Q&A: How To Build An African Designer Handbags Business From Scratch

Q&A: How To Build An African Designer Handbags Business From Scratch

Eseoghene Odiete did not really know much about designing and the fashion business.  But when she graduated from Nigeria´s Covenant University with a degree in  mass communication she decided to launch her own accessories business and she turned to the Internet for help.

Using Google Search and YouTube she taught herself how to make handbags, and through Google Search she located contacts for blogs and magazines to feature her products. Thus Hesey Designs was born in 2012.

Today, Odiete´s bags and accessories sell through her business website and she is giving back. She has started a women empowerment program where she conducts training classes for other women who want to learn her trade and build a similar business for themselves. She wants to build her business into an international brand that promotes African designs.

Hesey Designs specializes in creating custom-made apparels and accessories for women using African prints. The line include bags, shoes, slippers–all inspired by the African culture.

Eseoghene Odiete tells AKInsider how she built her business from the bottom up.

AFKInsider: How did you start Hesey Designs?

Eseoghene Odiete: I have always been intrigued by the fashion industry, even as a child and have always wanted to build a fashion brand that would promote the Nigerian economy. I started the business with my savings of about $60. I produced a few bags, sold them and use the money gotten to produce more. And that was how I got here.

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AFKInsider: What were some startup challenges?

Eseoghene Odiete: First was fund. I had to make do with the little savings I had and grew from there. Also getting the products out. I couldn’t afford a store so I made use of the Internet. I sent emails to several fashion sites requesting that they feature my designs. I knew I had a great product but I needed to be known. So many of them featured the product with my contact. A lot of people started contacting me requesting for the product.

Next was business management.  I started after the university and didn´t have an idea of how to go about running a fashion label.  So I read up a lot of articles and business management books from the Internet.  Books and articles on how to start and run a fashion label especially with little funds.

AFKInsider: Is there much help for small businesses in Nigeria?

Eseoghene Odiete: Nigeria can still do more in helping young designers.  Government should invest in the fashion industry by stabilizing power supply which is one main challenge and also invest in the designers through the bank of industry so we can produce in a larger quantity at a cheaper rate and also export to the international market. But I believe Nigeria is one of the best countries to do business.  Apart from the population,  it is one of the fastest growing economy. Like every country,  it has its own challenges. But there is always a way to deal with it. And, the Nigerian fashion industry is changing and growing rapidly.

AFKInsider: What are some of your goals?

Eseoghene Odiete: We looking to expand;  increase sales, empower more people and get closer to our vision. We see Hesey Designs becoming an internationally recognised brand with outlets in different countries.

AFKInsider: How do you market the company?

Eseoghene Odiete: We sell through our website,  commerce stores and different retail and distribution outlet. We looking to partner with more retail outlets.

AFKInsider: What advice would you pass on to other small business owners?

Eseoghene Odiete: Passion and determination will take you where skills can’t.