Ibadan-based fashion designer and CEO of Datina Designs, Atinuke Smith, in this interview by Omolara Adeniyi, shares the interesting story behind a brand etched on passion and self-determination.
Can you introduce yourself please?
I’m a fashion Entrepreneur, and I’ve been in the fashion industry for upward of 28 years and also double as a business coach. I help startup businesses to find clarity, grow and improve to make their businesses better. I’m also a marriage and relationships counsellor passionate about helping women maximise their potential because empowering women makes a lot of difference in our society.
Did your passion for women shape your career decisions?
No. I believe life is in stages. Sometimes, finding a particular passion leads to other passions. I didn’t think I would be a fashion entrepreneur. I studied Communication and Language Arts. So, I thought I was going to end up as a broadcaster or journalist. However, I learnt how to sew during my service year, and fashion designing became a passion. I decided I wasn’t going to do a white-collar job, so I focused on fashion design. Along the line, women started gravitating towards me for training, and that was what led to my passion for women, youth empowerment, and relationship coaching.
Was starting out as a fashion designer easy or challenging?
Starting out wasn’t easy. There was no one to teach us the entrepreneurial aspect of fashion design. As a result, I struggled with managing my business’s finances, staffing and management, among others. I spent about 15 years going in circles, so it was very challenging.
However, the emergence of institutions like Lagos Business Schools started teaching small businesses (SMEs) about entrepreneurship. I was able to enrol for business training, and I haven’t stopped since then. Now, I have learnt about employee and financial management and how to run a business successfully, making my fashion entrepreneurship journey easier.
It’s not enough to have fashion design skills. It’s also important to have business knowledge. A lack of entrepreneurial skills will lead to going around in circles and not making notable progress. I also had challenges with funding to acquire machines when I first started. However, I was able to acquire several grants from the Federal Government of Nigeria and other associations. So, skills, entrepreneurial knowledge and adequate funding make it easier to overcome ….