Omolara Bankole, CEO of Larabee Hats tell us about her journey into the Hat Business
NOW, TELL US ABOUT WHAT INSPIRED YOUR JOURNEY INTO THE HAT MAKING BUSINESS?
I went to the RCCG Camp for the monthly Holyghost Service. I saw a woman selling hats and I decided to buy a couple. The price was so reasonable I decided to start buying from her for export. Unfortunately, the cost of export was too high so I started selling them in Nigeria. Afterwards, i decided to start making them myself instead of buying and reselling. I went to train with a milliner and later attended a Lagos state vocational school for certification. Here I am today, still flying.
WHAT INSPIRES YOUR CREATIVITY WHEN MAKI NG HATS? It’s the vision of the final look that drives me. I often try to picture how a particular design will look on me, this makes me eager to finish the design.
YOU ARE A TRENDSETTER IN MAKING FASCINATORS IN NIGERIA, HOW DID YOU ACHIEVE THAT?
LOOKING AT OUR TRADITION IN NIGERIA, THE IDEA OF WEARING HATS OR FASCINATORS, IS THE WESTERN CULTURE, SO HOW DO YOU INFUSE THE AFRICAN STYLE? We are very creative in Nigeria. We now use Ankara, adire/tie and dye, lace and aso oke to make fascinators, hats and turbans, including auto gele which allows you to wear your head wrap/gele like a cap instead of tying it. We now wear fascinators on dresses made from lace or ankara aso ebi, instead of tying gele.
WHAT ARE THE CHALLENGES YOU HAVE FACED SO FAR IN RUNNING THIS BUSINESS? Working from home and not having a business place to display my products was a major challenge but social media is taking care of that now. I post my work on Instagram and Facebook, this has made my work more visible thereby improving marketing. Also, I work alone and it can be overwhelming sometimes. The solution is to get a business place where I can train people and they in turn ease my workload. I’m sceptical about getting a loan because of the uncertainties of the times we are in.
WHAT ARE THE IMPORTANT DETAILS TO PAY ATTENTION TO, IN ORDER TO EXCEL IN THIS BUSINESS? Good finish to your products and good customer service. When you make beautiful pieces, people come back for more.
SO, HOW HAVE YOU BEEN ABLE TO CARVE A NICHE FOR YOURSELF, DESPITE THE COMPETITION OUT THERE? There’s room enough for everyone to fly. Once you are good in what you do, you will make your mark.
A YOUNG FEMALE ENTREPRENEUR OUT THERE IS THINKING OF FOLLOWING YOUR FOOT STEPS, WHAT WOULD YOU TELL HER? Be focused, learn the art of millinery very well, don’t be half baked, pay attention to details.