Olubukola Ayodele Deborah is a graduate of Linguistics and Communications Studies from the Osun State University. She spoke with our Reporter on how her small stature made her go into fashion designing. She is the CEO of Empee Needlecraft. Excerpts
Tell us about yourself and your Educational Background?
I’m Ayodele Deborah Olubukola, the Creative Director of Empee Needlecraft. (A Lagos-based fashion home; that caters for brides, bride-tribe, and general female garments).
I’m the last child of four (4) in a family of six (6) and I grew up in Osun state. Started learning fashion designing after secondary school, but it wasn’t a smooth ride because I gained admission into the university almost immediately.
I graduated from Osun State University in 2012 with a B.A in Linguistics and Communication Studies. I continued learning fashion designing after serving the country in 2013, did that for about a year and a half.
Growing up with two big brothers and my immediate big sister was quite fun, we were all we’ve got as we practically stay home most of the time. Our parents were/are not the social type; so it was basically from home to church to school, that triangle. I’m grateful for the bond we share though, can’t trade that.
Who motivated you to go into the fashion designing business?
My first motivation was my mum. After secondary school; while waiting for admission, she suggested I enroll with a family member that owns a fashion store, which I did. My size has been a motivation too; I’m petite and I rarely get my size, it’s a struggle to get a dress that fits. I remember a time I got a perfect size dress but then I had to pay much more than I budgeted. So I guess that was the moment I got the push to start making my dresses since I already got the idea of clothes making.
How do you come about the name Empeeneedlecraft?
Empee was my nickname during my university days and I got the name after I received a recognition award as the most petite lady in the department. The “Miss Portable” award brought about MP which I now spell as “Empee” and of course because I deal with needles to make my crafts, Needlecraft came into place.
Are there any challenges you encountered when setting up your brand name?
I wouldn’t say there’s any because it was quite easy for me to coin that out since my nickname was in line with one of my motivations.
Is the fashion designing business capital intensive?
I think this is relative. It depends on if you want to take it a step at a time or you want to go all out. I started the business in 2015 in my room with a manual machine, with time I was able to generate more money to take a store and equip with more machines and also employ staff. I’d say the economic requirement is progressive, so for me; It’s less capital intensive.
Any support from family members when you told them your business idea or plan?
My family members were supportive from the onset. I remember when I just started and my sewing wasn’t all that, my sister helped in modeling my not-perfectly-done outfits graciously and I got lots of clients through that. Some of them still patronize the brand. So client-base was basically from a family member to countless EmpeeNeedlecraftRoyalties.
Your advice to young entrepreneurs that may want to set up their own business?
First of all, I’d say it’s important to have a great fondness for the business because it gets overwhelming now and then; especially at the beginning. (I was totally drained at a time) So when the fondness is in place, you enjoy the process and it gets better with time. Also, you don’t have to have it all figured out at once, just take it a step at a time. And most importantly, trust God through it all.