I’m really excited about our Woman Crush for this week! I honestly had to trim and summarize my findings over and over again as there’s just so much to learn from this amazing Woman called drum rolls Mrs. Adenike Ogunlesi!
The first time I came across Mrs. Ogunlesi, I was astonished at her journey. Particularly because I couldn’t match the University drop out part with her current image and persona. She is so well spoken and graceful to say the least. I guess being successful does not depend solely on formal education.
Mrs. Ogunlesi dropped out of school in her second year of studying Law. Now just in case Bill Gates came to your mind, hol’ up, this is a different case because unlike Bill, she did not have an alternate plan or bankable idea at the time when she dropped out. She did not have a fancy plan for the future or a detailed life strategy document. Mrs. Nike dropped out from school solely because she knew Law was not what she wanted to spend her life practicing.
Today, Adenike Ogunlesi is the Founder and CEO of Ruff ‘n’ Tumble which operates a ware house, factory and retail stores with more than 60 employees. The Company has about 15 branch locations across the country. She grew from selling her children’s clothing designs from the boot of her car at local markets and bazaars, to becoming one of Africa’s most recognizable children’s clothing brand builders and entrepreneurs of all time.
Talk about taking a leap of faith.
6 Practical Lessons We Can Learn From Adenike Ogunlesi
Start by eliminating what you know you don’t want.
This for me is the timeliest lesson. When you come from middle or upper class Nigerian family that places high value on education you don’t drop out of school. Especially when you have the opportunity to study for a Law degree in one of Nigeria’s best universities, it’s simply not done, but that’s exactly what Adenike did. Wrong move? Looking at the results today; not exactly.
For a young woman who’s trying to find her feet in life, I’ve been racking my brain trying to figure out what my life calling/value adding life’s work is. I still haven’t found it, but from Adenike we can learn that whilst we search for what it is we want to do, we should eliminate those things we know for sure we don’t want to spend our lives doing. You might be thinking “But I don’t know what I want” That’s fine, how about what you don’t want? Start by walking away from what you don’t want. Don’t stay in that frustrating job or career just because you don’t know what to do next or for the fear of possible failure if you pursue your dreams. Take a leap.
It’s your Life, make YOUR MOVES.
At the time when Adenike dropped out, it certainly must have seemed like a personal tragedy for her and an embarrassment for her family turned out to be a blessing in disguise because a couple of years later Adenike was running Ruff n Tumble, one of the most successful and innovative children apparel companies in Africa.
The earlier we realize that though we walk on the same planet earth and all want to end up “successful” there isn’t one path to success, the faster we will move. You must carve your own path. Chase your own dreams, follow your heart, principles and do what makes you happy. Quit looking at what XYZ is doing before making your decisions. Our paths to success are as un-identical as we all are; distinct and unique.
Take on opportunities along the way
Adenike’s mum at the time she dropped out of school owned a clothing business called Betty O with about 30 employees. Nike who had grown up seeing her mother run the business was told by her mum to come and work in the business. Unwillingly she went to work for her mum and actually found out that she enjoyed making clothes. Along the way she learnt some crucial tailoring skills which would serve her well later.
Most times the door to your destiny does not come with a sign that reads “This way to get to the top” that’s why we must learn to take on opportunities. Imagine if Adenike refused her mums offer. I’ve discovered that you don’t find your destiny whilst sitting down at home; most times you stumble on it while working. The bible says in Ecclesiastes 9:10 “Whatsoever thy hand findeth to do, do it with thy might…” It says whatsoever, no conditions, no buts. The experience Adenike had working with her mum in her business unexpectedly helped her to discover who she was and what she wanted to do. We must learn to take on opportunities in our journey, in the end all the dots will connect.
