INTERVIEW (Toyin Bakare)

The Business Side of Fashion: Building a Successful Business in a Competitive Industry

The Fidelity SME Forum is a weekly radio programme organized by Fidelity Bank Plc to educate, inform, advise and inspire budding entrepreneurs in Nigeria with knowledge and expertise that will enable them build sustainable and successful businesses. The interactive radio programme features subject matter experts and model entrepreneurs as guests on a weekly basis to share their insight and unique success stories. In this interview, Toyin Bakare gives valuable insights on “The Business Side of Fashion: Building a Successful Business in a Competitive Industry”. 

Q: You are the executive Director of SAS textiles now tell us a bit about the company and how it evolved overtime.

Toyin: SAS means Sola Adedeji Stores we named it after my late mum. I grew up in a house where they were selling fabrics and my mum started the business and along the line she passed on and I found myself at a very young age of 18 continuing the business with my siblings and SAS is a generational business, a second generational business and basically we sell fabrics. From a one room store we have been able to build it to a chain of different stores all across Lagos and a lot of prospects still coming.

Q: You are the ED and your big sister is the MD, who else is involved in the business?

Toyin: Initially we were two and today interestingly we are six children and we are all working together running different stores , managing different arms of the business and it’s called the power of vision.W are family of entrepreneurs, we all work together, we all talk business, we think business, we are fashion entrepreneurs but we see ourselves as textile merchants.

Q:But you studied accounting which is quite unique, why did you decide to make SAS Textile your bread and butter?

Toyin: My late mum had always said she wanted me to be an accountant it was when she passed on I said ok I must make sure I fulfill this dream of being a chartered accountant so immediately after NYSC I finished my ICAN. I’m now a fellow of ICAN. During NYSC I was transferred to SAS so that was how I found myself in SAS from 1998 till now.

Q: Tell me a bit about how SAS runs, walk me through the business model?

Toyin: The peculiarities of our own business is that we work closely with our consumer needs, we work closely with our suppliers, we work closely with all the government agencies, it’s a very interesting supply chain. We add value to one another. We deal with a wide range of clientele, our core values include excellent customer relationship, integrity, hard work, a lot of hard work .A brand is a promise kept so we tend to keep to our promises and deliverables. We have different store in Lagos and every store is independent but we still have a central store so we all work independently.

Q: How many weddings were you supplying Asoebi for this holiday season?

Toyin: The interesting part about the Christmas season, beyond the weddings, beyond the burials, beyond the birthdays we also deal with the corporate as well, we deal with the government agencies, because it’s a season were people are giving gifts. Almost every week we are being represented in one wedding or the other but it is beyond weddings.

Q: How have you used technology to get your work out?

Toyin: The world has gone beyond people coming to our physical locations, we have our Instagram handle, we have all the social media handles, we also leveraged on the WhatsApp. We send designs via WhatsApp, we send you everything you want, you place your orders and we are able to deliver it to you. It is a lot of work, I have an online staff and all she does is attend to all our online customers.

Q: So do you design the fabrics yourself?

Toyin:Yes we do. We have customized designs.

Q:How has your background as an accountant helped you in your business?

Toyin: My background as an accountant helped me greatly because I learnt to understand what it means to keep your records. Figures are very important, it’s very important for you to know what you are doing. It helped me understand my figures and our books are always in order, from our early age I made sure that our accounts are always balanced which are things that would help your business grow, when you are focused, when your books are kept properly.

Q: You do a lot of import and export and logistics. How have you been able to manage the difficulties in the environment?

Toyin: We have been able to rise above the difficulties in the environment because we make sure we obey all government policies, we make sure that we are a business that value integrity. I have not had course to interface with the customs because the way our business works right from our suppliers straight to the clearing agent and they deliver straight to us. We run our business based on integrity and credibility so we have not had any course to cut short.

Q: What about the issue of Copyright, how have you been able to sustain your creativity in that space?

Toyin: That is one of the challenges we have faced as a business. The interesting thing is that everything is copy, but an original would always be an original so we’ve always tried to encourage our customers that even with our original we don’t compromise on our quality.

Q:So clearly you haven’t been affected by the devaluation of naira?

Toyin: In 2016 our foreign exchange went viral, we were clearly affected but we never stopped doing business because we had so much credibility with our suppliers . We couldn’t afford to stop because that is the only job I have, that is the only job I’ve known all my life so even in the midst of the period when our naira was so volatile we continued to do business.

Q:Any advice for the entrepreneurs?

Toyin: I think once you stop learning you are already in your grave. For you to be in business, personal development is very important. I tell people that you have to dream big, you have to keep on learning, you have to go the extra mile. When we first started it was just my university education but I had to go to FATE Foundation and Lagos Business School. This has really helped me to innovate and to know that business is all about creating value and you just have to keep learning and developing because there is so much in the world of business right now.

Q: Tell us your Instagram account and how to reach you?

Toyin: At Sastextiles, our website is sastextilesng.com