Oluwatosin Alademomi is the Head of Sales/ Creative Director of Tosag Fashion & Fabrics. The 26-year-old graduated from The Polytechnic Ibadan, Oyo State, where she studied purchasing and supply chain management.
First of three children, the young entrepreneur, who started her business in 2017, believes that the support from her family and partner helped her overcome her low moments when she felt like quitting.
PT: When did you realise that being an entrepreneur was what you wanted? How and when did you begin your fabric brand? Was it something you always wanted to do, or did life just bring it your way?
Tosin: My fabric business was born out of my passion for fashion. I loved to make dresses for people, and whenever a client reached out to me, sometimes they preferred I source fabrics of better quality to make dresses for them, and that was where it all started in 2019.
The idea of being a fabric vendor was not planned at all. In fact, it was not in the picture of the business I started in 2017. To build up my brand and satisfy my customers, I had to start the fabrics business, but I started with crepe materials only before I moved into selling other fabrics like lace, Ankara and so on.
PT: Interesting. So your first business, which was fashion designing, started in 2017, and that business led to another?
Tosin: The plan was to help clients who request fabrics get the quality they want at the right time it was needed. However, some of my customers started requesting my assistance, which was to follow them to the market to get fabrics at cheaper rates and introduce them to my suppliers. At that point, I became more serious with the business and ventured into it as a full-time fabric vendor/supplier. So, yes, Tosag Fashion inspired Tosag Fabrics.
PT: What inspired your business name? Are you strictly an online business, or do you have a physical store?
Tosin: My business name, Tosag, was formed from my name and my father’s name, Tosin Agunbiade. My dad formed the name Tosag even before I started my business. I remember when I was still in secondary school, I would get fabrics from a tailoring shop myself. I love anything that involves buying and selling. I love to advertise products.
My business is still online for now, but we are working towards having a physical store soon.
PT: As an online business owner, you would be familiar with this “what I ordered versus what I got” phrase by people complaining about the disparity in what they ordered from a vendor and what was delivered. What structures have you put in place to ensure that what your customers see you advertise is what they get?
Tosin: It will interest you that all transactions between my supplier, I and retailers are done online, and it has all been going on smoothly.
I ensure the pictures sent are of good quality and try as much as possible to avoid ‘what I ordered versus what I got’. And by God’s grace, we always deliver, and our customers are always satisfied because I have this mindset that if I sell out what is not good, my customer might return and may not return at all and that cancels my privilege of getting another customer or referral.
PT: How has the journey been so far? How has the acceptance been?
Tosin: So far, I won’t say the journey has not been smooth, but I’ll say the business is growing because where it was in 2019 is not where it is now.
When I started the business, it was just those who knew me then that patronised me, but now, I can say social media has made it easy for more people to reach out to me and place their orders.
In this line of business, which is online, it takes people to trust you before they can buy from you, and when they finally trust you, they accept you. The growth of my business today is a result of referrals from other customers. All they want is loyalty.
PT: How did your family take your decision to be an entrepreneur and pursue this line of business?
Tosin: When I started the business, my parents were my support system and my number one fan. I remember there was a time when I did not make sales. My dad bought up to three fabrics from me then. They supported me with everything they had because as of that time, I was still in school and almost done. My dad would follow me to the bus stop around 11:00 p.m. in the night to pick up the goods I ordered from Aba. That was how supportive they are, and in fact, my mum helps with delivery as of that time and for that, I’ll say I’m grateful.
PT: What’s your take on doing business in Nigeria, especially this line of business?
Tosin: Doing business in Nigeria comes with many challenges, but anyone who is consistent will surely make a way. The dollar increase rate is affecting businesses in Nigeria now, but we know we will strive.
There was a time I did not make sales at all for a year, but I kept advertising and ‘wasting data’, but now, I’ll say it is yielding results by God’s grace.
PT: Where do you see your business in five years?
Tosin: In five years, I see my business expanding with a big physical store and branches where customers/clients can walk in physically to select fabrics themselves and also to be one of the biggest wholesale distributors globally.
PT: If you were to get a grant, what part of the business would you be expanding?
Tosin: I would expand the physical store part to gain more ground. A lot of customers wish to walk in themselves and pick up, but due to the unavailability of that service, we have lost some customers.
PT: Has there been any time you felt like quitting? How did you manage that phase?
Tosin: Yes, a number of times, but it’s good to have good people around you to encourage you. I spoke with my supplier and asked a few questions about how she handled things, especially when a customer buys things from you without making payment for them.
At the time, I wasn’t running the ‘payment before delivery or payment before order is confirmed’ sales model. I delivered the product before payment, which made me run into loss and had me in debt, but I was advised, mentored and encouraged. Then I re-strategised and started again.
My husband, who was then my fiancé, pushed me to do better. Just about when I almost gave up, a big order came in, and he followed me to source for it, and he said, “Oluwatosin, you won’t quit. I’ll always be there to assist you.” He packed everything and even followed me to the delivery location.
PT: That is so encouraging to know. Having a supportive family, and partner is essential in doing business. What advice would you give someone seeking to start this line of business? Do you sell to retailers, or do you sell directly to users?
Tosin: My advice to whoever would like to start this fabric business is to be consistent in what you do. Let people know what you do. Advertise yourself. I know how many customers I got through social media, especially Facebook.
So, all I will say is – start the business. The beginning might be rough. In fact, you might not make sales at first, but when it comes, you will marvel. It’s a very good business. If you want to start with online marketing, you don’t need business capital to start it. You don’t have to wait until you have that 10k before you start it, and the most important one is to be transparent with your customers. When you tell them you sell quality fabrics, please let it be quality and nothing less. Let them get value for what they paid for, and I tell you they will keep coming back and also refer you to other people. Through that, your business is expanding.
I sell to both retailers and users. I have people who buy from me to resell.
PT: On a scale of one to 10, how would you rate Nigerians’ interest in the fabrics you sell? You know Ankara is now a big name and very versatile. People are becoming very creative with it.
Tosin: I’ll rate it eight to 10. I sell other fabrics like lace, Adire, silk, chiffon and so on, but among all these, Ankara is still my best seller. I sell more of Ankara than other fabrics I sell.
PT: So when you are not working, what other activity catches your fancy? How do you relax?
Tosin: I watch movies on YouTube or download them on Telegram, and I also love to research new things, which means Google is my friend. I love listening to music, and I love singing a lot.
Support PREMIUM TIMES' journalism of integrity and credibility
Good journalism costs a lot of money. Yet only good journalism can ensure the possibility of a good society, an accountable democracy, and a transparent government.
For continued free access to the best investigative journalism in the country we ask you to consider making a modest support to this noble endeavour.
By contributing to PREMIUM TIMES, you are helping to sustain a journalism of relevance and ensuring it remains free and available to all.Donate
TEXT AD: Call Willie - +2348098788999