Isa Toriola is a young fresh civil engineering graduate who doubles as a brilliant Tailor. He has clients home and abroad and his fashion outfit specialises in sewing suits and blazers. One of the best medium through which he gets clients is Facebook and his blog.
I interviewed Isa Toriola , founder of Grandeur Tailors to find out more about his startup.This interview is the first in the series of shun9to5.com Startup Interviews. Big thank you to Isa Toriola.
Why did you decide to join the entrepreneurship train?
Well, I didn’t deliberately join the entrepreneurship train, I found myself in it and developed passion and love for it.
What made you choose this type of business?
Like I said, I didn’t choose the business, I found myself in it because I was born into tailoring business. My father is a professional tailor, so I’ve been learning from him since childhood. However, I started learning it formally as an apprentice in 2002, rather than as a child who merely goes to his father’s shop.
How profitable is your business?
Tailoring is a very profitable business if done properly. You just need to set your values and state your worth, and that depends on how well you know it and also how well you can satisfy your clients. There are several people ready to spend high on clothes once they see what they like.
What is unique about Grandeur Tailors?
Very few Nigerian tailors sew English wears, so Grandeur Tailors focuses on corporate men’s wear especially suits and gets it delivered to the client’s destination anywhere in Nigeria, in partnership with a courier service. Several persons call us suit perfectionists due to the neatness of our work and the highly precise fitness of our suits on clients.
How has the recent economic issues affected your business?
The present situation makes people to go for cheap alternatives. Now they go for the cheap low quality Chinese suits which can’t stand the test of time. At the moment, we can’t bring down our prices because the materials used in sewing are now almost twice their former amount. The only alternative for prices to come down is if we infringe on quality which will never happen from Grandeur Tailors.
Kindly tell us about your educational background
I attended divine International nursery and primary school and I had my secondary education at Ilugun High School, both in Abeokuta. After then, I proceeded to study Civil Engineering at Federal Polytechnic Ilaro where I obtained a Nation Diploma with a distinction grade. My B.Eng in Civil engineering was obtained at the Federal University of Agriculture Abeokuta.
How has it been leaving your academic qualifications for fashion design?
It’s been criticism from some and encouragement from others. Even my father who trained me, wanted me to practice the course (Civil engineering) I studied in the university. I believe the love one has for a vocation/profession is enough as motivation regardless of what other people might say. Moreover, tailoring is paying well too. I have never for once regretted opting for tailoring.
What aspect of your business is the most difficult?
The only challenge I think I’m having presently is getting the measurements of people at far distances. Though, some logistics are now being put in place to cater for that. Delivering to any distance in Nigeria is not a problem as we’ve partnered with a renowned courier service provider in Nigeria.
What are your responsibilities as the business owner?
The business is still at its infant stage, so I can still participate in every aspect of the business. I can’t handle everything, but I make sure I get involved in every aspect. When the business grows bigger, territorial boundaries might come up as to what I can look into. But an ideal entrepreneur shouldn’t be oblivious of anything going on in his business.
What are things that you think might make your company better prepared to grab market share versus your Competitors?
We definitely know our rivals and competitors, but what is giving us a little edge is that our suit quality cannot be gotten at the same price of ours elsewhere. We make high quality suit at the cheapest feasible price. This is just the edge I think we have for now, because it will be an exaggeration for me to say my company’s suit quality cannot be gotten elsewhere, but you can’t get it at our price.
How do you advertise your product/service?
Presently, I only advertise online through social media and it’s been working fine so far.
If you have the opportunity of working in any organization in Nigeria, where would you have wanted to work?
It’s not and will not be part of my dream to work with any company. Every opportunity to enlarge Grandeur Tailors is my concern.
What is the most difficult/challenging thing about running your own business?
The only challenge I have in owning a business is a general one which is the constant thinking of a way to make a difference. More so, when you own a business you should be willing to commit to the hours, discipline, continuous learning and the frustrations of owning your own business.
Do you have international clients?
Yes, I have only one international client- a Nigerian that resides in US. I love the fact that he knows about taking measurements, so measuring is not a problem. And I get orders back there through his relative that travels from Nigeria to USA often.
Other than deciding to work for yourself, what was the single most important decision you made that contributed to your success?
The decision to have a first degree.
How did you get your first client?
I can’t remember who my first client was, because I’ve been working for people since apprenticeship days. My father doesn’t stop his apprentices from doing their own work.
Do you still have some of your first customers? Why or how did you make sure they didn’t leave till now? If you were unable to keep them, can you discuss what you should have done to make sure they stuck around?
Some clients would stay and some would go. But most of those that left me often come back especially when they have technical styles to sew, or after they’ve tried several tailors and compared the differences between our works, then they get convinced that Grandeur is the best option. Clients find it hard to leave Grandeur Tailors because the best quality at the cheapest feasible price is gotten from us.
Where do you want Grandeur Tailors to be in the next five years?
I want Grandeur Tailors to be on every lip in Nigeria, talked about among friends. When there is a ranking of the most reliable tailors that offer the best quality, Grandeur should be the first on the list in Nigeria.
If you had one piece of advice to someone just starting out, what would it be?
Be consistent and never get carried away. So simple.
He blogs at www.grandeurtailors.com.