Meet Bolatito, the banker turned fashion designer

Wearing beautiful clothes can improve one’s self-esteem and give that feeling of self-confidence through comfort and elegance, and in Nigeria, Bashiru Bolatito Arinola, founder of StyledByTito, is helping customers to do just that.

Bolatito, who quitted her banking job to pursue her passion for fashion in 2016, was inspired to establish StyledByTito owing to the disappointment and constant frustration experienced by individuals and businesses when patronizing designers in the country.

“I always witnessed my mum and tailors quarrel, from ill-fitted dresses to failing to meet delivery timelines. She always backdates her event when sharing it with tailors to avoid disappointment,” she recalls.

She was also inspired to change people’s perceptions of the profession by building a trustworthy and successful brand.

“As a child, while growing up, I discovered that, when you say you’re a tailor in Nigeria, the first thing that comes to people’s head is disappointment and anyhow-ness,” she says.

“I witnessed this and nursed an emotion with a desire to change that by building a trustworthy fashion design brand,” she notes.

Bolatito, fondly called Tito, says her initial start-up capital was from her savings. “Before resigning from my job as a banker, I had been improving on my skills and thereafter, working on my dream and this period allowed me to save some money,” she says

“The savings upon my resignation in December 2016 was used as part of what will be regarded as my startup capital to commence business operations in 2017,” she explains. The business sources its raw materials locally across the country.

“Our fabrics are sourced from sellers in the local markets, so we help them stay in business and contribute to the economic growth.”

Read also: ImpactHER, AU/CIEFFA train African women, girls on entrepreneurship, digital skills

“Because we work with a variety of clients with exquisite taste, we source raw materials across the country, from the South East to the deepest parts of the South West as well as the North Central.”

Since starting the business in 2017, StyledByTito has grown steadily and consistently. “The growth has been massive, from sewing with a single machine to owning a production store and fashion academy at the heart of Lagos,” she says.

“Our customer base has also grown over the years too, with clients locally and internationally,” she adds.

According to her, prompt delivery, paying attention to the tiniest details, and non-compromising standards have helped the business scale and distinguished it in the country’s fashion industry.

On how the business is surviving the country’s fresh cost of doing business crisis, she says her business has provided temporary accommodation for employees living far away to reduce their living costs and the stress of getting cash amid scarcity.

Bolatito states that the business plans to expand its operations to other countries and scale its production capacity to involve end-to-end production in the short run.

While in the long run, the business plans to build a global standard fashion academy. “In the long term, we want to build an internationally accredited fashion academy having trained over 10,000 new designers in 10 years.”

Speaking on some of the challenges the business experienced, she says getting the right employee was a major hurdle for her business.

She adds that the huge infrastructural gaps also impact her business negatively.

To overcome these challenges she resulted in training employees herself instead of hiring a skilled professional.

There are one thousand and one job seekers in Lagos but the quality workers you desire are rare. “I stopped looking for quality employees. I created them, most of the people working with me right now graduated from my fashion academy,” she states.

“The top students get internship opportunities after graduation and are offered permanent roles after their internship and work became easier ever since I adopted this capacity development approach,” she explains.

In evaluating the country’s fashion industry, she notes that despite the fashion industry being highly saturated opportunities still abound.

According to her, there are still limited options for plus-size individuals and creative designers can tap into the market. “There are so many opportunities that budding designers can take the opportunity of the plus-sized market.”

On her advice to other entrepreneurs, she says “Be consistent! Be loud and unapologetic about your business. Tell everyone who cares to listen about what you do.”

“You’re your biggest cheerleader!! Also, don’t stop improving yourself. Be ready for the breakthrough you’re praying for,” she advises.