Tinu Smith is the owner of Datina Designs. She runs a fashion design business as well as a fashion design school. Datina designs has a ready to wear clothing line and a showroom where people can walk in to get their wears in different sizes.
We would be having a chat with the Atinuke Smith on how she was able to keep up with business in Ibadan for about 22 years.
Being in Ibadan for Twenty-Two years is a very long time. What are the things you noticed about Businesses in Ibadan.
Starting out was very tough. Ibadan was not like this when we started. Everything was slow, we don’t have access to business and malls as we have around now. We have small places to train and small shops to sell. We started small and slow.
Most of us that wants to make it shuffle between Lagos and Ibadan to keep up, not to isolate ourselves with what’s happening in Nigeria. You know Lagos is the centre for excellence and business. So if you really wanna do good you have to go to Lagos. We did that for about 10-15 years. But right now everything is vibrant, clean and different. And business is slow, I can tell you that.
Comparing 22 years to now, everything has changed. Things are faster. There are lots of potential in Ibadan now.
How did you get passion for fashion designing?
My mum was a stylist. She did her first degree in Fashion Designing at Paris Academy. While growing up, I wanted to do journalism. I finished from Ilorin and I was posted to Ibadan. I met a fashion designer in Ibadan, which was where I started to pay attention to sewing. Whenever I finish from my PPA, I go to her place. That was how my vision changed, and now have serious passion for fashion designing. And I made up my mind I was not going to do any white collar job, that I want to start my own business. That was how the journey started.
You talked about your training school, can you tell us how and when that started?
Can you believe that it was immediately when I started my business? I started with only one machine. A lady came in to say she wants to train, so I agreed. A friend came to me that she has one machine, and you know every home in Nigeria has a machine (smiles). and she decided to offer me hers.
Before a month runs out, another lady joined for training. You know right now, fashion designing is well structured there are various aspects unlike then when we just train anyhow.
As time goes on, lots of people began to come in for training and the place was small. So we had to leave that place for a bigger one. And that was when we separated the training place from production.
Have you been involved in entrepreneurial training?
I have always have passion for entrepreneurship. I am graduate of Lagos Business School, studied Entrepreneurship course.The entrepreneurial spirit is what Nigeria needs, so we should start producing and not to be consumer only. And I know that if we continue like that, we will stand side by side with China. They are not consumers only but producers too. They push out things, even if they are not good, so far they are China made, people will buy it. So we need to get that stage where we are productive and have enough that we export.
What do you think is missing in Ibadan business, considering your 22 years in Ibadan as business woman?
We need networking. Nobody is an island of knowledge, when we come together, we will be able to rub minds and explore businesses in Ibadan together.People in different fields cannot work in isolation, they have to come together.
In Lagos, they do a lot of connections, they learn from each other, rub minds together. They think of how to expand their businesses together unlike Ibadan.
If we can come together as well in Ibadan, we will see growth in our business, that is where are power is, coming together, synergizing and collaborating together.
I am working on where people who have started ahead can mentor young people in Fashion designing. When I started 22 years, it was not easy. More than half of it, I was living in circuit, because I don’t know really know much about the business side of fashion, I just jumped into it. But now, I have gone for training, my mind is open and I understand much more. I know how to handle my books, my HR and how to structure my business. But all these young people don’t know about that, they just jump into fashion designing once they are done with training. The mistakes we made, they shouldn’t go through it. We should be able to mentor them.
Mentoring, networking, and synergizing are very important. Once we can do that, then we will see the new Ibadan. And I am waiting for that new Ibadan, because I know it is coming (laughs).
Do you have any word for entrepreneurs in Ibadan?
As an entrepreneur be true to yourself, you can’t be like every other person. Everyone is unique. Go for mentoring, some people have been where you are before, they could advise you on which route to take that would be okay for you. So mentors help for upcoming entrepreneurs. Then I will also say that originality is also important. Try to be original, dig into yourself and find yourself.
In whatever you do, be true to yourself and be original. And then also try to add to yourself by reading books, exposures, training, seminars and the likes, just try to keep yourself eventful.