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Today our guest on Star of the week is fondly called I.T. He is the CEO of I-Touche Collectibles.
Oya grab some popcorn and siddon make we enjoy this interview. I learnt so much from this inspiring man.
Who is I.T?
I.T is Itunnuoluwa Olowolaju, I am the second born and first son of five children. I have a Bachelors’ degree in Fine Art from the Obafemi Awolowo University, Ile Ife. I am the CEO of I-Touche Collectibles, a line of African oriented clothings.
How did you birth the idea of your business?
From childhood I have liked fashion, I love to create and worked around aesthetics. My father wanted me to be an architect before his demise because I was always sketching and drawing design on every book I saw around me. Life after his demise was very challenging, but here am I still standing. My passion was for Arts not fashion. I was so crazy about arts, I wanted to be a sculptor, but I had pneumonia so I could not pursuit sculpting. But I didn’t give up on Arts, I keep exploring other aspects then I discovered I had this love for motifs and the love for motifs attracted me to ceramics. I wanted to start making pots, ceramic wears and all until later I discovered I could make them on fabrics and that was how I started. I started around 2007. My first job was two pieces of fabrics for one of my Diploma lecturers, Mr Oludiran who encouraged me to exploit the African owned fabrics. Then gradually, from two pieces of fabrics, to eight then later to about 200 fabrics for a hostel back in school, the rest is history. This is about my tenth year in the business.
Define your brand?
I-Touche is a line of African Fabrics. Our uniqueness is in that we authenticate the originality of the African people. One of our visions is to exploit every African Fabric we can lay our hands upon especially because Africa is so rich in culture and tradition.
Do you sew the clothes yourself or you have tailors?
(Chuckles) Do I even know how to sew? No I don’t. I am an employer of labour. I employ people to do the sewing. So many times, I have had people encourage me to learn how to sew but really I don’t think that’s necessary. You see this is a dream. When you are dream driven, it’s different. No one pushed me to start fashion I knew my ways around it. If any of my staff refuses to come to work, it’s all fine and good. I can’t be threatened. I know my way around things. I am not defined by nature, I am defined by God.
So you have being in business for about 10 years, describe the journey?
It’s being very stressful and challenging. It’s a known fact that business can be frustrating. But when it comes to dreams, as longs as it burns, it helps you go a long way. The challenges in respective, there have been some very good days and moments too.
How you benefitted from any Government funding?
Not yet. I applied for a few though. But I am involved with a thrift contribution society and that has helped me a lot.
A number of startups complain about funding, so what you funding history and have you been able to access any loans?
I had extreme funding issues. There was a time I needed ten thousand naira, yet it just didn’t come. You see when it comes to dreams, just keep fighting for it. You are your greatest enemy, you are supposed to fight yourself, fight your battle, create something out of yourself. Until someone discovers you before you can stop having challenges with funding. It takes somebody who buys into your dreams. So when it comes to funding or dreamers like us, you have to rely on God. I remember a time I had a funding of about 1 million naira, in just a few days, I had used it all up in acquiring about 5 work equipments. Funding is the pipeline for any successful business, and there is always a constant need for funds in business.
3 major lessons that business had taught you?
- It has taught me to be strong. Never to give up on myself.
- It has taught me to be persistent.
- It has taught me hard work.
I will equally add that it has taught me influence. Its humbling to see the influence a piece of arts can have to someone else. I have a number of distributors say about 30 all over Nigeria. Art puts food on the table and even some have left their paid employment just to work with the I-touche Brand. That’s some influence.
You earlier mentioned the important of having a dream, so besides having a dream, what else is your driving force?
Hummmm.. You see I have a FEAR. My greatest fear is poverty. I don’t fear poverty because I want to be rich. No, it is for my generations to come. I do want to die and leave my family broke. I don’t want to die and leave my children shattered. So that drives me.
You are in the fashion industry, have you ever been afraid of competition?
No, I have never been afraid of my competition. Every time I see myself as David before Goliath. So every time I stand before my giant, I bring my giant to my level. So once my giant is at my level, all I have to do is to create a weapon that will suit the occasion. In all I just have to press a bit further to make my fears run.
How influential has social media been in promoting your brand?
Social media has extremely helped in promoting my brand. Although there was a time, I wasn’t active on social media, but once I realized the power of numbers, I just knew I could reach a lot of people thru social media with just one post and that was it for me.
How do you stay up to date in your field?
Creativity- I keep discovering new things, I keep drawing. I keep innovating. I keep exploring.
How do you stay inspired?
God! Basically, my life is hid in God, so he inspires me right from inception of my business. Like my business name, the touch of God is I-Touch. I got the ‘I’ from “I am”.
How do you manage your employees?
In every business, you need wisdom. And being a CEO is also about leadership. It’s sometimes hard, but I try my best to create a conducive work environment for them.
Those you look up to in the industry?
I have a few celebrities I look up especially for their aura of handwork especially Yomi Casual and Sexy Steel.
Have you had to deal with a terrible customer?
Yes, I worked with students in a particular tertiary institution and they refused to pay my balance. The balance was a huge sum of money. Sadly the students in question were cultist. So you can just imagine? But now, am more tactical.
Advice to Startup?
Be persistent. Don’t watch racers, Don’t be intimated. Great companies started little. Walk with God. Be Persistent.
I bet you enjoyed and learnt from this interview as much as I did. A big thank you to “Gbogbo I.T” like I call him for granting this interview. Keep shining your light and permitting others to do the same. Thank you. Long Live the I-Touche brand.
Enjoy the pictures below….. You can reach I-Touche on Instagram at @