To start the business, you must be aware of fashion changes, have a creative streak that enables you to match colours and fabrics together to design and also a substantial amount of money to invest in a shop, clothes and advertising.
Mrs. Ngozi Ikenga is a boutique operator in Abuja. She started the business about 20 years ago from Lagos. She said passion was what made her to go into the business even as she had been into buying and selling of clothes in her undergraduate days.
A lawyer by training, Mrs. Ikenga ventured into the business with N5 in 1979 when her monthly salary was N86 by selling to colleagues in the office because she had no shop then.
“I used to buy clothes and jewelries and take to the office to sell to my colleagues back then in Lagos. From there the business grew and I was able to rent a shop. Today, I have two shops in Abuja with seven staff. Though I had 15 staff while in Lagos but could not relocate with them,” she said.
Mrs. Ikenga said her passion for classy and trendy clothes has helped the business to grow fast, adding that she stocks both foreign and local wears in her shop at affordable prices.
The boutique operator said the secret of success in the business has been discipline, commitment and courage.
Mrs. Ikenga said for you to be successful in boutique business and also attract customers, you must determine the line of clothing you want to go into, whether both men and women or just one aspect or children wears.
“The quality matters a lot. You have to decide whether you will stock high quality materials, medium or low, even our Nigeria made clothing have both low and very high quality. If you bring some of the products from Nigeria people do not believe they are made in Nigeria, they will tell you it must be from Turkey or Senegal. Standard also must be maintained so that people will know you for the best,” she said.
Mrs. Ikenga who is the Secretary, Nigerian Network of Women in Export and Services (NNWES), said though she travels outside the country to get her goods, she also makes use of some indigenous designers that design clothes for her to sell.
“I make use of indigenous designers too. When people come into our shops they sometime place an order and we take their order and send to our designers’ and they come out with something beautiful. We equally have quality materials here too,” Mrs. Ikenga said.
She said the business, though seasonal, is very lucrative adding that the peak of the business is during the festive periods, “during the festive period, business skyrockets but on average, we make sales of between N50,000 and N100,000 but we cannot quantify it when it comes to the festive season because that is the time we have high patronage.”
Talking of accessing loan facilities for her business, she said she has not tried it at any financial institution due to the issue of conditionalities attached to loans.
She said: “The financial institutions are not sincere; the conditions attached to accessing loan is too much. There is also the problem of hidden charges. The only way I access money for my business is through local contributions with friends.
“We started with N100,000 monthly contributions then at a time we increased it to N200,000 and we invest such into our businesses and that is how we have been boosting our businesses. With that, there is no interest on loan condition attached to it. We do that to help ourselves in business and also support the upcoming ones,” she said.
According to Mrs. Ikenga, the challenge facing the business is that it is seasonal and not an everyday booming business. “You just have to make some adjustments to see that the raining days do not affect your dry days.”
She added that the economic situation in the country is another challenge, noting that many Nigerians love good clothing but they cannot afford them most of the time.
To delve into boutique business, Ikenga said it depends on the capital at hand. She said if the person does not have enough capital she should not keep wasting time but should start with what she has by buying and taking to places which she refers to as “expensive hawking.”
The barrister-turned-boutuque owner adviced women to find something to do, adding that it is important for all hands to be on desk no matter the income of the husband. “As a woman, you must have something to contribute to the family so that you can be relevant,” she said.
She further said: “It is a dangerous trend for any woman to sit back at home. As a woman, if you don’t have anything you are doing to contribute to the family, your respect is diminished even among the children.
“An example was a family whose son came home and told the mother he wanted to celebrate his 10th birthday in one of the biggest hotels and the mother said how but the son said mummy don’t worry, I know you cannot afford it but daddy will.
“The mother was hurt and said even the children are already seeing her as someone who cannot provide except daddy provides and this made her to sit up and find something doing.”
She said if the men are bringing and the women add theirs it will help reducing men’s burden. She added that no matter how rich your husband is, your contribution to the family will be of great effect.
Steps to take
• Get capital
• Decide on the type of boutique
• Get quality materials
• Maintain a good standard
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