After one week as a law matriculant at the Ahmadu Bello University, she packed her bags and never returned.
No, she does not have a degree in the proper sense of the word, but she has undertaken courses on Business Management, Customer Service and Branding at the Lagos Business School. She also believes that learning is a necessary life-long exercise…one ceases to learn at her own peril.
On #EntrepreneurTuesday, we learn pertinent lessons from Adenike Ogunlesi the founder of Ruff ‘n’ Tumble, a premier children’s clothing store in Nigeria.
Despite her inability to focus on any particular course of study as a younger woman, Adenike Ogunlesi was already being schooled in the trade that would surpass even her wildest dreams at the time.
The daughter of a fashion designer, Adenike learnt the nitty-gritty of sewing, dress making, textiles and design as an informal and then a formal apprentice with her mother.
Years later, as a mother with three tots of her own, those skills would come in handy and become the bedrock of her blossoming empire.
Ruff ‘n’ Tumble is essentially the story of a mother’s quest to find affordable and comfortable clothing for her children within Nigeria, particularly pyjamas. When her quest proved abortive, she decided to make some herself. Afterwards, a relation requested that she make several pairs for her own children, and it finally dawned on Adenike that this was a service she could provide for other parents in need.
Her first port of call with a boot full of pyjamas was the other parents at the school her children attended. Some made purchases, others turned up their noses at her…buy clothes for their children from the boot of a car? But why?
Too late, her blood was already churning with renewed passion. More pyjamas were made, and Adenike learnt the rudimentary steps in marketing as she went from high-end shop to low-end shop, persuading the shop owners to stock her wares. Most refused. Perhaps if they had consented, that’s all it would have been. A pyjama brand stocked in a few shops, earning a nice profit for their maker. The end. But they refused.
And she finally understood what she had to do.
It started with a shop at the back-end of Mende, Lagos State. but in one day, they made more sales than the high-end shops made in one month. And so it began.
In addition, she literally toured exhibitions and bazaars, children, nannies and food boxes in tow, showing of her creations to as many as would see them.
How was the iconic name Ruff ‘n’ Tumble birthed? No, no team of brand experts generated the name. It was simply two women, having a conversation outside the kitchen door, one afternoon with little children running around the premises. Mrs. Gbemi Sasore and Adenike brainstormed on an idea for the kind of clothes she was making -fun, durable clothes that children could take a tumble in, because they usually played rough- and there it was.
The proudly Nigerian brand operates a ware house, factory, distribution in Nigeria and is now a formidable employer of labour with branches in Lagos, Ibadan, Kano, Port Harcourt. The Company has about 15 branch locations across the country. Ruff ‘n’ Tumble also owns the brands “Trendsetters” and “NaijaBoysz,” a clothing range for young boys aged 8–16.
Eighteen plus years later, what are some of the things that have kept Ruff ‘n’ Tumble going strong?
According to the Boss lady, some of them are teamwork, quality, discipline and the right mindset.
She also advises aspiring entrepreneurs to be focused and clear about what they want to do, and if they do set out to do something, complete it. “It is also important that you develop yourself, to know your strengths and weaknesses.”
“My success has been sheer hard work. Sometimes you laugh, sometimes you cry. And, the prize at the end of it is quite fulfilling. It has been a long journey, getting here has been challenging; it has been full of challenges as well as triumphs. That is why we have something to celebrate.” [LionessesofAfrica]
Amongst the myriad lessons from Adenike, three that stand out are: A. It is never too late. So you didn’t get started when everyone else did. Who cares? You are the only one running your race, so there’s no stopwatch for you. B. Learn. Everything you can, in every place you can. C. Dream BIG. Remember, there is no stopwatch. Dream big, think global.