How Temitayo Balogun Started Shaking Tables in the Fashion Industry With May Coutures
With fashion needs always present everyday, brands get launched in the fashion industry daily. In Nigeria, there are an impressive number of designers building brands that people love. One of such brands is May Coutures.
Temitayo Balogun, the founder and Lead Creative Director at May Coutures shared some very invaluable and important insights from her journey of building the May brand.
Before launching her brand, she got her first degree in Industrial chemistry when she was 18, and her Master’s degree in FUTA, 2 years later. Afterwards, she enrolled at the Ibadan Entrepreneurs network business school and made a total pivot to fashion.
How and when did May Coutures start?
I was in my final year in 2012 when I learnt the basics of Fashion and accessories making. I have always loved accessories, making things with needle, thread, and my hands. I wanted to make people look good.
I developed myself in these skills during NYSC, and during my masters. At each of these periods, I enrolled to learn tailoring but I didn't complete my training because of masters admission and strike during NYSC.
I remember staying awake all night checking videos on YouTube. Some nights, I loosened my mum's unused clothes to make accessories.
I registered the brand in 2017 and officially launched.
What will you say has contributed most to the growth of your brand?
I believe there is still a long way to go in creating a truly global brand, so, I regularly ensure that I grab every opportunity to learn. This has prompted me to attend numerous Fashion Training Bootcamps, Masterclasses and Internships. One of the recent ones I attended Women in Business entrepreneurial training by Cherie Blair Foundation and ExxonMobil in 2019, it took place at the Lagos Business School.
I went to Global Entrepreneurship Training, Handong University, South Korea, also last year.
In what ways have you used your fashion skills to impact people outside of the fashion industry?
From July 2017 to July 2018, I was the Deputy Curator of the Ibadan Hub of the World Economic Forum's Global Shapers.
I organized and supervised projects which included the Orphanage Outreach Program. We trained over 150 young orphans in skills which included fashion design, graphics design, web design. In 2019, I was one of the trainers that trained 10,000 teenagers in over 50 government secondary schools in Ibadan led and initiated by Derayo vocational limited.
Let’s look at your brand: How do you measure growth?
Since we started, I have watched the brand evolve in a number of ways that I consider as growth. We have gained the trust and admiration of our clients. We have expanded our clientele base. Through all of these, we have won a good number of awards as well.
Tell us some of the awards you have won
Among others, the brand has won the FCMB Flex Your Creativity award, the International Breweries' Kickstart award, and the National Youth Entrepreneurship Empowerment Summit award.
You started May Coutures, and then you stopped at a point. What challenges made you stop?
During my NYSC, I started making accessories and I started selling, but I was not really making profit. So I stopped. I was not selling much, and customers were not paying for the little I sold. So I stopped after NYSC.
There really is no business without paying customers. What made you start again?
During my Masters program, I needed more money to support the allowance I had. So, I started business again. This time, I started believing more in myself and in my brand.
I became more persistent. I learnt how not to give up. Students from Futa started patronizing me, I got referrals, I saw people rocking my products proudly. It was encouraging to find out that some students were working towards having enough money to buy my products.
People were not buying, and the few customers that bought were not paying as expected. Was it that you had the pricing strategy wrong, or was it just not affordable? Why did you sell less?
They were affordable, I just didn't know how to market well, and ask people to pay. I recall that for 2 semesters, I took my accessories to a fellowship consistently, twice a week to advertise and sell. Some people bought, some did not, but the most important thing was that I went, consistently. Right now, our clothes start from 3000 NGN.
Catching my breath, I thought about all that Temitayo had shared with me. It was clear that two things that changed in her second attempt were that she improved her marketing skill, and she consistently kept her brand visible to her audience. Needing to know more about her products, I continued with the fashion chat.
What was your brand’s first major work?
It was a contract of more than 50,000 NGN. It was the national body of the fellowship that I mentioned earlier. Someone who had noticed me and my work there recommended me. The job was for 90 brooches and 60 bowties.
What niche is your brand in?
May Coutures focuses on men’s wear and bridals. The men accessories we make include bowties, straight ties, pocket squares, lapel roses, fila (cap). We make kaftan, buba and sokoto (traditional wear), agbada, shirts, suits, blazers, trousers, shorts and others.
Our bridal accessories include bouquet, fascinators, veil, wedding and reception dresses.
How do you handle finance, is May Coutures equity funded?
The brand started with personal savings and money from my parents, then profit and business savings. Later, we got grants from organizations and the Federal Government. Some brands do equity funding, but May Coutures is not equity funded at the moment. In time, we will leverage the best investment option for us.
Observing trends show that fashion brands in Nigeria generally take to Instagram and sideline some other platforms like LinkedIn. What is your take on that for your brand?
Instagram is a very good platform for fashion designers to showcase their works, but that is not the only platform we should be on.
LinkedIn is not a platform to post all pictures of products. It is to show our professionalism, what we do differently, what we do to be excellent in our field, how/why we train, impact and empower people more.
May Coutures has a website, though it is still in development phase. What made you decide to have one for your brand?
We chose to have a website for the brand so that our products can be seen globally. The website is my company's CV, not everyone would like to check Instagram or Facebook. A website is more professional, and will reach more audience with time.
As I rounded up the fashion chat with Temitayo of May Coutures, I checked out again the brand’s instagram page, the products, the engagement, and all that Temitayo had shared. I can clearly see that innovation is a big focus for this brand.
The fashion brand that will stand out from the many brands that are also doing well will be the one consistently innovating, and reinventing itself.
FUTA: Federal University of Technology, Akure
NYSC: National Youth Service Corps
Updated: February 16, 2020