#LadyBoss Interview: “Don’t be too quick to take a loan for your Business,” Olubukola Asafa, Founder, Oba Couture.

Image credit: Olubukola Asafa

Olubukola Abosede Asafa is an entrepreneur and the Creative Director/ Chief Executive Officer of OBA Couture Limited, manufacturers of handbags, shoes, sandals, leather goods and accessories. Olubukola is extremely passionate about what she does and has acquired training in London and Italy, which has enabled her to gain the kind of knowledge and expertise necessary to succeed in the business coupled with the desire to produce excellent, world-class and quality products. 

Her company’s vision is to be a world-leading manufacturer and creator of authentic and distinctive premium-made footwear, handbags and accessories. Additionally, the company aims to be customer-centric and resolute in pursuing profitable growth and always acting with values of love, excellence, integrity, respect, teamwork and creativity. The Mission of her company is to consistently produce the most valuable products while paying very close attention to consumer preferences and providing a total memorable customer shopping experience.

Olubukola is also the Founder of Heritage Children Foundation Africa, founded in August 2010 and guided by a board of trustees. It was established to protect and provide care and love to the needy, underprivileged and neglected children, through various outreach programmes like feeding and raising funds for medical care. In recent times, the focus of the foundation is mainly feeding the needy, hungry, and neglected street children.

In this interview with Leading Ladies Africa, Olubukola shares the inspiration behind establishing a brand to bring back the “Made in Nigeria” initiative, how her business gives back to the community and why women should focus on working together to collectively achieve greatness. Olubukola’s interview is an interesting one. Lean in!

The ‘Olubukola Asafa’ that most people don’t know.

The Olubukola Asafa that most people don’t know loves God, she loves to be around her loved ones, she is shy, compassionate and passionate about what she does (her NGO and her business).

Background story to founding Oba Couture.

It started in 2011 while studying for my MBA. I wanted to be an entrepreneur and I wanted to start to implement all that I was learning. So, I started selling readymade shoes and bags. However, because I love to create and work with my hands, I knew that I had to start making them.

Fortunately, my market research at the time, showed that no one was focused on making quality shoes and bags in Nigeria. Prior to that, I had been praying to God for direction. I thought if some of the world’s best leather was sourced from here (Nigeria), then why can’t we make quality leather products? I also noticed those made in Nigeria always claimed to be ‘Made in Italy’ even though they were made in Nigeria. I had many questions and so I decided to make a difference and bring ‘Made in Nigeria’ back. That was my mission when I started Oba Couture.

Image credit: Olubukola Asafa

Tell us a bit about what you do at OBA Couture.

We are manufacturers of luxury handmade leather goods and accessories such as handbags, shoes, sandals, belts and ready-to-wear clothing. 

Walk us through a day running this business: 

When I set out for the day, I head for the workshop in Lekki or I go to Mushin to purchase some leather. I return to the workshop if I went to Mushin, to inspect the quality and supervise work being done. Sometimes, I take new stock to the physical store in Lekki Phase 1 for display and update inventory. When I get to my home office, I work on new designs, construct patterns and work out leathers or fabrics that go with the designs. I also do a lot of administrative work, strategizing and marketing.

How do you stay innovative? 

By consistently connecting with my creator, he keeps me innovative. Also, through research and development, we try to have a feel of what the customer needs and not what we think they need. We share ideas and test them.

Image credit: Olubukola Asafa

OBA Couture in five years. 

In five years, we hope to have an OBA flagship store (Head Office), and 20 more store locations in Nigeria and abroad. We will also increase the production rate and the labour force by 95%. 

Challenges on your journey and lessons. 

Challenges I face include poor or inadequate infrastructure, inadequate power supply, lack of adequate skill and unfair competition with imported shoes and bags.

As for lessons, I’ve learnt to delegate tasks when necessary and not try to do everything myself; although there are some tasks that cannot be delegated at least, for now. I stick to doing the critical ones myself. Secondly, I’ve learnt not to be too quick to take a loan. I thank God for never taking loans at some stages in my business because now, I understand that I wasn’t ready to take a loan at that time. If I had, I would have run into serious financial problems.

What upcoming projects are you currently working on and what do you hope to achieve? 

I’m working on sharing my knowledge and expertise via a training centre where I can teach skills in shoemaking starting from pattern construction, pattern construction for handbag making and pattern construction for garment making. I love constructing patterns – and to make shoes, handbags or clothes, it starts with first constructing patterns. Once the patterns are well constructed, the rest will be fine.

Image credit: Olubukola Asafa

Tips for those who are clueless on how to create and build an impactful business?

You must give back to your community and employees. When you give back to your community, they will feel the impact of your business. Giving back to your community may be as simple as giving food to a family who needs it, setting up a collection jar at your store or office for the less privileged or sponsoring a youth sports team. Give back to your employees to make them feel appreciated, happy and motivated always.

Also, set SMART goals. SMART stands for Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Relevant and Time-bound. Set goals and then track and monitor their progress. Make adjustments when necessary to make sure you are on track to achieving those goals.

You’ve attained quite a success in a short while. What is the secret?

For the past nine years since OBA Couture was founded, apart from trying to do our best to deliver excellent products and services to our customers, God has really been our backbone and sustainer. I work hard but I don’t neglect prayer. It is the master key.

Image credit: Olubukola Asafa

Final words to women in our community.

Women are fearfully and wonderfully made. God has put so much power in us that we don’t need to envy others, pull them down or covet what they have. Women need to support each other and cheer another on to collectively achieve greatness.

 

The Lady Boss Series is a weekly interview series that highlights the achievements and entrepreneurial journeys of African female entrepreneurs. The idea is to showcase the Leading Ladies who are transforming Africa and the African narrative through enterprise and business. 

It is an off-shoot of Leading Ladies Africa, a non-profit that promotes leadership, inclusion and diversity for women of African descent. 

If you know any kick-ass women of African Descent doing phenomenal things in enterprise, email lead@leadingladiesafrica.org, and she could possibly be featured.

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