Daniel Momoh, a graduate of University of Lagos, is the CEO of Oyani Signature, a high-end fashion brand that leverages the concept of multi-functionality in the design of its handmade leather accessories. In the interview with NIYI OYEDEJI, he speaks on what entrepreneurs must put in place to have a sustainable business.
What is the basis of your brand?
Authenticity, creativity and sustainability have been the high points of my brand and I strive to integrate it into the business, one product at a time.
I believe in purpose before profit and I don’t only teach it but I implement it into everything I do. I am also a writer and a brand coach.
What informed your fashion and craft business?
Creativity; I am drawn to it. I was a year-four student at the University of Lagos, studying Surveying and Geoinformatics Engineering with an eye for Art and Design when I picked interest in the business. I love doing things with my hands and when I discovered Ankara crafts in 2015 through a friend, I immediately signed up for the training, paid and committed myself to knowing everything about it. Two years down the line, I signed up for an intensive leather course training by one of Africa’s best handbag designers, Femi Handbags and I also committed myself to that; after which I proceeded to start my own leather accessory brand in 2018.
What was your initial start-up capital, how where you able to raise it and how would you say your business has grown since starting?
I started with a loan from my mom of about N100,000. That might look like much, but it isn’t because leather is expensive and having an eye for quality, I started with the best kind of leather I came across. I didn’t use synthetic, I settled for original leather and with that, I was able to make just a few products with that money.
Since then, I have been expanding my borders — I made products for some high-network clients. Some of my products are stocked on platforms like It’s Made to Order, Marketplace Africa and Empire Ghana. I have a social media presence that is growing and I am able to make my products without hassle. I have been able to put some structure in the business and one thing I know I will never let down on is quality.
How many employees do you currently have?
I have two artisans that work for me and I try to outsource various aspects of the business as best as I can. The idea is to have a structure that births sustainability.
Where do you currently source the materials for your products?
Every raw material I use is sourced locally, here in Nigeria. Nigeria is blessed with good resources and we do have some really good leather here, so I make use of what we have because it matches the quality I am looking for.
When was your business established?
On the 12th day of March 2018, I decided to put Ankara crafts on hold and started a new brand with leather because I had a vision and the fabrics (Ankara) I was using then couldn’t deliver that vision, so I had to switch. But I didn’t just wake up and start buying leather. I went for a training in December 2017 and I spent the next two months studying the market, working on my brand identity and strategy before I started in the month of March 2018.
How would you evaluate Nigeria’s e-commerce industry?
It’s thriving. Technology has redefined the way we do things and this has greatly improved the e-commerce industry through various disruptive innovations, and Nigeria has not been left out as the various improvements have made shopping easier in Nigeria. We still have a lot of catching up to do where structure and quality control is concerned, but we are making progress.
It’s being quite challenging for e-commerce businesses in the country with some of them closing shop. What do you intend to do differently to remain in business?
Structure! I intend to sustain my e-commerce business with a structure that works. The problem is that a lot of new brands are more money-driven than purpose-driven and that’s why a lot of them cannot tackle a challenge head-on. You need to know why you are in business and keep that ‘why’ before you. Always invest in building a structure around that ‘why’ and your business will be sustainable. This is what makes the difference and this is what I intend doing.
What are some of your expansion plans for your fashion business?
My expansion plans are both external and internal. To work with the kind of structure I have in mind, I’ll need to work on my production process. There are existing methods used by existing high-end fashion brands and this has worked for them over time. Stocking up in more strategic outlets is also in my plan, as this would help with creating more awareness about my brand.
What are the major challenges you have faced since starting your fashion business?
Some of the challenges I faced were due to a lack of knowledge of branding and sustainable practices.
I had challenges with marketing and brand awareness because in past projects (businesses) I never targeted the audience. But I am currently targeting audience with my business. Finance was also a challenge because of how expensive my raw materials were.
My major challenge was with branding. My target audience speaks a language and responds to a peculiar kind of concept. They are very picky and an extra effort must be made in an attempt to capture their attention. This was my struggle at first but I am beginning to understand them better because I have been studying them.
How do you think the government can address some of these challenges?
Some of these challenges must be addressed by the individual especially in the area of branding and brand awareness. The government can assist by setting up, not just vocational centres but proper entrepreneurship training centres. Entrepreneurship is more than learning how to make soap or bags or anything else.
There are other struggles an individual will face when trying to set up a sustainable business — they have to be trained in theory and practical for this. It is an investment but they will put what they have learnt back into the economy and this will lead to development. We need to stop having half-baked entrepreneurs running businesses. Entrepreneurs need the structure and the government can provide such platforms for them.
Also, running a business without substantial funds can be very exhausting. The government needs to put efficient operations into place to provide funds and make sure those funds get into the accounts of the entrepreneurs that deserve them.
Have you won any award or sourced for any international grants?
Last year, I was granted an emerging designers award by the organisers of the Lagos Leather Fair for my outstanding handbag designs. These awards help to boost brand recognition and awareness and I have my sights on quite a number of them which I hope to achieve soon.
What is your advice to other entrepreneurs?
Don’t rush. Take your time and work your way through the process, it will take time, it will require the effort, don’t rush. Understanding every step of the process is your ticket to sustainability.
Be ready to invest in your dream. Invest your time, your knowledge, your money and everything you have got.
Know what you want and why you want it. Don’t start anything and do it just because you want to do anything. Your fight as an individual is different, be ready to give it your best.
Let your dreams be big enough to scare you but be realistic enough to help you control that fear.