketing, not fashion. But when I moved back, everything was so expensive and I didn’t understand why, so I decided to make affordable clothing.’
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I inquire about her ready to wear retail line and how she made it a success in 2 years, even to the extent of being recognised by Forbes, and she has this to say:
‘I started Ziva as a side business while I had a 9 to 5. So in the beginning, I used to sell from my car and I would take the clothes in my car to my office, So when people ordered on Instagram, I would go back to my car. I used to do deliveries for instagram orders, replying emails, picking up calls. I used to do everything myself for the first 6 months and then I hired my first staff and then I feel like because I was so involved and I did so much by myself for so long. My brand is me and I am my brand, and I think that’s what’s made it successful, and the grace of God. Because it is not easy.’
On 5 things Tania Omotayo has learnt about business from her retail brand, she says pensively:
‘Hmm…you have to be patient. Business in Nigeria is not easy, especially with challenges like no light. You have to be prayerful because this business is really hard. You can’t be jealous of other people and I feel like if we all helped one another, we would all grow. People are always surprised when I give people advice and tell them how I did stuff. I feel like if you keep everything to yourself, what’s the point? There’s enough space in the sky for all of us, and there’s nothing wrong with helping out your fellow sister or brother.’
I ask about problems with retail and payment systems, and she says,
‘To be honest, not anymore. I don’t really have issues with payments because there are so many options. There’s POS, there’s cash, there’s ATM, there’s transfer, there’s *737#. So many options.’
I ask her to share how relationships have helped her build her business and she says, ‘ I think that’s one of the most important parts. I definitely use my friends and people I know to my advantage. I feel like you’d be really stupid if you didn’t. So there’s nothing wrong with asking for a favour. There’s nothing wrong with your friend supporting your business. There’s nothing wrong with your supporting your friend’s business so that they’ll support yours.’
I ask her about her response to friends who are not very eager or willing to help out and advises :
‘That’s also okay. You cannot be angry with somebody. One of the biggest lessons I’ve learnt in my adult life is that because you would do something for someone does not mean that they should do it back for you. And when you do it for someone, you should do it from your heart, not because you want anything in return. So it’s okay if someone doesn’t do anything for you. ‘
I ask Tania about her Ziva pop up, which took place recently in London and the secret to an excellent pop up retail event. She replies,
‘ I don’t think there’s any secret. It’s hit or miss, so I do a lot of promo. I use myself to promote my brand. Sales: when you offer people sales they’ll come. And I feel that if people like your stuff they’ll come. If they like you they’ll come. So I don’t really think that there’s a secret. The only secret is just promo and make sure you’ve told enough people about it.’
I ask her about the business mentors and books she has read to frame her business mind, she says
‘I wouldn’t say I look up to a specific person. I look up to a number of people, but more so in the business sense. I look up to the owner of Zara. He’s amazing, and I love his story. I love how he developed his brand. I really respect that. I always look at other designers and see what’s happening because we’re all in the same industry and I think we can all learn from one another. I watch YouTube videos, TedTalks, random things. That’s pretty much it. I wouldn’t say there are business books that I go by, but I’ve read a lot. You can never know enough. You can never learn enough. So I feel like it’s always good to read stuff to help your mind. I read a lot of fashion books and even random business books that have nothing to do with what I’m doing.’
Lastly I ask Tania how she developed her poise and how she’s so so soft spoken and so nice and she shrugs, and I am tickled as says,
‘I think I’m just me. I don’t try to be anybody else. I don’t pretend to be anybody else. I’m really myself and I enjoy the fact that I am comfortable enough to be me. I’m just myself.’
So I conclude that her poise came from heaven, and she says ‘Yes, it did’ and we have a laugh.
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