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Growing a business and achieving fitness share similar principles – Rotimi

Tomi Rotimi is the creative director and founder of Xclamations by Tomi Rotimi (www.xclamations.net), a fashion label she established 19 years ago and has grown to become a household name in the Nigerian fashion industry. In this interview with IFEOMA OKEKE, she speaks on her first published book and her latest offering, ‘Fat Transfer from Waistline to Bottom Line – Life Lessons for Fitness and Business.’ Excerpts:

Could you tell us about yourself?

I am a graduate of the University of Lagos with a BSc. in Business administration and a Diploma in Fashion Technology and Pattern Making from the London Center for Fashion Studies in the United Kingdom. I am an award-winning fashion entrepreneur and I won the MTN/British Council Fashion Entrepreneur award in 2011.

With almost two decades in the fashion industry, I am an industry mentor, supporting institutions such as Enterprise Development Centre of the Pan Atlantic University with developing customised courses for the fashion industry. My signature online course, ‘How to start a ready-to-wear label in Nigeria,’ has helped many in the industry adapt to the fashion industry’s unique challenges.

I host a weekly podcast titled ‘Tips from my fashion business,’ which has had almost 30,000 downloads so far. I share a weekly newsletter and a blog, all through which I share my business insights, and these are all hosted at www.tomirotimi.com. My first published book, Fat Transfer from Waistline to Bottom Line – Life Lessons for Fitness and Business, is my latest offering.

You are passionate about inspiring creative entrepreneurs; how did you find yourself doing this?

Since I was ten years old, I have been an entrepreneur, and my business, Xclamations by Tomi Rotimi, will be 20 next year. I have learnt a lot of lessons through my wins and many mistakes. As my business became more visible, I felt obligated to help other Creative Entrepreneurs better navigate the challenging economic terrain. This led to me starting a Podcast, ‘Tips from my Fashion Business,’ which has had almost 30,000 downloads and the creation of my signature online course @How to start a Ready-to-Wear Label in Nigeria”.

What inspired Fat Transfer? Tell us the story behind it?

Fat Transfer started as an Instagram series. Five years ago, at age 39, I felt a need to take care of my health and began to document my fitness journey. My business was also faced with some challenges as a result of the economic recession at the time. In documenting my fitness journey and business insights, I drew parallels between the two – in other words, “transfer fat from my waistline to my Business’ bottom line!” The Instagram series became very popular, and I gained a considerable following, which inspired me to write and publish the Book.

You said growing a Business and Fitness share similar principles. Please explain?

From my experience, the Entrepreneurial mind-set revolves around tenacity, perseverance, and dynamism. These are the same attributes that are required to achieve your fitness goals. The success principles that I highlight in my Book have helped me build a sustainable business and achieve my fitness goals.

What was the experience coming up with the book?

Writing has always been one of my many passions. I started writing and selling stories at age ten and have been blogging for many years. However, writing and self-publishing this book presented an entirely new challenge! It stretched my creativity and made enormous demands on my time. While the pandemic brought along numerous challenges, it gave me the time to complete the book finally. In a bid to deliver a book that captured my journey and business insights, the book went through numerous iterations and multiple edits. Self-publishing was not a cakewalk, and I have a newfound respect for authors!

Who should read this book?

Fat Transfer is a book of life lessons. Its purpose is to inspire men and women to achieve set goals in business and fitness. It is for the Entrepreneur at whatever stage in their business journey. It is also for anyone struggling with the daunting task of weight loss and fitness.

Losing weight seems to be a thing for most people hence so many go out of their way to do this. What is your take?

There are many shortcuts to achieving weight loss, and I would readily admit that I have explored some of them! In our desperation, we subscribe to crash diets, and while we do lose some weight on these programs, we ultimately gain them all back! So even though most people understand that to lose weight, we need to eat less and exercise more, a lot of us ignore the real game changer when it comes to sustaining our weight loss, which is where most people struggle. The way we think, a fitness mind-set and a commitment to a healthy lifestyle is the only way to stay trim and sustain our weight loss. This is what I share in this Book and is what has helped me in my fitness journey.

Share with us your journey running Xclamations by Tomi Rotimi?

I started Xclamations as a hobby while I was an undergraduate at the University of Lagos. Even after I got a job in a bank, selling my designs was something I still did on the side. I eventually resigned from banking to start Xclamations by Tomi Rotimi at the age of 25. This was 19years ago and at a time when neither entrepreneurship nor the fashion industry was trending. Through the years, my business and I have evolved, and so has the fashion industry. My humble home business has become a household name in Nigeria and one of the first pioneers of the ready-to-wear industry. It has been a challenging but enriching experience so far.

Running a business comes with its own challenges, particularly for women. What are your peculiar challenges?

Being an Entrepreneur is very demanding and would challenge you in many ways. For me, being a wife, a mother, and a business owner means that I need to balance my roles while trying to achieve my goals constantly. Over the years, I have learned that my time management skills and ability to prioritise and create a strong support system are critical. The problems in this business environment demand that my brand is nimble and ready to adapt to new and often unanticipated challenges that present themselves without notice. Managing the issues around infrastructure deficits, the fierce competition caused by an unstructured industry with no entry barriers and unfriendly government policies takes strength, determination, and tenacity.

How do you manage customers, especially women and their insecurities? Is that something you touch on in the Book?

Over the years, I have met thousands of women and irrespective of age, ethnicity, religion, or body type, they all have insecurities with their body image. As a woman myself, I understand this, and I am familiar with these insecurities. My response is to commit my brand to create clothes that make my customers feel beautiful, comfortable, and confident. We emphasise fit, quality fabric, and function. Clothes that are classic in design, stylish, and complement their lives. Xclamations is now reputed for this, and our customers enjoy the shopping experience we offer and the signature flattering fit of our clothes.

As an industry mentor, blogger, teacher, author, fashion designer, and Entrepreneur, how do you manage all these roles and still be at your best?

In my Book, I talk about the need to have multiple passions to live a wholesome life. I consider my roles a privilege to serve, and an opportunity to share my many talents and gifts. However, as you rightly pointed out, the demands could be overwhelming at times. My personal strategy is to create structures around my key functions and projects. It’s important to have a strong support system to help me achieve my goals and prevent me from the ever-present threat of burnout. I prioritise my wellness and my joy over everything else. I believe this is the secret to my longevity in the industry and my ability to juggle my many roles.

What is your personal style?

Simple, classic, and fun.

What is your life Mantra?

Love yourself, and everything else will align.

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