On the 1st of October, 2018, Kikelomo Onipede won the award for Women’s Wear Designer of the Year at the La Mode Magazine event. The award sits proudly on her office table, a reminder of not giving up on her journey of becoming.
Kikelomo is the creative designer and the CEO of Kiksplace, a fashion company, which caters to both male and female wears.
Located in one of the choicest places in Lagos state, Kikelomo’s office is a beautiful place to shop. A walk into her space reveals the tailoring room; her showrooms, where ready-to-wear clothing is neatly hung, while unmade fabrics are stored in a different room.
With customers in and outside the country, Kikelomo’s dreams are gradually coming to pass but the journey to getting to where she is cannot be forgotten in a hurry. So when she hears people say that she just came from nowhere to be where she is, she smiles and tells them that they did not see the struggle.
“It’s been from grass to Grace but God has been faithful”, she said.
In a chat with Sola Abe for Woman.NG, Kikelomo shares the journey to becoming who she is today and how she built her business.
The first of four children, Kikelomo comes from a humble background but she always knew and told herself that she wanted to be more and that has always been her motivation.
A graduate of English Language from the University of Ado-Ekiti, Ekiti State, Kikelomo sold readily made clothes in school to survive. Despite the financial challenges, Kikelomo was able to make the most of her university experiences. While in school, Kikelomo managed and maintained what she had so well that she won the award for the best dressed female student twice.
“I am not someone who expects a rich relative to help her. I made that my watchword from while I was a child. I made it a mental note not to depend on people. Your parents do not owe you anything. I never for once blamed anyone. Yes, I was disappointed at a point but you just let it go. Nobody owes me anything and that is my watchword”, a mentality that helped Kikelomo push harder at her goals.
Unknowing to her, she was preparing herself for the future through her experiences of doing business in school.
The journey to becoming a fashion designer
After graduation from the university, Kikelomo worked with few consulting firms but she knew they weren’t what she wanted to do. There were times she cried on her way to work and it was only a matter of time before her boss knew that she wasn’t happy.
On her last job, her boss asked her what she wanted to do and Kikelomo said fashion. With the blessing of her boss, she sent in her resignation letter.
Thankfully, she had a friend who was a fashion designer, so, she worked with her as the manager of her fashion house, learning the basics of sewing and managing tailors.
Kikelomo’s experiences at the fashion house made her discover that she didn’t enjoy sewing. In fact, she went to a fashion school and tried sewing but she just didn’t make headway with it.
“I knew sewing is not my thing. I just don’t enjoy it, but I know that picking and knowing what to do with fabrics was my thing. So, I source for fabrics and I do the design. The idea is knowing where my gifting is and looking out for people that will work in line with me”, she said.
So, when Kikelomo was going to start her clothing line, she started with male outfits following her friend’s advice. Soon, she noticed people always asked her where she made her outfit whenever she went out and that was how she got the idea to start a female ready-to-wear line.
Being someone who loves to look simple and knowing that there would be people like her, Kikelomo decided to cater to such needs.
“People want to do naming ceremony and want to hide the tummy; people just want to look simple and very comfortable for any kind of occasion or for a dinner and you don’t want to be all worked up” , Kikelomo explained.
Meanwhile, Kikelomo did not start out her clothing line just like that, some sad experiences led her to taking one of the most defining decisions of her life and four years on, she hasn’t regretted launching out. Infact, she wished she had started earlier.
Asides’ being severally abused by her boss’s mum, Kikelomo’s experience with a rude customer was the last straw that broke her camel’s back.
She had been instructed by her boss to deliver an outfit to someone and they were to meet at The Palms Shopping Mall in Lekki. Meanwhile, Kikelomo was dealing with fibroid at the time.
“It was terrible. It was a bad one that month, in and out, I was bleeding. The bleeding was so much that at a time I started wearing diapers; I couldn’t use the normal sanitary pad. So, climbing the Lekki phase 1 bridge was always an issue for me because I was always tired. I would walk for a short distance and the blood clot will just come out”, she explained.
On getting to the customer who requested to test the clothes, their only option was the rest room.
“We got in there and I couldn’t put the clothes on the floor or anywhere else except the commode. Then she just gave me a slap on my back, asking me not to put her clothes there. Looking at who I was dealing with, age shouldn’t even come in but then it had to. I looked at her and myself and the water started pouring. That day, I decided I was done”, a heartbreaking experience for Kikelomo.
On raising capital for her business
Kikelomo didn’t have up to 200, 000 when she started her business. In fact, when she was selling online, she was staying with a friend. However, knowing the picture of what she wanted, she was determined to save for it.
“I’m not somebody that wants to borrow from anybody. I would rather save to the point where I know I can carry out my plans. I started Kiksplace with what I had and then I saved from there till I got here”, she beamed with a huge smile on her face.
There were days’ when doing business was overwhelming; the thought of whether she was getting it right, especially when customers seemed to be complaining about her services gets to her, those days, she is tempted to throw in the towel.
But for the love for what she does, Kikelomo would have given up. Also, she has the responsibility of catering for her parents and siblings and she wants to do more for herself. So, whenever she feels like giving up, Kikelomo takes time off work to rest.
From working at a fashion house, Kikelomo realised that staff want to be paid, paid well and on time and not just work in a conducive environment. With this understanding, Kikelomo says that she’s been working with the same set of tailors since she started her business. Now they have become family.
“How often do you owe them? Do they work a 100k and you slash it when it’s time to pay them? For them, they work and wanna get paid. They see that you are making sales, so why are you not paying them? Even if my own money doesn’t come in, as long as they work, they get paid. I don’t put it out there that I need tailors, the people that work for me walk up to me because I pray for them”.
Entrepreneurship is not just about doing business, it’s a school and for Kikelomo, her business has taught her about life. It has taught her to be patient, taught her about human relationship, to save more, to be who she is and never to look out for what another person is doing.
“I’ve had people suggest to me to do it the way someone is doing theirs but I just want to be consistent with my own style. Kiksplace has taught me that we are all going through different things”.