Alma Eze is a Nigerian-born fashion amazon with an extensive designing experience of international repute. Alma, who hails from Imo State, schooled in Abia State University, Uturu, Abia State, Nigeria. Having launched her career in 2017; when she was just 17, Alma has since then graduated with a Bachelors Degree in Estate Management from the university. She has built her brand known for its uniqueness in class and details. In this exclusive interview with OBASEGUN MICHAEL SOYEBO, she opened up on her journey in the highly competitive fashion industry in Nigeria. Excerpts:
How did you start your fashion business?
I started by making male shirts in my third year in the university. I started off with 10 shirts; six designed shirts and four plain shirts. I used to go around hostels in school then trying to market these shirts to people who might be interested. Little by little, I sold off the first batch and before I knew it, the demand for my shirts started to increase, so the next batch I made was 40 shirts. With this second batch, I worked with my friends as models, Black Imagery and Glorybeautyplus for a photo shoot to market this second batch of shirts and that was how I started the business.
What inspired your decision?
I used to always buy already made clothes because no one ever made exactly what I wanted…ever. There was always an issue with style delivery for me and one day I just realised, “I can’t be the only one going through this problem; so why not learn how to sew well tailored outfits with or without fittings?” and that was how ALMABYALMA was birthed.
So yeah, basically my decision to go into fashion was inspired by my experiences with ill fitting clothes. I got interested in fashion because I wanted to be able to create outfits that fit perfectly because I never really could find who could create that for me.
What were your challenges when you started off?
The major challenge when I started was the fact that not a lot of people were willing to try out a new brand; more so one run by a very young girl. They already had people, trusted ones at that making outfits for them so it was a bit difficult to try to work my way into getting people to be aware of my brand and trust me enough to purchase outfits from me. Another challenge would be the pure difficulty in finding highly efficient workers; reason being that I used to outsource a lot of my work then as a student, and there was always an issue with my tailors working with little or no supervision.
Who are your target audiences?
Our target audiences are people aged between ages 18-40, who want high quality clothing, playful alongside bold and contemporary pieces.
How did you build your clientele?
Word of mouth basically! I was literally in everyone’s faces with my business. Also, I created a refer and earn programme (which we still use) where we use affiliate marketing to reach out to more clients. Social media marketing also helped build our clientele.
How would you describe your growth?
I should describe my growth as very organic; it hasn’t been easy, I mean there’s always a struggle every day but we’ve had the most amazing clients who have stayed with us from the get go, some of whom have even referred some of our biggest clients till date. My growth has been a gradual process; I like to think that everything great takes time.
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What are your long term plans?
Growth! My long term plan is growth, both personally and for my brand. I plan to expand the tentacles of my brand in and out of the country. I also plan on creating a vocational foundation to give back to my community.
How do you cater for the needs of your online customers?
There’s really no much difference with the way we handle offline and online customers. Firstly, we do a consultation online where the client specifies what they want, then the creation process takes place. We have a unique size chart for online customers who can’t come in for fittings.
How are you reaching out to your diaspora clients?
Through social media and also through affiliate marketing.
What are you doing differently in 2022?
We are leveraging on the power of social media. I’m going to be putting a lot of my work out there on all platforms. I’m looking forward to collaborating with a lot of brands too.
Who are you role models in the industry?
Mai Atafo, Valdrin Sahiti, Deola Sagoe and Matopeda Atelier.
Where do you see your brand in the next 5 years?
I see ALMABYALMA going international in 5 years! I see us having flagship stores in and out of the country, but most of us, I see us creating major customer satisfaction because that’s our biggest goal; to ensure we keep our clients happy and satisfied with our service.
Any plans to set up showrooms in major fashion cities in Nigeria?
Yes, definitely. Our Lagos showroom is definitely in the works and will be completed soon.
One of Alma’s famous quotes is, ‘No one must dictates what is and what isn’t the rule of fashion and style; fashion is yours; own it, style it.’