• Tuesday, June 25, 2024
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BusinessDay

How did she do it?

How did she do it?

Is it really possible to monetize an interest you are genuinely passionate about, and transform it into a thriving, successful business? For Zainab Oduniyi, Founder and Creative Director, Tosho Woods Bridal, the answer is a resounding YES, however, not without serious obstacles especially given the economic climate and infrastructural issues that plague the entrepreneurial space in Nigeria.

With Zainab’s over 15 years of extensive experience in the fashion industry and corporate Nigeria, it is easy to see why Tosho Woods Bridal has fast become one of the country’s most sought after fashion brands in the bridal industry, with an eclectic clientele that spans three continents worldwide.

Her work has received accolades both internationally and locally, with media features on top platforms like BuzzFeed, Perfete, BellaNaija Weddings, and more. With the month of women upon us, Zainab shares with Latasha Ngwube some of the not-so-glamorous factors that have brought her and the brand Tosho Woods Bridal to where it is today.

When did Tosho Woods start and what made you believe you could excel at fashion designing?
Tosho Woods started on 9th Feb, 2006 with a fashion show of 6 beaded Ankara skirts worn by my friends and I on her birthday. It was a successful day that created a line of orders for those skirts worn that day.

How did you balance marriage, motherhood and this new career path? What were some of the challenges you encountered?
Marriage and motherhood formed an important aspect of my career path and decision making to build my business model, services rendered and even operating hours . With great consideration for my roles in this regards, I was able to define myself as a Bespoke designer who could operate within flexible hours.

Tell us about some of the early wins that encouraged you to stay on the path and not give up?
A noteworthy win for me was the cover of Genevieve magazine’s 2017 December Bridal Edition. We designed a bridal dress for Tolu ‘Toolzo’ Demuren nee Oniru. It was a clean, silhouette enhancing design that challenged my skills as the Pattern maker/Designer. I truly felt honoured to have a dress that I designed make that cover. Another noteworthy moment was in 2019 when the Buzz Feed listed my dress as one of the 20 most unique wedding dresses that year. “Floating Pearls” encouraged me to stay authentic to my design convictions.

Read also: Geetha Tharmaratnam, CEO, Founding partner at Aequalitas Capital Partners

As a Nigerian woman, not enough light is shone on the mental health struggles of women (single & married) in business. Do you have a story to share?
Mental Health is the core centre of strength to exist, thrive and grow. As women, we are often assumed to be emotionally driven and because of that we are treated as such. Inevitably, due to the inaccurate assumptions, we end up having a higher stake in maintaining a stable emotional balance. I was personally dead to any chance of an exponential growth as I struggled to cope with my mental health balance. I was dealing with psychosomatic illness that affected my ability to reach my potential. It often felt like a state of immense physical pain and a lack of vision and focus. After a series of therapy and healing programs, I started to see a new invigorated person emerge, only magnetizing positively and operating on a crystal clear vision.

You endured some heavy setbacks that would have crushed most, causing them to throw in the towel. Fire, looting and loss to mention a few…What’s your comeback narrative?
This Question!!!
My store was among the many that were vandalized and looted during the #EndSars protests. The morning after the looting, my whole body was numb and I heard a tune in my head that was familiar, so I googled it and landed on a song whose lyrics were “I will rise up and I will do it a thousand times again“.

Bear in mind, I had only just barely recovered from the displacement of my old store on Akerele street, Surulere, where the mall got burnt and in the evacuation process we lost a whole lot and had to start all over again. I had staked all that I owned in rebuilding from the fire, and so this vandalism/looting was a familiar place. I was also in the middle of an emotionally wrecking divorce from my then husband after a 4- year separation and neck deep in the custody negotiations of my daughters at the time. When children are involved, a fraction of your sanity is up in the air from time to time. To say I had a lot was on my plate at the time was putting it mildly.

It was now clear what I had to do. My universe was asking for a realignment of my vision. I put my pen to paper and sought professional help because there was no way I could build back a business of over a decade by myself.

I am blessed with an amazingly supportive immediate family, friends and clients that are my rock at all times, they stood by me in the most astounding fashion. Then, I went after an amazing set of Business Coaches, Mentors, Therapists (to heal from the many loss-related traumas I had faced over time). I joined a book review club, and I attended Business Growth workshops and Mindset Shifting courses.

I spent the last two years pouring into myself in every possible way and immediately executing the mindset shift required for me to heal, stabilize and grow and birth. I began to truly believe in my own magic.

I took this forward by creating concepts that will magnify my thoughts which have now evolved into the world of the unconventional. As I personally embraced my own individualism, I learnt to respect my brides with theirs as well and no longer desired to put everyone in similar context. I set out to celebrate the many categories of brides that identified in a strategy session with Lets Dress you Up Company. This is how the “Believe in your Own Magic” series emerged.
It has now metamorphosed into a quarterly series of unique bridal concepts which will be executed with the best in the creative industry.

What’s on the cards for Zainab and Tosho Woods in 2022 and beyond?
Apart from ensuring we do not drop the ball with our quarterly, highly inspiring “Believe in your own magic” creative project, for me Zainab, I have a vision to challenge myself to use fashion as a tool to push visibility and growth by creating ‘Concept driven’ fashions that are industry specific and also industry illuminating.

With March being the month of women, if you could say something now, to your 21 year old self, what would it be?

Always stay authentic to your own true self and align only with the ones that believe in what your authentic self is. Also, never ever dumb yourself down for acceptance, other people’s approval of you is truly not worth the chase.