What has Bamitale Kevin-Agono’s Recreation Shirts got in common with everyday items like Corn flakes, Microwaves, Post it notes, Saccharin, Potato chips, and Fireworks?
The idea for her fashion line came from an unpleasant situation, she found inspiration in an unexpected place. Talk of turning lemon into lemonades! After her first child she was unable to find fashionable shirts that would fit because she had added some weight, but instead of lamenting about it she decided to create what she wanted, and meet other women’s needs too.
Femme Lounge talks to the amazing young woman about her journey into entrepreneurship and the joys and challenges of making beautiful shirts for real women.
Tell us a bit about yourself and your background? – My name is Bamitale Kevin-Agono. My father is a retired Military general and my Mum an Educationist& Entrepreneur. I developed an early passion for fashion when I went to fashion school at 16, but put the passion in the back burner to pursue a degree in Accounting and a Masters in Business Administration from the prestigious Lagos business school.
I thereafter followed a career in information technology (after becoming an Oracle certified database Administrator) and business development. In the course of my MBA and seven year career, I fell in love with the concept of retail and niche marketing. This combined with my love for fashion led me to explore ways to meet the needs of women by providing affordable and chic clothes for the woman of style.
Recreation Fashion Line? – Recreation, is an indigenous fashion line that manufactures and retails stylish corporate clothing for the woman that appreciates value, style and class. The business started with a shirt line(Recreation shirts). Recreation shirts was created to Re-create how women wear and enjoy their number one wardrobe staple: Shirts. The vision is to provide alternative stylish clothes for the discerning woman of style. We hope to be a global fashion brand that would re-create wardrobe staples.
The Recreation woman is pure CLAS! She is Confident, Lovely, Accessible& Stylish.
What inspired it? – 1st my personal need. After I had my son, I put on a lot of weight, I worked into a shop one day to buy stylish clothes and the sales attendant aptly told me they did not make them in my size! I did workout and loose some of the weight, but I vowed to make stylish clothing for the ‘real woman’
At what point did you know you wanted to be an entrepreneur & what sacrifices have you made? -I always knew I wanted to do something to change the lives of people especially women since I was in my 1st year in university. The hunger came back again after I had worked a few months in a multinational telecoms company and felt empty. I decided to do an MBA to explore my options, but at the same time, I always did some business at the side. After my MBA I was gearing to go, but was encouraged by my husband to put my MBA to practice in a corporate environment. This was a good advice by the way, because I worked as a consultant, helping small businesses become structured. The experience gave me a heads up in my businesses, and two years after, Recreation was born.
As per sacrifice, a lot I must say. They include a 7 figure salary, some level of comfort and security and even the confidence of my parents who thought I was stupid and ungrateful with all my educational qualification. They are changing their minds gradually!
Did you have to get a relevant training about having a fashion line? – I went to fashion school at 16 to learn the rudiments of cut and sew. After I decided to start Recreation, I went back to fashion school to learn pattern making. Training is endless; I paid a visit to London college of Fashion last year October and bought loads of books.
I am going back again in August, especially to Central Saint Martins school of Arts.
You also do business coaching for small business owners, tell us about it– As I mentioned earlier, I have a consulting background, an MBA and the requisite experience. And most of all the desire to help small business owners like me put the right structures and strategies into their businesses. We go through and intensive 1 month coaching session, which covers human resources, Finance, Operations, marketing and Strategy to position the business to get to the next level. After which we have follow up session via email or telephone.
Coaching is different from consulting because I teach and motivate you to do what you need to do and ensure you do it, instead of doing it for you and not seeing the impact.
The hardest part of your job? – Managing it all and ensuring it all works out well. Because I do production, I am saddled with an end-to-end responsibility from creative’s to production to actual retailing. It can be daunting at times, but I draw strength from God and wonderful Mentors around me.
What challenges have you faced in actualizing this dream? – Funding has being a great challenge, because if you are building something no one can see, no one is willing to invest in it. There is also the continuous human resource challenge of getting the right people, motivating them and keeping them.
Your most fulfilling moment on this journey – Every time a customer is happy, that moment is created. Every time I get a referral that moment is reinforced. Getting greater brand acceptance and seeing lives and businesses change is truly fulfilling.
People’s response to it so far – Amazing! People are wowed by our creativity, the excellence of our execution inspite of our limited resources and our persistence in the face of competition.
What significant life lessons have you learnt on this journey? – Living your dreams is a re-birth process; you die to the old you to create the ‘you’ that would create something, change lives and make a difference. Don’t give up no matter how tough it is, because when the battle is fiercest, the victory is near.
This must be costing you lots of money, where has the funding been coming from – From my personal resources, Small loans from friends& family and re-investing my sales. Its a long-term process, so I am committed.
The best part of your job? – I love the creative process of birthing new designs. I also like meeting with my customers, especially the ones that have a flare for style because it is intellectually stimulating in a fashionable way!
Most successful women have had to climb on the shoulders of others to have a clearer view of the road ahead them, who are your own mentors? – God is my ultimate counsellor and guide. My mum is my number 1 practical mentor because she has owned several businesses from nothing and become a millionaire. I have received wise counsel from my friend Tara Fela-Durotoye and my Aunties Susan Eyo-honesty of Eve2000 and Nike Ogunlesi of Ruff&Tumble.
I am so blessed to be surrounded by women who have preceded me and set the tome.
Your greatest strengths and skills that has particularly been of help in achieving this – Persistence, prayers and a Single minded sense of Purpose. The MBA and other qualifications have also being helpful.
What’s the future beckoning you to? – Impact the lives of women through Recreation the fashion& Lifestyle brand. Other business ventures that would empower women intellectually, emotionally and financially to be a support and bedrock in our society.
What do you think are the success essentials for today’s young women? – Focus is very key. Don’t be carried away by the frivolities around us. Every young woman should seek to discover her gift and purpose, work towards achieving it and surround herself with a good support system.
Tell us One thing you know for sure? – I know that life would hand you what you seek diligently, respect fiercely and pursue unequivocally. The choice is yours!
Where and how can we know more about your work? – Our showroom is at 99, Awolowo way, beside lagoon hospital, Balogun busstop, Ikeja. You can also join our facebook group: Recreationshirts or visit our website on www.recreationshirts.com. Thank you for this opportunity, I hope it encourages somebody.