‘Our schools hardly produce people willing to grow a brand vision’

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Obiamaka Oragwu is the CEO of Wardrobe Merchant, a resale and Declutter Company that helps individuals and fashion store owners to make money by reselling what is in their wardrobe or store. In an interview with BusinessDay’s Bunmi Bailey, she discusses how she was able to navigated some of her challenges into opportunities

What was the Inspiration behind Wardrobe Merchant?

I am a fashionista, I love looking good. I express myself with clothes, putting pieces together to create unique styles is my favourite thing to do. Over the years, I realized I had more clothes than I had needed for, so I decided to open an Instagram account where I uploaded them and voila, they sold. I did the same for my husband, and then moved to friends. And with time, through referrals, we have grown exponentially.

How long has the business been in existence and how can you evaluate your business growth so far?

Wardrobe Merchant has been in existence for four years and two months. So far, business has been good and I am very grateful for growth. The Wardrobe Merchant started in my room with just me, my phone and a bag of clothes. It then became boxes of clothes till I moved to a one bedroom apartment for storage of clients’ items then a 3bedroom. Currently we are occupying a 5bedroom duplex, mostly storage of what people have given us to sell.

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In what ways has the COVID19 affected the fashion Industry?

The pandemic has affected the fashion industry in several ways that declined the demand for fast fashion as our health was of utmost importance. No one would risk attending a function for fear of getting infected therefore, the drive to be fashionable was on the low, there were barely any movements, companies restructuring, virtual working and so on.

As a result of all these factors, we at wardrobe merchants streamlined our focus to selling what was needed as most people were home. We sold lounge wear, fashionable comfortable clothes and then work Dresses in preparation for work resumption. These categories helped us thrive.

Wardrobe Merchant was a grant winner for the Tony Elumelu foundation; can you tell us how you achieved this?

I can say this was achieved by the fact that I understand my business. I am fully involved in the running of my company, I know my target audience, I keep accurate records monthly, and I have a realistic business plan. I also have a concise projection with a sales forecast that keeps me focused. All these gave me the drive to be very involved in the 12weeks programme. A clear case of preparation met opportunity.

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Who are your target markets and how many clients do you currently serve? Can you please mention some?

For customers my target audience are millennial women aged 22 to 43yrs that earn from N50, 000- N250, 000 monthly. Women that want to look good daily, but paying the regular boutique price is a nightmare for their pockets. We then boost their self-confidence for less than half the price.

For sellers, my target audience are fashion online/store owners that sell fast fashion clothing but need to keep up with trends. They over stock inventory which they need to declutter for new ones. Rather than keep doing clearance on them, they give it to us so our audience can purchase them. I have over 5,000 customers and most of the popular fashion stores you know resell with us on a monthly basis.

What kind of services do you offer that differentiates you from your competitors in the market?

Wardrobe Merchant has a trusted reputation for offering high quality products at well bargained prices and in several varieties. We source from high street fashion brands globally. Our online presence is constantly increasing with consistent individual and wholesale purchases. Supply isn’t limited as we have a huge database of happy sellers.

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What are the challenges and opportunities you have experienced since you commenced operations in Nigeria?

The challenges of running a business in Nigeria springs forth as you go but particularly, I have had challenges with staffing. Our schools hardly produce candidates who are willing to work and grow a brand despite the vision. Another is Power; we rely so much on power to keep our items in their best quality condition.

How well have you navigated some of these challenges and turned them into opportunities?

My solution strategy has been in getting a bigger pool of recruitment agencies to give me wider choices of candidates. And with power, I have inputted it in our charges which are upfront with the seller.

When you commenced operations, there were certain objectives you set out to achieve. Looking back today, would you say you have met them?

My operational objective/goals for Wardrobe Merchant has been on the rise, ideas and innovations are endless and we continue in our best light. However, I will say I have good brand collaborations and partnerships with fashion companies associated with my brand. I am gradually becoming a household name despite the organic growth. And with the much knowledge gathered, I am already paying it forward via mentoring.

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