After graduating in philosophy from Lagos State University in 2002, Oluwafemi Opeoluwa set up Oluwafemi Clothings – a successful fashion outfit in Lagos. A few years later, he proceeded to the UK to study at the London College of Fashion where he honed his tailoring skills.
Today, Oluwafemi has opened more shops and is set to expand even further. He speaks on his business and how postgraduate education in the UK opened up opportunities for growth.
How did you come up with the idea of setting up Oluwafemi Clothing?
Fashion has always been a part of me for as far back as I can remember. I have always wanted to work in fashion. When I finished my undergraduate studies at the Lagos State University, it was just a natural progression since I had already starting selling some of my clothes to friends and family while in the university. I always like to say fashion found me.
That’s great! Where did you get the funding?
Where did I get funding? In fact, I’m still looking for funds for the business. Actually, we grew the business organically. I approached a couple of investors and even a bank but all came back dead on arrival. It takes a certain level of business intelligence to understand that there is money to be made in the fashion industry in Nigeria. I saved up all my profit for three years just to have enough money to rent the first shop. Basically, what I have learnt with the fashion business is that funding would come later on, just start up first.
So when did you get your big break?
Personally, I believe that the victories of yesterday are the everyday things of today. I can’t really recall any major break along the way, though I’m thankful for the journey so far. The only major turning point I can recall would be the opening of our first store. That was when it became obvious to friends and family that Oluwafemi was not going to out of business anytime soon.
Why did you decide to study in the UK?
I always wanted to study fashion in a world-class environment. I studied Philosophy for my undergraduate studies because I could not afford the fees charged by London College of Fashion back then. The moment I was able to gather money for a course at the London College of Fashion, I was on the next plane out.
How would you describe the learning environment in the UK?
The learning environment in the UK is simply tremendous. It affords one the opportunity of gaining proper knowledge both theoretically and practically in a secure and comfortable environment that is devoted to learning, research and innovation.
How did you get to select your course of study and choice of institution?
Like I said earlier, my target was to study at the London College of Fashion. Therefore, to actualise my dream, I was constantly monitoring and kept myself updated with information about the school online for as far back as I can remember. Their website is easy to access, very educative, and constantly updated with current information.
What were your experiences while studying in the UK?
My experience while studying in the UK was very pleasant. The UK has in abundance, excellent facilities so it was not hard for me to settle down in the country. Shuttling from my lodgings to campus and back was always enjoyable and I always looked forward to the journey.
There is a large population of Nigerians living in the UK. I also have friends and family everywhere. So, it was really like being home away from home. The British society embraces everyone irrespective of religion, colour, sex, or nationality. I thoroughly enjoyed my stay while in the UK.
By attending a UK university, has it had any positive impact on your career?
Yes. It has been the best decision I have made for myself and my business. When studying in the UK, you get to experience the fashion business from the European point of view and there were loads of areas I have had to update regarding my business. My institution I would say, furnished me with the relevant information needed to boost my business.
What opportunities of networking have you enjoyed as an alumnus of a UK university?
The possibilities are endless. As an alumnus of a UK university, I have been privileged to meet and work with various alumni. I have also had the opportunity to interact with top business leaders in the fashion industry. Presently, I am about to collaborate with a former course mate on a project.
What would be your advice to Nigerians who wish to study in the UK?
First of all, get a good understanding of your priorities regarding your career and after that, carefully search around the internet for the best schools in your field. Another way for prospective students aspiring to study in the UK to get genuine information and guidance is to attend exhibitions attended by representatives of UK institutions. For instance, a good opportunity is coming up at the British Council’s Education UK Postgraduate Exhibition holding in Abuja and Lagos this November.
The exhibition would have representatives from different universities coming, so it’s a chance for prospective students to interact directly with these officials. There could be no better way than that. It’s an opportunity they should cherish because such event wasn’t available during my time.
What are the future plans of your company?
The next stage is expansion. We are looking at the possibility of opening more stores in the shortest possible time. By the end of 2020, our aim is to have increased the number of stores from two to eight.
What challenges did you face to grow the business?
Basically the same challenges most upcoming businesses face in Nigeria but I believe with a clear focus on the goals set, all challenges can be overcome. Funding obviously is the greatest challenge but everything is possible, if only you can work hard and be smart.