Tolulope Amusan is an astute entrepreneur, energetic young lady, a lover of GOD and fashion. She runs a fashion-jewelry outfit called Eso Ara (Body Treasure). She also runs an initiative for teenagers, Make-A-Future project. An indigene of Ondo state, Tolulope graduated from the Federal University of Technology, Akure.
From having an idea to starting your business, share your journey with us
I sincerely did not start my business as a pre-thought idea. The business I do now was one I stumbled on as a result of a pressing financial need I had during my university days. I had a mentor who was of great assistance to me both financially and morally. He told me one day that he cannot continue to give me money. He said it was time for me to do something for myself. He asked me to look within and think deeply what I could do for myself. Sad and remorse, I replied; “I can talk”. He advised me to channel my talking ability into sales.
Through the help of another friend in my fellowship back then who sold perfumes and jewelries, I was taught and guided on how to start my own jewelry business. Prior to then, I had done all sorts of businesses. In the past I have sold ankara materials, sold egg in the hostel, sold renew cold water starch on the street of Lagos while on break from school, did ushering jobs and cooked for people to make money.
However, one remarkable thing is that I made the #15,000 seed capital my mentor gave me to start my business back in 4hours 30minutes on my very first outing. That was the beginning of a transforming life and that exceptional selling ability is what has stood me out and made the Eso Ara brand wax stronger by God’s grace through the past 5 years of running the business. My challenging experience as a young adult inspired our business model which empowers other women (Under-graduates, Fresh graduates and Stay-at-home-moms) to start their own jewelry business through our distributorship model at EsoAra.
Why do you love what you do? There are so many other businesses you could have explored, why this?
First, I must admit to you that the reason why I fell in love with what I do today was the fact that I started on a very profitable note. As I have continued in the art of this line of business, my love for the business has grown so much and I have developed my knowledge-base on it. I find myself so easily in love with the business much more because it helps improve, highlight and project the appearance and self-image of the female gender.
As a small business owner you can’t do everything, what has been your experience hiring staff and building your team?
Well, as a small business owner I have found out that you have to start by doing everything yourself. You start by being the one who not only owns the business but runs the business by being the person who procure the goods, be the sales person, be the digital marketer, the accountant and the delivery person. As you grow, you then decide to acquire staff and delegate accordingly. The knowledge of being so many things at the beginning of the business helps you understand your staff, relate with them and guide them accordingly to discharge their duties the best way. I have also found out that it’s easy to get staff who are loyal to you when you sincerely care about the well-being of your staffs. People don’t care how much you know, until they know how much you care. Sincere love and care has been a great tool in building my team.
What are your greatest skill/strengths that have particularly been of help in starting and running your business?
I have an unmatched energy for sales, a special eye for beautiful things, an exceptional selling ability and a relentless go-getter spirit. I love to seek new ways to sell our products and reach out to our targeted audience.
Did you have to get a formal training or qualification to be able to do this?
Interestingly, I studied Crop, Soil and Pest management but one thing I have done is to attend various leadership/business trainings and seminars. I have also read books to improve my knowledge area on building a successful business and carefully followed from a distance the principles of some successful female entrepreneurs in Nigeria.
You have been running your business for some time now, what do you know now that you wished you had known before you started?
I wish I had known how to leverage technology better like I currently do. I also wish I have this level of confidence that I currently have to do take audacious steps and stop waiting for the so called “perfect time” to do some things.
Any life experience that has particularly prepared you directly or indirectly for what you do now?
Well, a number of them but one I will like to talk about was how I still gave myself to extracurricular activities despite the poor state of my pocket as an undergraduate. I served in different capacities in the Christian fellowship and in the school. At a time, I was in the choir, I was the librarian, I was the General-Secretary of my fellowship and I was also the Vice-president of the National Association of Ondo state students. I later became the Acting president till the end of my tenure. Getting involved in all these activities on campus made me strong, dogged and Independent. It made me focused and built my faith in God as the rewarder of those who diligently seek him. Knowing that I graduated with honors in spite of all this instilled the “I can do all things” mindset in me. I am glad I went through this route.
Change can bring out a part of us we never knew existed, what new things have you discovered about yourself in the course of starting and running your business?
Doing business has helped me to be more creative and innovative. I am continuously reminded that I am not the only one doing what I do and so I must “Up-my-game” to remain relevant.
What do you think are the most essential skills for women entrepreneurs especially in Nigeria?
You will never get better at a thing if you don’t try it out at all. Yes, you might fail and not get it all sorted when you start but one sure thing is that the process of trying makes you better. Self-awareness, hardwork, consistency, innovation and Faith in God are important qualities every woman entrepreneur should possess.