Running a business is a full-time job with lots of details that some creative-minded people would rather not pay attention to.
Most designers would prefer to pay attention to their passion for creativity, expressing amazing designs into wears and leave the business details for someone else, because experience has shown that a significant percentage of fashion businesses fail, not because of lack of talent, but due to the lack of business processes.
Then comes 360 Creative Innovations hub
For the last four years, 360 creative innovation hub has been in the business of handling business processes for individuals and small businesses in the fashion industry, while they focus on their craft.
Speaking during Nairametrics Business Half Hour, the Founder and Chief Executive of the 360 creative innovation hub, Blessing Ebere Achu, explained that entrepreneurs in the fashion industry had been bugged by teething issues which its business came to address.
After spending about a decade in IT and technical sales, Achu decided to leverage technology to help Africa’s creative sector transcend the local shores. She was inspired to do this after seeing a massive hub in Europe that provided all the business support and partnerships needed in a specific industry.
- “I came to Nigeria and saw that there was nothing like that even though we were doing fashion in our different ways but no central point. Most of the fashion entrepreneurs were continually bugged down with having to pay so much attention to the business. Creating the hub was just about bringing all the business support partners needed for a specific industry; in this case – fashion, and putting them in one place so that the person can easily access it.”
Taking off the start up cost
Start-up cost for fashion entrepreneurs can be sometimes heavy, particularly when they are trying to start from scratch. There are several machines to be purchased, along with monthly and daily operational costs like utilities and rents. All of these amounts to a high startup capital needed, but 360 creative innovations hub is taking all these out for fashion entrepreneurs.
With a little subscription fee of N2,500 daily, designers can come in and access all the machines and support they need to move their designs from paper to cloth. The daily subscription option also spares them the several responsibilities of owning a physical business outfit and its attendant costs, allowing them to focus on just designing and creating.
There are expert consultants in support areas like photography experts, who show the designers how to get the best snapshots for promoting their business; marketing experts who handle the marketing aspect; and brand experts, who teach these individuals and businesses how to create and promote their brand image and story through digital marketing.
By attempting to take off the burden of a high start-up cost for the designers, the business itself had need of a high capital to purchase all of the needed equipment. But with no access to loans, Achu had to bootstrap the business for the first couple of years. Funding came in the third year of operation when some equity investors pumped in a large chunk of money to help the business expand.
Early trust challenges
At the outset, 360 Creative Innovations hub could not break in with the local fashion designers for several reasons.
First was the issue of trust. She said,
- “A lot of them were concerned that in such a hub, their designs would be copied by other designers and some others did not just trust what we represented. Because of this, we could not start with any Nigerian fashion designer but we signed up some designers who had trained outside the country and they became the early adopters. They had seen how the fashion industry worked and understood early that it was more about how you express your designs, and your brand story.”
The same idea can come to everyone. What makes the difference is how you execute it and tell your brand story. How are you making people feel about your brand? What do you do differently in your production process, and how do you communicate it to your customers?
Pushing through the pandemic
After almost four years of business, the COVID-19 pandemic came and like other businesses, 360 Creative Innovations hub had to look for a way to keep afloat.
- “One of the things we did was to go into facemasks business to keep the tailors busy and help them make some cash inflow. We also started exploring partnerships for growth, and it paid off eventually. We did a lot of trainings, webinars and we got an opportunity to partner with a Paris fashion guru and a marketing guru, to come train some fashion designers here in 2021.”
By the end of the lockdown, the business had expanded its network across international frontiers and was ready to take local unbeknownst brands across the borders.
Achu has a vision of exporting 50 Nigerian brands to the rest of the world by 2025. She said,
- “I want to see ‘Made in Africa’ selling globally in big stores in Paris, United Kingdom and the USA, and I will start by taking 10 Nigerian brands to Frankfurt in 2021.”