By Ayo Alonge, [email protected]
Small businesses can achieve customer satisfaction and retention if certain fundamentals are taking into consideration. This is the exact opinion of Okoro Pele who is the Chief Executive of Neopele Concepts, a fashion startup fast expanding beyond the shores of Africa.
He bares his mind on his success story, value proposition and business prospects.
I grew up in a household of tailors. My mom and uncle were tailors. I knew how to thread a needle, iron shirts and patch clothes, at an early age. This was a routine for me and my siblings. So, it is safe to say nature gave me the skills I currently have in the fashion industry. However, life after youth service was tough. I wanted to find my feet quickly and settle, but the challenges in the country at the time posed a lot of hiccups. I applied to several vacancies and went for different interviews, but none was successful. I invested in shares and other type of high-risk investments and lost woefully. I also ventured into fishery and did not make a profit. It was a tough struggle; however, I was determined to keep pushing until I get it right. I did not want to go into tailoring because some of my siblings were already full-time fashion designers and tailors. I wanted to do something different, maybe practise what I studied or pursue other dreams. However, after long conversations with close friends and mentor, I decided to put my skills and talents to use.
In November 2010, the brand Neopele Concept was established. We started with one sewing machine, a billboard and one in house tailor. But today, Neopele Concept has over 50 full time employees, over 30 apprentices and 61 sewing machines. The brand is well recognised within and outside Nigeria. We have had the opportunity to showcase our designs at different fashion events within and outside the country.
For several years, the fashion industry has been under fire for the problems it creates. Workers are exploited, factories are falling apart, killing many people due to lack of regulation, over production to avoid empty inventories; a massive carbon footprint, water pollution and much more. The list goes on. There are many challenges in this line of business, but I will highlight few. Electricity — Our business thrives on power. Without electricity to sew, iron, weave, etc, our task is almost impossible to achieve. If our electricity is stable, all fashion entrepreneurs would be extremely delighted. The cost to operate a tailoring business in Nigeria is intense. It is unwise to rely solely on PHCN. If this area is addressed, our success story will be enormous. This is not a topic we like to discuss because we are not certain when hope would come to our nation.
I would say the way we cut and sew our suit. Suit making is the cash cow of our business. We are professionals at what we do. From the point of fabric selection, cutting out the fabric to fit the body size of the client and finally sewing it is a seamless process. It does not matter the size of the individual, our cut is tailored to fit your persona. It is second to none and can be easily recognised from a distance. Our choice of fabric is excellent. We shop quality fabrics locally and abroad. Our value proposition is customers first.
We are aiming to become a conglomerate and spread across Nigeria. The first phase of this project will start in 2022. We will begin with opening a shop centre in Lagos, where people can easily grab our ready to wear outfit or request personal fashionable items. We are confident that it is time to penetrate the Lagos market.
The ratings from our customers have kept us in business. It clearly demonstrates that we are doing things right. Hence, we are determined to keep pushing to satisfy all our customers. We are recognised across Africa and we are already on that trajectory and will continue to give it our best until it is fully achieved. Interestingly, it is safe to mention that there are plans to delve into the Lagos market. This is a huge project for us. However, we are confident that we will achieve our purpose of expanding our business beyond Delta State.
First, I would like to thank God Almighty for using me to help many people discover their talents and acquire skills that would help position them in life. In addition, our fashion house was recognised by the Delta State Government and was appointed to host a fully sponsored contract to train young people from Delta State the skills to becoming fashion entrepreneurs. This initiative gave us a better outlook and made us more recognised.
Our strategy is simple. Managing deadlines with our customers and appropriate pricing. These two are important to us in driving sales. We strongly believe that when a customer’s expectations are met in terms of swift delivery and moderate cost, they are a lot happier and would want to patronise you again. It worked and will always work. Our social media pages would convince a potential customer to patronise us. All our latest designs are posted there for everyone to see.
Building and maintaining strong client relationships are important for sustainable business growth. It is common for business owners to focus their resources on gaining new business. However, you don’t need to rely on gaining new clients to get new projects. Continuing to work with existing clients can keep your project pipeline full and lead to referrals and other clients. Once onboarded, it is easier for companies to re-engage the same independent talent. Building a strong relationship with your clients earns their trust and re-engaging you will save them time and money. Once a client knows that you are dependable and can successfully perform the tasks required for a project, they will be more likely to engage you on future projects. There are numerous ways to maintain a good relationship with a client. They include: developing appreciation, exceeding expectations, being open-minded, treating every client as an individual, understanding your client’s wants.