Welcome to Saturday Business/Freelancer Chat with Lucky Akinola from O’tega. Lucky heard about this interview series through a LinkedIn group we’re both in – as I’ve said before, these groups are a great way to meet people in similar situations or from similar backgrounds to us, and learn from each other.
Up until now, all of our entrepreneurs have been home-grown, but Lucky has had the strength and persistence to set up her own business after emigrating to the UK in 2006, starting all over again after running a successful business in a similar area in Nigeria. When we start a business and throw equipment at it, it’s worth thinking about what it would be like to start off with just a second-hand sewing machine – but then the challenges are oh-so-familiar – learning to trust your gut instinct, setting up proper terms and conditions, learning and growing as you go along … which just goes to show that all us small business owners have more in common than we have differences!
So let’s meet Lucky and find out how O’tega is doing!
What’s your business called? When did you set it up?
The name of my business is O’tega, which is a short form of my first daughter’s name. I started in June 2007 offering a range of general sewing services, including designing and making new outfits to clients’ specifications.
What made you decide to set up your own business?
We migrated here from Nigeria in 2006 and my youngest was 4 months old. Childcare was an issue if I had to look for work, so my husband and I decided I work from home while he worked full-time.
What made you decide to go into this particular business area?
Running a sewing outfit in the UK is a long-term dream fulfilled, and as a hobby I enjoy very much, it was the most ready idea I could develop without the usual challenges new business set-ups present – the biggest of which is start-up capital.
Had you run your own business before?
Yes, I have. In Nigeria, O’tega was well established, specializing more in wedding gowns, bridesmaids’ outfits and accessories.
How did you do it? Did you launch full-time, start off with a part-time or full-time job to keep you going ?
It’s been full-time right from the beginning. I bought my first machine for £8 through a local paper advert and started sewing. I had to start sewing for customers at very ridiculously low prices just to show what I could do, build relationships and get referrals.
What do you wish someone had told you before you started?
That the customer was not always right! Well, partly due to my fault since I did not have documented ‘Terms and Conditions’ when I started. I had some challenges with customers owing money or not collecting their outfits at agreed times.
What would you go back and tell your newly entrepreneurial self?
Believe in yourself and your abilities. Be creative in getting people to know where to find you. And, always ask for referrals.
What do you wish you’d done differently?
The ability to have said ‘NO’ and be firm about it and to have used my ‘head’ not my ‘heart’ in dealing with customers. I would not have taken on some jobs, especially those from people who are still owing.
What are you glad you did?
I’m glad I placed O’tega on Google Places for Business as it has increased my customer base from unexpected sources. Also distributing flyers within my community has been very effective.
What’s your top business tip?
Start right and improve yourself and your company in order to be among the top in your chosen field.
How has it gone since you started? Have you grown, diversified or stayed the same?
It’s been fantastic so far and I’m loving every bit of it. I’ve grown tremendously in perfecting my skills and being very good at what I do. In terms of expansion, I still choose to work from home as it allows me the flexibility to be very mobile and network for my other ventures without having to close shop or look for someone to fill in for me.
Where do you see yourself and your business in a year’s time?
I desire to have O’tega as a brand name in some retail outlets.
Thank you for your answers, Lucky – and I look forward to hearing about what you get up to in the next year. Northampton folk, look out for Lucky’s creations in a shop near you soon!
Lucky didn’t provide any further updates after this first interview. Her location on Google Maps has changed and I’ve updated it here. We wish Lucky well in her future endeavours.
If you’ve enjoyed this interview, please see more small business chat, the index to all the interviewees, and information on how you can have your business featured. If you’re considering setting up a new business or have recently done so, why not take a look at my new book, Going It Alone At 40: How I Survived my First Year of Full-Time Self-Employment.