The second article in The Creators Article Series comes from Dimitri Boweya-Ngombo, Creative Director of Sans Façon, who shares his inspirational journey in becoming a fashion entrepreneur.
You start a fashion business with passion and diligence. Study. Create a sustainable business plan. Cross all your T’s and dot all your I’s, then register your business and open shop.
By all accounts, if you take these basic steps, voila, you’re in business. How long will it last? What will you do if you run out of resources? Will you quit or will you stay in this business? Chances are if you don’t know why you began, quitting will be a fair option. Why? Everyone needs a purposeful “why” in order to stay engaged. Without a big enough reason to continue, we’ve all been guilty of taking the easy option- quit and move on to the next idea.
Here’s my journey of starting a fashion business. At eight years old, I had a desire to begin a summer business. Instead of enjoying the time off and outings with family, I wanted to do business focused on selling candies. I was driven by a need to make my own money. My family wasn’t having money problems. Needless to say, to my parents this desire to start a business was met with a mix of curiosity and shock. But since I was adamant about my aspirations, my dad obliged and even invested in my venture.
After the Summer holidays, I looked at my income and with the thrill of now being a business owner I decided that I wanted to drop out of school at eight years old to focus on my growing business. I wanted to become a full-time businessman. I thought I was ready. This time though my dad maintained his parenting authority and said no reiterating that my business was now school.
My grandmother, who then became my unwitting inspiration, would from time to time ask me to help her with needles and thread when I would visit. I could still hear her say, “Son, I can’t see properly. Come help me pass this thread through the needle.” I really didn’t think too much of it then. Yet, three decades later this amazing beginning and preparation from a grandmother who believed in me continues to make so much sense.
Twenty-five years after my first Summer business and sewing experience, someone who saw me rock ascots once asked where I got it and where he could purchase one. I offered to get an ascot for him as a gift. I attempted to purchase the ascot but had a negative service experience. Sans Façon really started that day, at least in thought. Right then, I decided that I would like to start a business, to create a product – ascots – but also to provide a kingly level of service to my customers.
I started this fashion business then without knowing much about fashion but with a passion and a “why”. My desire to serve kings and queens was strong enough for me to maintain focus away from any shortcoming and always find creative ways to stay in business. For example, I had to learn how to sew when I had no sewing staff. When the photographers were too busy to aptly attend to our products, with determination, I studied and practiced photography with a DSLR. Even, when models were scarce, it made me discover myself. I became a model – a great mark of branding was forged out of consistent focus on staying the course.
I could have given up a long time ago. I could have decided that it was too hard and pack up. I could have become a negative statistic in this world of fashion business or become overwhelmed when no one seemed to be paying the kind of attention needed. Why did I stay in the business? And why did I stay committed to the process by even learning skills that I didn’t possess? Because of my desire to serve people. Because the vision of my grandmother who believed in me long before I even knew that I would one day start a fashion business.
Why is this so important? Because the “why” is more important than the “how”. If you really know why you do what you do, you will always find the how. I didn’t know how to sew, I learned because my passion was to serve people as queens and kings. The “why” was too big to ignore.
I don’t know your story, but I am sure it is powerful and unique. If you can name at least two sound reasons why you would like to start a fashion business, begin there. Then the “how” will flow with your diligence to study, plan, engage with the right people and resist the temptation to quit with a “why” that will keep you going.
Written by Dimitri Boweya-Ngombo – Creative Director, Sans Façon
Dimitri Boweya-Ngombo is the founder and creative director of Sans Façon since 2006. Now in its tenth year of business, the label has managed to position itself as the purveyor of unique fashion accessories. Clients praise his company for its sense of innovation and unique style. Dimitri is also a public speaker who advises businesses, organizations and individuals on the foundation of responsibility and how this determines the types of footprints we will leave on the pages of History. Dimitri is married to author Andrea Boweya. The couple have two daughters, Maya and Letititia. The family lives in Toronto.
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