How They Started- Ruff N Tumble: From Car Boot To Top Brand

Dear Entrepreneur,

Today we start a series on African business success stories.

The inspiration behind this series is to learn from Africa’s top businesspeople as they reveal how they built their companies and to also motivate you in your business journey

This week we bring to you the scintillating story of Ruff n Tumble. Its one of the iconic Nigeria business brands that still remains relevant 26 years after it started.

Ruff ‘N’ Tumble, an indigenous apparel brand in Nigeria that specializes in children’s clothing, was founded in 1996 by Adenike Ogunlesi. The story of this brand is a classic business tale that should encourage and motivate Entrepreneurs on how spotting how perseverance and innovation can transform an idea into a multi-million naira business with recognition beyond the borders of Nigeria. Ruff n Tumble has evolved from a business started from the boot of Adenike’s car to a respected brand in the children apparel industry with outlets in over 15 locations.

In the Founders Words, Ruff n Tumble was borne out of a necessity to get pyjamas for her children- “I had not traveled and was seeking for items for my three children. So I had to hunt locally for what I could get, but either the quality was subpar or it was prohibitively expensive. So, because I had previously worked as a seamstress, I decided to make something for my children. So I started crafting something for my kids, and my sister-in-law asked if I could do something for them as well. That was the start of the company. It arose as a result of a personal need.”

As the business grew she saw the need to put structures and processes around it and to also improve on customer engagement and according to her  “That’s where we introduced computerisation and started using an enterprise resource planning (ERP) system. We put in place all the customer engagement [strategies], such as getting customer data, sending them text messages, thanking them when they shop, and calling them when we haven’t seen them for a while” .

Soon the business was expanding rapidly and today has become a major African retail success story, with branded stores across the country

Lessons From The Brand.

The lessons here are multiple and this is where you need to pay attention

Entrepreneurship is all about identifying opportunities or needs in the market and  then meeting that need. Discovering opportunities can be a deliberate act but is oftentimes by accident, however the important thing is that you RECOGNIZE that opportunity. Recognizing opportunities is a cognitive process that relies on the ability of people to recognize patterns and connect the dots. Ruff n Tumble was borne out of Adenike identifying the problem of fewer brands catering for children’s clothing and immediately spotted the opportunity in this need.

Identifying the opportunity and going for it is just the beginning and there’s still so much work to be done to distinguish yourself in the market. Innovation is another key factor as you grow and helps businesses stay relevant in a competitive market. Even when you are selling the same thing everyone is selling, try and do something that will make yours stand out from the crowd.  For example the Company pioneered the innovative marketing strategy of using children models as brand ambassadors to promote its brand. She started with her own children and would dress them in outfits she has made for sales and take pictures of them to serve as a catalogue for potential customers. This was a subtle but very strategic marketing strategy that made the customers identify with her brand and led to explosive sales.

Her brand has also emphasized the needs for businesses to always consider their customer base and seek for ways to improve on the products and services. Adenike’s firm has expanded from the Ruff ‘n’ Tumble clothing line with the development of two new brands – NaijaBoysZ and Trendsetters – while still targeting young people. This brand was created to appeal to the unique fashion sense of today’s young adults while also highlighting Nigeria’s emerging youth’s colorful iconoclastic fashion sense.

Parting Words

Nike says, “Be focused and clear in your mind about what you want to do. If you set out to do something, complete it. Don’t procrastinate. It is also important that you develop yourself. Finish your degree and then you start a whole way of learning. Self-development makes you know yourself, your strengths and weaknesses.”

She advises other aspiring entrepreneurs to continue their learning by reading any business or management book they can get their hands on, and to draw up vision boards to help them see where they want to be in the next three to 10 years. “Because the choices you make will come from the direction of your thoughts and that’s what will become your reality. So it is very powerful,” she explained.

“And when you think you have made a mistake… take the learnings from it, dust yourself off and move on. Don’t stay in that place, just move on. But if you hold onto your vision and what it is you want to create, the universe will align. It always does.”

We couldn’t have said it better.

Wish you a productive week.


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