Our 5-Woman league shared their experiences with the same thread woven through each story; building capacity locally is essential to a successful export trading business and opportunities from developmental bodies play a large role in the formation of a badass exporter.
The first big bad exporter to take the virtual floor for the evening was Tayo Shonekan, Founder & Creative Director, Aimas; a ready-to-wear women and children’s label. Tayo shared a lot on the readiness for International Trade Fairs as a point of entry into export.
- When it comes to product pricing, do your research and don’t be afraid to pitch your price as high as western counterparts especially if you have a good quality product.
- Make sure your product is a good fit for the fair, not every trade fair is a good fit for your brand or price points.
- Be sure to arm yourself, with a large number of fliers and business cards to market your presence at the fair,
- Know your product inside and out because you would be asked a lot of questions.
- Be prepared with a line sheet, an order sheet, a ready method for accepting payments (especially international payments) and a plan to follow up potential buyers.
“Just be true to who you are and what you do and it will always shine through”
Were Tayo’s sounding words to the attendees on staying the course with their brand and cultural identity. Tayo has found the Nigerian Export Promotion Council, She Trades and DHL to be very useful resources on her export journey.
On COVID-19, she believes the way we conduct business will definitely change and plans to use this time in isolation to up her brand’s digital play.
Akudo Iheakanwa, the Founder of Shekudo; an artisanal footwear and accessories brand shared how she literally learnt the export game as she went along, making mistakes, doing research and speaking to other women. As far as getting her business export ready and promoting her brand;
- She applied strict policy around quality controls to ensure her products were made to international standards.
- She made sure she had her lookbook and product line sheets prepared to ensure she was always ready to showcase her brand and her products using great quality pictures.
- She decided to operate a pre-order model to eliminate issues with stock and gain more insights on customer preferences.
- When working with influencers, she usually sends her products in a batch with other designers to reduce cost and provide more value to the influencer.
“Make sure you have a shipping partner ready to rock n’ roll’
Akudo’s sounding overall advice were;
- Ensure you have a sustainable supply of materials, to keep your order fulfillment uninterrupted.
- Make sure to do research on pricing to avoid undercutting yourself and consider the earning potential of your target market when you set product prices.
- When searching for stockists, pick one that matches your brand aesthetic and value.
Teni Majekodunmi, the Founder of Eclectic Chique; an African inspired accessories brand shared her story with us, highlighting how she left her career in law to start her brand in 2012 and now exports to 8 countries. Teni stressed on the importance of product placement as a driver for sales and growth.
- Take merchandising seriously as the way your products are displayed speak volumes to buyers.
- Never do a hard sell when you are overseas, it puts off potential customers.
- Read the little fine print on all documentation or risk getting burned and ensure you have terms of agreements for buyers and stockists.
- Take purchase orders from your buyers who can’t pay upfront to the bank, to secure loans and avoid running down your working capital.
- Include the dates for which your quoted prices are valid on your invoice, to safeguard your business in case of external price changes and to show competence to buyers.
“Your passion is really important. If you don’t have the passion, forget it.”
Teni told attendees, as passion drives the resilience needed to be an exporter. On COVID-19, she believes we should strike while the iron is hot when Nigerian borders re-open for business and also spend time thinking on how to make your businesses sustainable.
Anita ‘Olori’ Ajayi, the Founder of The Katie Wang Company; an export trading consultancy, shared her passion for connecting local manufacturers to international markets; generating a combined sale of 50,000 units of product in 2019 through linkages.
On getting export ready; she forewarned attendees on the fact that the readiness phase is where the real hard work is and to;
- Upscale your production capacity first in order to meet demands.
- Understand your destination market to ensure your products are wanted.
- Have an export plan with; logistics, legal documentation and order placement processes in place.
- Stay connected to forums and development agencies like the NEPC and AWEP; they can help you break down global level information that could be overwhelming.
- Step up your negotiation skills to avoid being haggled to the ground by buyers.
- Be knowledgeable about your numbers as they act as indicators for when and how to scale up.
“Once you crack the code with export, you will be the one rejecting orders.”
On COVID-19, she’s positioning herself to scoop up the production contracts China is bound to lose in its shift toward technology, by reaching out to buyers whose operations will fold up if they don’t get access to production.
Damola Adejumo, the Creative Director of Dàmólá Jumo; a contemporary women’s brand and the big bad exporter to close out the evening, shared with attendees that export was not in the plan but her business grew to the point where demand came from beyond borders and that she started exporting as a direct to customer brand before going into large scale export.
In terms of exporting on a large scale, her association with She Trades and the opportunity to attend Coterie in New York got her linkages to stockists in Japan and the United States. She shared tips that have helped her in her export journey
- Make certain you have available fabric for large scale production.
- Having your fabric or prints custom made is the best way to go.
- When you begin exporting, make sure your supply chain is solid.
- Have a central location where your products are shipped to abroad and negotiate with your stockists to handle store to store distribution themselves.
“Ensure your cash flow is solid for stocking for brands that don’t pay upfront’.
In conclusion, every entrepreneur interested in export must be passionate about the export trade, willing to take risks, make mistakes and grow from them.
Here were some of the main topics of discussion, courtesy of slido.
As we wrapped up, it was such a lituation on ZOOM and we were excited that our Anchors made this quote by Margaret Fuller come alive:
“If you have knowledge, let others light their candles in it”.
Words by Yolanda Akinola
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