For as long as I can remember, even at the tender age of 10 years, I always knew I wanted to make clothes for women. But I can say realizing that vision at such a young age had a lot to do with my mother and oldest brother. Growing up my mother would ask me to help pick out her outfits and ask my opinion on which bag and shoes would work best with her outfits. And there was my big brother who was literally the coolest person I knew. Always had and also bought me the freshest things at that time. But the real spark that started what has now grown to become the brand BIIO, was a need to be heard. Growing up with a speech impediment, I hardly ever expressed myself mostly because it was hard to articulate my thoughts and opinions, and also because people weren’t too kind. For this reason I bottled up a lot of my stories and experiences that I never shared. So in setting up a brand, BIIO became an outlet for all these experiences and thoughts I was never able to share by telling stories through my clothes.
What were the biggest initial hurdles to building your business and how did you overcome them?
For me, one of my biggest challenges in building my brand was the self discipline that had to come with working for myself. After quitting my 9-5, it was very easy to tell myself that I didn’t work for anybody and could do things as and when I wanted. But what helped me to overcome this hurdle was me constantly reminding myself what the vision was and the fact that it was bigger than me. And also the fact that because I was alone in the forming stages, if I didn’t put in the work, nobody would do it or let alone do it better.
What books are you currently reading? And your recommendation for entrepreneurs to read?
Currently I’m reading ‘Modellismo’ by Donna Uomo Bambino. It’s a step by step pattern drafting book that I’d recommend for every young designer trying to improve their pattern drafting skills especially as patterns are basically the blueprint for every garment.
Did you ever deal with contention from your family and friends concerning your entrepreneurial pursuits? How did you handle it?
I definitely did. In the beginning, I felt very ambushed because it wasn’t coming from only parents but my brothers as well. There were a lot of arguments, especially when the time came to pursue my tertiary education. I wanted to attend fashion school but my parents wanted a regular university. There was a little resentment in there somewhere but as time went by i realized it mostly stemmed from a place of love and uncertainty of my career path because it was very new to my family. Eventually my family realized I was relentless and gave in to the dream.
What would you do differently in hindsight?
I would’ve saved up a lot more money before leaving my 9-5 to start my brand. I think sometimes most creatives forget that we may have to make a compromise and fund our dreams with jobs that may not necessarily be in line with our career paths.
What would you say was the single most influential factor in your business success?
Talent and innovation are one thing, but I feel one key that’s very underrated is a brand’s relationship with its consumers and the trust they (the consumers) have in the brand. Over the years that is one thing I’ve always prioritized because at the end of the day, I feel that is what keeps a brand’s core audience around.
What do you know today that you wish you would have known when you first got started as an entrepreneur?
That it’s important to take your time to think out every little detail about your brand. From your aesthetic, to your audience and even down to your social media presence. It tends to be a very tedious exercise but it’s important to be intentional about everything that concerns your brand. Success is important but longevity and impact are equally as important.
What advice would you give to an upcoming entrepreneur locally and internationally?
Stay true to your craft and create from a very honest place. As much as we feel we can create desirable products, which will have commercial value, this process alone can not create loyalty between a brand and its consumers. As much as people will be interested in your product, it’s your brand’s story and relationship with them that will keep consumers coming back. Take some time to look within to carve an aesthetic that will be special to your brand and through that, your longevity in the industry will be guaranteed.