Ayotomi or Tomi Rotimi as she is more popularly known is an absolute delight! She is one of those people whom you only just meet but feel like you’ve known forever and that personality is absolutely great for the line of business she is in! You see, Ayotomi is the brain behind Xclamations, which makes the most beautiful ready-to-wear dresses- in African prints and handmade fabrics, to suit the African woman! Xclamations pieces have a timeless appeal, impeccable fit and I find them absolutely satisfying because you do not have the hassle that usually comes with tailor-made outfits; fitting, re-fitting and adjusting! Xclamations is convenient and time efficient- for someone whose every spare minute is precious, that means a lot to me! I had the privilege of interviewing the wonderful lady behind the brand and I wanted to share with you some of the great nuggets of wisdom I picked up in 30 minutes with Ayotomi!
Xclamations is 11 years old this year. What do you know now, that you wish you had known when you first started your entrepreneurial journey?
I wish I had known that sustaining a business is more than identifying and having talent. It takes a lot more than raw talent to sustain a business and I have come to realize, it is more work to sustain what you have started than it takes to start it.
Could you please explain that? What is it about sustainability that makes it key?
I would say, keeping it fresh so that you stay relevant and interesting to your clients. They keep coming back because they get what they want. You have to be constantly evolving while still being consistent, so that what attracted your clients to you in the first place, keeps them coming back to you 11 years in and beyond.
To be honest Ayotomi, one of the reasons I buy from Xclamations is that I like coming to the store. I like how warm and personalized the service is- whether you are at the store or not. I find that your staff are courteous and caring. So would you say that the relationships with your customers also keeps them coming?
To a certain extent, relationships matter, especially because I am in fashion and most women have one area of the body or the other that they struggle with. It is important to us that your Xclamations outfit accentuates what is best about you and that you leave our store feeling like you are worth more than a million dollars.
That said though, the relationships only compliment an excellent product. With the same attention to customers and poor quality outfits or designs that are neither trendy nor flattering, the relationships would not matter and your clients will go elsewhere. The hard work has to go in first!
One of the books you and I read, is the “Success Principles” by Jack Canfield and in it, he says that the best thing about living your dreams and playing full-out, is not arriving at your destination, but the person you become in the process of reaching for that destination. Who would you say you have become as a result of this entrepreneurial journey. What has it done for you?
One of the major things this journey has given me is a deeper love and appreciation for myself! “I really just like Ayotomi”. This is important because I started off not knowing I could do it. I knew I had to, knew I wanted to, but could I do it successfully? I did not know! People kept saying “you resigned from a bank, to make ready-to-wear clothes?” I had to keep defending my dreams- I saw something they did not see but in spite of that, there were times when I wanted to give up, when it felt like the road was long, difficult and lonely! But you know where this love comes from? It comes from knowing I stuck it out! I didn’t give up when I could! That I stuck to it. When I see an Xclamations outfit or hear our client’s glee- something inside me smiles, I feel like- look what I’m capable of in spite of everything!
I also love who I’ve become! I have learnt how to relate with people, always looking for the diamond in the rough when I choose my staff. I have come to learn that there is a spark of genius in everyone and it is what you bring out of them.
This last question and its response really intrigued me, because as I told Ayotomi, I find it common in women and in my own case, I find, that at every point, I find something about me to be unhappy about, something that needs more work, a reason to be dissatisfied. And a couple of years ago, I decided, to just love myself regardless of my flaws and so i tell her, “its intriguing to me that it is your journey that brought that out for you”. To which she responds:
I totally get how you feel and I find that to be the beauty of throwing yourself into birthing whatever your vision is. That at the end of the day, you see how multifaceted you are, you see all of the treasures and resources that are inside you- every Xclamations piece- is a reflection of me. You begin to see and value that there is a genius in you and you are not just your weight or your issues! You are much more than that.
It has also taught me patience, patience with the process! Ironically, it has also taught me impatience- impatience for excuses, for bad quality for not going the whole nine yards.
So what advice will you give to someone who is starting out in any line of entrepreneurial endeavor?
I would say be authentic! People can smell a fake from miles away. You can only be really good at being yourself- when you start to do things you are not excited or passionate about, it will show.
Also, there’s a lot more to running a business than talent! If you have the opportunity to work with someone who is already doing what you want to do, work with the person and learn. It is priceless when you work to learn, it is also priceless when you work with an entrepreneurial spirit, because you then work with your eyes on the ball, ensuring that none drops. Working like that not only makes you invaluable to your employer but also prepares you for when you start your journey.
Yes, I know what you mean. I call it “employpreneurship”.
Tell us something surprising about yourself?
She throws her head back and laughs! I am a closet dancer! I can often be found dancing with my kids to very loud music our hands in the air!
Wow! So much wisdom! So much to learn! The effortless excellence! I come out feeling that I could not have gotten a more valuable return on my investment in time! Thank you Ayotomi!
Visit the Xclamations website on www.xclamations.net and have your beautiful outfits delivered to your doorstep!