Addie Olutola wants the world to appreciate African fashion — in part, by shopping at her store, D’iyanu.
Since 2014, Olutola has been selling clothing featuring bold African prints to women, men and children wishing to celebrate their heritage while looking fashionable. But this entrepreneur did not make her start in fashion.
In fact, prior to starting up, she had been working as a buyer at a laboratory products distributor. But she wasn’t happy there, and more than anything, she wanted to avoid “living life with regret.” She adds, “I was settling for a life I didn’t necessarily want.”
She had the idea for her African fashion line in her head, and a business plan on paper. But before taking the leap of running the business full-time, she asked herself one critical question, and advises other prospective female founders to do the same.
That question? “What’s the worst thing that could happen?”
For her, the answer was “having to move back in with my parents” because she couldn’t pay her bills, as she had to empty her savings account, open credit cards and cash out her 401K to launch. She realized: “I can bounce back from that.”
At The Story Exchange, we love risk-takers — for example, Samentha Tiller of audio/visual tech company DMI Technologies Inc. She started her company with nearly 50 employees already on staff, having taken them under her wing when her old employer was closing down. “Everyone … said they were coming with me,” she said. “I told them that I didn’t even know if I was going to have work! They said, ‘We don’t care. We’re going with you.’”
The risk paid off. Despite its precarious start, DMI has pulled in revenues of over $10 million per year, and Tiller aims to cross the $15 million mark in the next five years.
Perseverance is really Olutola’s overarching message.“If you know you can survive, move forward — boldly,” she says. For the D’iyanu founder, taking the leap paid off — her venture pulled in $2.5 million in revenue last year, and she reports being on track to double that amount in 2019.
Whether or not you end up making millions, Olutola points out that “at the very worst, you fail — and you can still always say you tried it, and went for it.”