I’m Praises Akinnusi also known as Coffee_blvck on social media, I’m a self taught fashion illustrator and blogger from Nigeria and I currently live in a small town in Nigeria. Growing up I always had a flare for fashion whether it was drawing garments or making them, I wasn’t sure. But I did enjoy watching fashiontv a lot. I didn’t really think I could make money off my sketches so initially I didn’t start doing it for the money it was just a hobby, I didn’t even think people would pay for it. Everything changed about last year when I decided to start posting my sketches online and it got a lot of positive feedback, and encouragement to keep on. I was surprised when I got a DM on Instagram and someone wanted to pay for my sketches, it was really funny to me coz I was extremely clueless how much to charge for my services so I declined. I went ahead and educated myself on fashion illustration and how to charge for your services and that was how I started a functional business in fashion illustration.
What were the biggest initial hurdles to building your business and how did you overcome them?
For me it was self confidence and I lacked a lot of it. I wasn’t confident enough in my skills and I didn’t want to overcharge so I ended losing out a lot because I was undercharging myself and belittling my art. But my confidence grew overtime and I started realizing my worth, I learnt not to be afraid, I learnt how to deal with clients and make them realize my worth. I also think my confidence grew as my sketches got better, I began to pay more attention to my craft, practiced everyday, tried out new mediums and basically focused on myself as an artist.
What books are you currently reading? And your recommendation for entrepreneurs to read?
I’m currently reading “Inferno” by Dan Brown, this is the second time I’m reading it actually. Dan Brown is one of my favourite authors I’ve read almost all his book and I’m so in love with all his conspiracy theories. I would recommend “If you want to be Rich and Happy Don’t go to school” by Robert T. Kiyosaki, It was a book my dad made us read growing up and It was really insightful.
Did you ever deal with contention from your family and friends concerning your entrepreneurial pursuits?
How did you handle it? What would you do differently in hindsight?
Of course! I did, I grew up in a small community and people here don’t understand what I do; so my parents initially had troubles warming up to my ideas. They saw art as a hobby and not something I can make a living from, and I don’t blame them. Usually people think artists, illustrators, basically people in the creative business can’t make a good living from their passion, but a lot has changed now we have social media and that has help a lot of people turn their talent into making an income. I didn’t stop doing what I do because people around me don’t understand what I do, I kept doing it, kept believing in myself and tried to make people around me understand. I started working extra hard, like I said I’m self taught, no one to put me through, so I researched online, bought books, educated myself and implemented conscious growth as an illustrator.
What would you say was the single most influential factor in your business success?
That would be “Confidence” lol, I know I’m saying this a lot but I feel “confidence” is something that you need in this kind of business. You can only make money if you have confidence in yourself and believe in yourself, clients can smell when you are not confident and they will take advantage of that, I think you need to build up a lot of confidence in yourself and your craft for you to make a functional business from your hubby. Most of my successes came from believing in myself first.
What do you know today that you wish you would have known when you first got started as an entrepreneur?
Entrepreneurship isn’t all glam; at least not as glamorous as most entrepreneurs makes it seem. You need to mentally, financially and physically prepare yourself. Entrepreneurship is fun, you get to choose who you work with, what time you want to get up, what time you wanna work, in entrepreneurship you are in full control; but it can get really rough sometimes. I wish I knew that before hand so I could mentally prepare myself.
What advice would you give to an upcoming entrepreneur locally and internationally?
Stop waiting and start; yes you might fail but you don’t know that till you start. I could have launched myself earlier but I was afraid of failing, I was busy calculating and asking myself “what if”. I didn’t give myself the chance to unlock my potential earlier and I know most people feel that way too... “Don’t be like me”.