Don’t just complain, seek out a solution
In 1996 while Adenike was trying to buy Pyjamas for her children she couldn’t afford the ones she really wanted so she made some herself for the children. When she told a friend and a family member about the pyjamas they showed interest and wanted some made for their children. Her husband gave some important advice that she shouldn’t stick to making pyjamas alone. She also made clothes for her children whom they could wear to play group such as jeans, t-shirts and skirts. Parents of the other children loved the clothes and soon Nike started making clothes that were fast selling out at the play group. Nike didn’t stop there, she decided to take her clothes to a bazaar to sell and she sold out. At that point she knew she was on to something and she was as that marked the birth of Ruff n’ Tumble
Complaining is one thing a lot of us are experts at. We are quick to point out faults and slow to proffer results. If something bothers you, do something about it. I’ve heard many times that most times when something bothers you; it’s a sign that you have the solution to it. So quit complaining and start searching out a result.
Be Smart about your work
As Ms. Adenike’s business grew, In order to move it forward, she wanted to do some market research to understand what she could bring to the market that was not already being offered by other children clothing businesses. She could not afford to pay for the services of a business consultant who could help her with this, so she did what a lot of startups do, she bootstrapped the market research process. She got into her car and drove though the city to observe what other children businesses were selling and what they weren’t. She found out that none of them were selling children’s clothing as individual items. For example instead of selling a short separately from a t-shirt, they were sold together. So Nike came up with an idea, she decided that she would be the first children clothing producer in the city to start producing and selling ‘separates’ for children.
Also, in a bid to expand sales Nike would load her car with clothes and drive to every bazaar that was happening in the city and the clothes were rapidly selling. She started expanding by hiring more tailors to meet an increasing demand then realized that the business could no more be run from the back of her car boot, she needed a retail outlet.
Baby girl, nothing can take the place of wisdom and bright ideas in building a successful business or career. Not even prayers and fasting for God to bless you will override this. You need wisdom to be able to get good results from whatever it is you’re doing. You and I must engage our brains in whatever it is we are doing. That’s what will distinguish us. When God asked Solomon what he wanted and he didn’t ask for blessings, he asked for wisdom! We all know how successful Solomon was. Wisdom is what will take you to where you long to go. So be smart, tap into the unlimited capacity of the brain God has given you. Be strategic in your actions and think of ways to expand what you have in your hands. You don’t need to have a marketing/publicity budget, an MBA certified professional’s advice or a life coach for you to excel! Ask God for wisdom and apply it. Success is not something you bump into; you’ve got to be intentional about it.
Make do with what you have
As Ruff n’ Tumble grew, Adenike rented a small shop to house the business and invested in some innovative but cost efficient marketing. She took her children dressed them up in all the clothes and took pictures which she could show to people. Though this sounds so simple and obvious now but it was unheard of at the time. Nike herself states that, ‘It was the first time that anybody had ever marketed children’s clothes like that. Not a clip art of a foreign magazine but actually using Nigerian children.’ The response to her marketing strategy was overwhelming, people actually wanted the made in Nigeria clothing. Demand increased and the business began to expand rapidly. After 3 years the business outgrew its premises, she needed much bigger space.
We need to learn how to make things work. Just make it work, Adenike made it work. Not enough money to afford professional studio pictures? Use your phone. Can’t afford to host a website of your own? Use a free blog. Can’t afford office space? Use a corner in your house. Can’t afford professional paid courses? Take a free one on Coursera. One of my favorite quotes goes “If you can’t fly then run, if you can’t run then walk, if you can’t walk then crawl, but whatever you do you have to keep moving forward.”
Get moving! The best time to start is now with whatever it is that you have.
As the business evolved over time, Mrs. Ogunlesi recognized the need to enhance her business acumen to match her growing design expertise, and enrolled at the Lagos Business School to study business management and customer service where she today serves on the advisory board. According to her, “My success has been sheer hard work. Sometimes you laugh, sometimes you cry. And, the prize at the end of it is quite fulfilling.”
Here’s a really cute picture of her with her really good looking husband (lol). A fineeeeee hot chocolate husband is goals too o, well for me.
Ladies, let’s get to work.
This post was culled from the Thresh woman WCW Column. The ThreshWoman WCW is a column I manage with the goal to celebrate and encourage the successes of women all around the world while inspiring other women to chase their dreams fiercely.