Seun Bamiro is a serial entrepreneur who has paid his dues in business over the years. He is the founder and C.E.O of Ynorth Wears. He is unarguably the biggest indigenous fashion brand owner in Ibadan. He is a multi award winning entrepreneur and he has moved ahead of his game to distinguish himself from his peers. ADEBOWALE ISHOLA engaged him at his expansive Oluyole office where he spoke about how he built his brand, how he has sustained the brand and how he plans to make the brand outlive him.
How did the Ynorth brand come about?
In 2010, my Girlfriend bought me a handmade slippers and some of my friends saw the slippers and they liked it. So, they asked me to help them get same slippers. I then went to meet the guy that sold the slippers to my wife, I told him that instead of you making money from me, I would like to make money from his business too.
So, I told him to produce some slippers for me to sell to my friends. Unfortunately, the guy was putting foreign labels on the slippers and I asked him why he was doing that, he said if he should put his own brand name on the slippers, people will not buy made in Nigeria products from him. During my conversation with the guy, I was consistently asking him “Why not our made in Nigeria Product” which was what brought up the name YNORTH. So, the brand name came from asking questions on why not made in Nigeria wears.
As a startup business in 2010, how were you able to fund the business?
Before I started Ynorth, I had already done some businesses. The first business I ventured into was the marketing of a drink called “TAMPICO” in Lagos. I was 18 years when I started the Tampico business. I made some money from the business before I stopped. Few years after, I then moved on to join a network marketing business brought to Nigeria by some Lebanese. I was doing the network marketing business while I was studying at Lagos State Polytechnic. But my main financier for the takeoff of Ynorth wears was my Mum, she gave me a loan of N100,000 in 2010 to start the business.
How have you been able to sustain the funding of the business over the years?
At the earlier stage of the business, I was getting funds mostly from family and friends. Later I discovered that such source of funding was not sustainable, so I decided to get some investors involved in the business so as to make the funding more sustainable. After some years, I decided to expend the business, so I had to move to getting loans from the banks which is one of the best ways of funding expansion in business.
How has the acceptance been from Nigerians, considering the fact that Ynorth Wears is a Made in Nigeria brand?
About three years after Ynorth Wears was launched, some people even thought it was a foreign brand because of the name and the quality of our products. But, over the years, more people have known Ynorth Wears as a leading Made in Nigeria brand. I can confidently say that Ynorth Wears is a household name in and outside Nigeria.
What is your greatest fear in business?
My greatest fear in business is for my brand not to outlive me. That has always been a concern to me as a businessman. I believe any business that can’t live or survive without the founder is a failed business. I have a five year plan to get the Ynorth brand to the Nigerian Stock Exchange, by doing this, there would be opportunities for more investors to come on board which will definitely strengthen the brand and will also allow the brand run without me being involved.
In nine years of existence of Ynorth Wears, how can you rate the success of the brand?
Well, to the glory of God, Ynorth Wears is the first Made in Nigeria brand to occupy a shop at the Palms Mall Ibadan. Today we have a combined figure of 64 stores and outlets spread across Nigeria. Our products are locally produced with high quality material and we are getting massive acceptance from the general public. I can say the Ynorth Wears brand is not yet where it is projected to be, but the brand is not where it used to be.
When was your most satisfying moment as an entrepreneur?
That was three years ago when we launched the first Ynorth Wears Store inside a shopping mall (Palms Mall, Ibadan). It was a day of fulfillment for me, as everyone including myself could not believe how I pull that through. Majority of our guests on the launch day came to know how I was able to afford a shop in the expensive shopping mall.
How do you cope with competitors in your line of business?
As a serial businessman, I always ensure I stay ahead of my game just to make sure my brand is in a class of its own. I am a proactive businessman, I look ahead to the future, so it is always difficult to get any competitor with such approach to business. I see my brand competing with foreign brands, so I see those foreign brands as my competitors.
Where do you see Ynorth wears in the next five years?
I see my brand being listed on the Nigeria Stock Exchange. I see Nigerians and non Nigerians buying Ynorth shares at the stock market.
Kindly highlight some of your achievements as an entrepreneur?
Well, I have won some couple of awards over the years as being an entrepreneur, but I don’t really work towards winning awards, though I am always happy whenever I win one, but I have set goals, achieving those goals is actually my own best achievement.
What is your favorite aspect of being an entrepreneur.
My favorite aspect of being an entrepreneur is kind of funny. It is the feeling I get when I get to some places and people don’t know who I am until I get introduced as Ynorth.
What would you want the government to do to help businesses like yours grow stronger?
The fashion industry is very saturated and not well organized. I would like the industry to have a sort of regulating body to put up a structure for the industry players. I also want the government to make it easier for young entrepreneurs to access loans and grants so as to expand our businesses. We also need an enabling environment that would encourage foreign partners to come to Nigeria to partner with us in production.
What advice would you give young folks planning to be an entrepreneur?
The first advice for them is to be patient, focused and hardworking. Sincerely, it is not an easy journey being an entrepreneur, because, the journey is not always smooth as planned. It is always back and forth for an entrepreneur, you win some and you lose some. Being a successful entrepreneur simply means that regardless of all the challenges and obstacle you never quit the journey. Another advice for them is that they should start very early. I started being an entrepreneur at the age of 18 and I started Ynorth at the age of 24.
Kindly share a bit about your growing up?
I grew up in Ibadan, though I am an Ijebu man. I am the only child of my parents. I lost my father at a very tender age. I attended Government College Ibadan and Lagos State Polytechnic.
What would you wish you had done differently in life?
I really wish I had been a good Son to my father. I am the only child of my parents and I lost my father very early in life. I used to be a troublesome child while growing up and most of my actions then used to make my father unhappy with me. I really wish my father is alive right now to see what I have become and how I have outgrown those bad behaviors that are always making him unhappy with me. I also thank God that his early death has helped me shaped my life in the right direction. I have been able to work on myself over the years and I believe my father would be so proud of me wherever he is right now.