- Segun and Ronke Abiona started the Nicole and Giovanni brand in 2014
- They made about $100,000 in the first 24 months
- They have also managed to successfully deal with the challenges that come up when couples run businesses together.
What happens when a married couple runs a business together? For many, the lack of work-life boundaries present challenges that end up breaking the marriage. However, they are a few who manage to figure out how to make things work without letting this third part of the triangle - the business - ruin things.
Segun and Ronke Abiona, the couple behind the Nicole and Giovanni brand, fall into the second group. Since launching the business back in 2014, they have managed to successfully deal with the issues as they come up and turn the brand into a successful one.
In this interview, they tell Business Insider Sub-Saharan Africa how this was achieved, the inspiration and more.
Business Insider Sub-Saharan Africa (BI SSA): What is the inspiration behind launching Socks, Ties and Briefs.
Segun: Nicole and Giovanni is a brand built on divine inspiration. Back in 2013 while I was still based in the UK, I had a divine instruction from God to launch out with socks. The next day, I called Aderonke and shared this idea with her. She asked a few questions and assured me she was on board. After much research, we were further convinced it was a "must-do" because it was one area of fashion that was yet to be harnessed in Nigeria. Earlier this year (2018), the first week in January to be precise, there was another urge to expand into other fashion accessories - Ties, Pocket Squares and Men's Trunks and we ran with it.
Nicole is our daughter's middle name while Giovanni is our son's middle name. I considered quite a number of names but the names Nicole and Giovanni resonated strongly with the reason why I was venturing into the business. I intend to leave a legacy and that desire drove the choice of the business name.
BI SSA: How did you birth Nicole and Giovanni and what was the cost?
Segun: When we launched Nicole and Giovanni back in 2014, we had no budget set aside for the venture. Two months after my return to Nigeria, I gained employment at FCMB while Aderonke was working at her previous company - Ericsson. Both jobs were tasking and took up the greater percentage of our time. One day, I got back from work and Aderonke showed me a video clip on Youtube. It was about a woman who ran a unique and highly successful hosiery company in the US. The moment I saw the clip, I knew I couldn't delay any longer. I put my head in my palms and said to God "How do I do this?" Suddenly I heard the words "What do you have in your hands?" Immediately, I remembered my credit cards. I got it and began my search for a manufacturer. I couldn't sleep. That very night, I found my very first sock manufacturer, a search I have been on for months with no breakthrough. My initial investment was $5000.
BI SSA: How successful has it been monetarily?
Segun: We launched out in 2013 and so far, it has been very successful. Our first 24 months generated a revenue of about $100,000 and we have grown ever since.
Aderonke: This year, by divine instruction and popular demand, we increased our product offerings by launching "The Seed Collection" - a collection of Premium Socks, Neck Ties, Bow Ties and Pocket Squares. We were also recently recognized by Business Day as one of the Top 100 fastest growing SMEs in Nigeria for the year 2018.
BI SSA: What are the challenges of running a business as a couple?
Segun: Hmmm…let me think on this for a minute (smiles). Well, I guess the fact that discussions around the business seep through almost every conversation within and outside the office. That being said, I would say the PROs far outweigh the CONs for us.
Aderonke: Yes, we are so used to it, now it doesn't seem abnormal. We run a very lean business model and it is almost impossible to avoid this because there is so much to be done. The moment we complete a project, another one looms right ahead.
BI SSA: Can you tell us some of the best experiences for you so far?
Segun: The best experiences… there have been so many. Whenever I receive a call or message from a customer, it makes my day. The dreams I had while working for my previous employers are gradually becoming a reality fully sponsored by Nicole and Giovanni. Aderonke and I get to expand our knowledge and experiences worldwide.
Aderonke: We spend quality time with our family and children. Last year, we launched in the US and were at Harvard together. This year, we have had several POP UP events across several key locations within Nigeria. We embark on most of these trips together and they enable us to spend even more time together working, discovering new trends and having some fun while at it.
BI SSA: How do you manage through a clash of ideas?
Segun: As it is with any team of professionals, a clash of ideas is inevitable. Aderonke handles everything Tech, Project Management and Manufacturing while I oversee Innovation, Sales, Marketing, Branding and Design. There is always an interception of these tasks so we run everything by each other and welcome varied ideas.
Aderonke: The person who is best skilled in that area of discussion decides which idea will be executed. If it ends up being a bad decision, we learn from it, count our losses and keep it moving. There is a great deal of respect for each other's area of specialization and it isn't a coincidence because we excelled for several years in our previous jobs