‘I am constantly improving my brand’
by KEMI AJUMOBI
March 9, 2018 | 12:35 am| | | Start Conversation
TRACY ATOBATELE is a pilot and CEO of the Rita and Nathan brand, which is a product of meticulous focus and finesse. To her, her shoes represent the perseverance of African character with aesthetics that is proudly Nigerian. She speaks to KEMI AJUMOBI on starting her business and the journey so far. Excerpts.
Growing up for me was fun. I grew up in a very Christian home with the most hardworking, dedicated parents. They didnot have all the money in the world but they made sure we never lacked. Nothing was spared especially when it comes to Education. My late mum taught me hard work by showing me how her business helped support our family for years when my dad had it rough. Dad being a Pastor, taught me how prayer, faith, integrity and good manners would open doors for you that no one can shut.
In the beginning
I started Rita and Nathan Clothiers in 2008, I had two things I was/am passionate about, flying and sewing…I started sewing because I loved it and I needed to save money towards putting myself through cabin crew school because I couldn’t afford my pilot training at the time. I ended up being a flight attendant for four years while growing my business to include bridesmaid’s dresses and brides’ second dresses. In 2016, I was ready to go to flight school and that’s when I started making the sneakers. I had toyed with the idea over the years, everyone that saw the sneakers loved it and I would have people want to buy the ones I had rocked for months…I knew it would be a good business decision to put sewing on hold, go to flight school and push the sneakers aspect of the R&N brand and raise money in the process to offset the bills. Thankful to God, it paid off in a major way.
Why the name Rita and Nathan?
Rita & Nathan is short form of my parents Henrietta and Jonathan. They have been the most supportive parents, I owe all I am and would ever be to them. They are my reason.
Why the choice of African fabrics
I choose African fabrics/prints because of how vibrant and beautiful the colours and patterns are. You would hardly come across an African that doesn’t love African print and gradually, people around the world are falling in love with them too. Anything that helps promote Nigeria and Africa as a whole, I am all up for it.
Where and how do you source for items used for production?
Every single item used in the production of all Rita&Nathan sneakers are locally sourced from various markets in Nigeria.
How do you drive sales?
I do not have a store. Hopefully, in the nearest future, I would definitely open a few. I sell all my shoes online and all production is done in Lagos, Nigeria. In the aspect of driving sales, I believe I do my homework. I know how important customer service is having being a flight attendant for four years, if your client is satisfied, word of mouth would be the best kind of advertisement you would ever need. I focus on client satisfaction and watch the magic happen.
Your classy packaging of your items
Presentation to me is key. I love Shoebags and I see them as the best way to protect and preserve fabric based shoes like mine. I wanted a shoebag that was durable, hence the use of denim and infusion of the African print. Same as the shoe boxes, they all have an infusion of African print.
Initial vision, short and long term goals
This started off for me as a means of catering to some flight school bills and it has transcended from that to something much greater.
On short term goals, I want to retail in all the major shops in Nigeria and in Africa. To use profit gotten from sales to help improve lives of those that have big dreams like I had and no funds to make those dreams a reality.
On long term goals, I want to retail in all the major stores and cities in the world, putting Nigeria on the map in a major way.
We need help with something as basic as 24hrs electricity, that solves 50% of the problem entrepreneurs are facing now.
Feedback is key. I am very big on feedbacks. I don’t think I have ever sold a pair and not asked. I take the good and the bad and make it work by constantly improving on my brand.
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