‘Getting staff to understand customer service is a big challenge’
Chika Ben-Og Egwuh is the CEO of Dekato Boutique in Lagos. The young lady determined to succeed in fashion business, worked hard to see her business grow. In this interview with GERALDINE AKUTU, she shares her journey into the fashion business and other issues.
How did you find your way into this line of business?
I had always had it in my mind that I will never work for anybody. I knew I was going do business because I wasn’t just cut out for office work and so when it was time to start working I didn’t bother looking for a job. Shortly after I got married, I met some people who were travelling abroad and I started buying things from them. I found out that was what I loved doing and the sales was moving well. I started my business from the boot of my car and from there I created a space in my room and later I started using my boy’s quarters. However, my business started expanding and I started having problems with space that even the boys quarters could hardly contain my wares; it was a good problem for me so I eventually moved out and rented a bigger place.
Why fashion and how long have you been doing this?
As child I have always loved fashion and I noticed that, among my peers, I always wanted to be different and stand out. I have been doing this business for over 10 years now.
What are the challenges you’ve faced along this line of business?
I had to deal with getting very good staff who understand customer service, because that is sometimes difficult. I travel quite a lot and might not be able to be at my office every day of the week. So, I needed to be sure that the members of staff on ground would treat my customers like I would. I have been able to come around this and what I do is to train my staff when they are newly employed. Another challenge I have faced is the exchange rate, when President Buhari came into power. I almost threw in the towel because many things went wrong. The dollar was very high and things were pretty expensive. There were many fake wears that flooded the market and they were competing with us. Our competitors sold at a very cheap price and I couldn’t sell at that price because dollar had skyrocketed. Moreso, at that period the Nigerian economy was just sinking into recession and many people didn’t want to spend a lot of money on clothes as much as they were doing before.
How did you overcome the challenges?
Like I said earlier on the issues of the inadequacies of staff, I get them trained before I allow them take over my shop. I am very proactive with my new staffs and I do so by grooming them to step up to a key assignment, so that there won’t be chaos when I am not around.
However, we thank God the exchange rate is fair now compared to how it was initially and many of our customers have realised that we sell only the best and those who know this are still with us. The emergence of social media was initially a problem for me, too, because people were selling on social media and at that time I wasn’t tech savvy, and customers were no longer walking into shops to buy. However things have turned around, Dekato Outfit is moving with time, we now have a strong presence on Facebook and Instagram.
What gives you an edge over the many competitors out there?
The difference is that any customer that walks in here is satisfied. This means that if one customer is satisfied, she will tell others about her experience and the quality of what is sold here. This makes other people want to receive the same quality. If my customers can get the kind of appearance they are looking for here, then my job is done. My customers come first.
What lessons have your learnt as a successful business owner?
I have learnt to have a high tolerance for risk. I have learnt to believe in myself because many times these elements of business may let you down. If I don’t believe in myself, there will be a day you will just throw in the towel. Lastly, I have learnt that as a business owner I have to work more than everyone if I want my business to succeed.
Who are your target market and how affordable are your clothes?
I sell to people who want quality things. I sell to men and women and my clothes are quite affordable.
Kindly give us a definition of fashion
Fashion is distinctive and can be said to be a constant trend in which people present themselves. Or it can be a prevailing style in behaviour or newest trend created by a designer.
What is the biggest lesson you have learnt?
That I need to make decisions myself without being influenced and also I have learnt not to look down on people.
Is any of your kids interested in continuing your business?
I think my daughter is interested.
Would you like her to join the family business or follow her own path?
If she wants to, why not? But education comes first before any other thing. Education is very important.
What words do you have for young people?
Like I always tell young people that come to visit me, you shouldn’t be waiting for big money before you start your business. When you are waiting for a time everything is perfect then you are living an illusion because the prefect time will never arrive. I started from the booth of my car, so start with that little, remain focused and with hard work the sky is your limit. More so, I encourage young people to be more patient, professional and proactive.