” And has made us unto our God kings and priests: and we shall reign on the earth.” (Revelation 5:10-KJV) Ever come across this scripture? I’ll assume it’s a yes. But have you pondered on it for a few seconds? It’s saying you have a dual mission on earth. One is ‘King-ing’ over your chosen kingdom or domain and also being a priest unto God. These two are prerequisites for reigning on the earth. Having laid that foundation, let’s meet one of those “king-ing” and “priest-ing” in the fashion industry. This king is a female one though☺ Come, meet her for yourself.
1nebody: Could you introduce yourself please.
ABM: My name is Mrs Mae Okutade ( Née Odutola). A serial entrepreneur and currently the Creative Director of “AppealbyMae” brand. I studied Management Information Systems at Covenant University, Nigeria.
1nebody:Tell us a bit about the brand. How, when and why it started.
ABM: “AppealbyMae” has evolved in the past few years. It started with testing the waters but now we’re a full-fledged female wear brand with the tagline:promoting intimacy and decency. When we started out, my very first collection was for mothers and daughters. I was making matching outfits.Many people don’t know that your clothing actually builds bonds. I had tried ready- to- wear items but I didn’t like the idea of just making clothes and never being able to meet my clients. I was making money but I wasn’t fulfilled. Then, it progressed to bridals. I wouldn’t trade my bridal line for anything in the world. Getting to be part of someone’s big day is huge for me. However, I’ve always had a flair for fashion right from when i was a child. I remember drawing Cinderella dresses in my primary school text books and everywhere else I always got punished.I loved to coordinate my outfits myself as a kid and stressed my mum a lot about what to buy and how to wear it (laughs).On a serious note; I registered my business name in 2012 while i was in my 3rd year and decided to produce and sell in Nigeria.
1nebody: So you’ve been in business for about five years?
ABM: Yes, 5 years unofficially and 2 years officially. I just registered early to secure my name and also commit myself to building the brand. I had to complete my first degree and undergo the mandatory National Youth Service before finally starting out. While serving, I saved my allowances for the whole year and used the money to get equipments to set up my first work space.
1nebody: Wow. You were super focused for that stage in life.
ABM: It was a brave move and I still applaud myself till date. Being focused also helped me to pursue what I wanted head-on. I had so many job opportunities which I turned down because I had already discovered what I wanted to do.Creating gives me so much joy.I’ve had a lot of ups and down moments but I’ve never lost focus of my goals which keep evolving too. In fact, a particular employer wanted to employ me because he felt it was rare to find a graduate that was so focused. As tempting as the offer was, I also turned it down. 1nebody: Incredible. So tell us about this bridal line that gives you so much joy.
ABM: Hmm. I’ll start by saying that God has blessed me with a discerning spirit. So much so that once I sight a dress, the Holy Spirit helps me to know how I can make a replica of same. I actually walk in the reality of being a god in my fashion business. I had done a bit of outsourcing before I started full time but a lot of times, I wasn’t pleased with the turn-out so it propelled me better to learn to do it by myseIf and it didn’t take me long at all because I believe so much in myself and I encourage people a lot. I don’t employ already- made tailors. Once I can tell you have the passion for it, I employ you and teach you myself from scratch.
1nebody: What inspires you especially with regards to making outfits?
ABM: “Impossible”. I like to dare those things that people tag as impossible. So many told me many things about fashion designing. Like it is impossible to do well in the business without having a formal education. Whenever I hear impossible, it inspires me. I want to show you that something can be done about it. It gets me all gingered to get it done. Colours also inspire me. They get my imagination endless.
1nebody: What keeps you going?
ABM: God does. The Holyspirit. Whenever I make a mistake in cutting and realize it,I just ask the Holyspirit for His help. And guess what? Most times that’s the part my client loves the most. I know that can only be God. Sometimes, I’m even done with the job and I think, “this should have been better” but when the client sees it, she wows. I know it can only be God. Especially with the Nigerian economy, God just keeps showing up. There were times when I felt,maybe I should just close my shop but at the nick of time, God sends a client my way. He keeps me going and to little me, He’s been very faithful.
1nebody:Little you indeed (laughs). So what part of the human body would you relate your business to?
ABM: It’ll be tough to relate it to only one part.I see my business as the marketplace. No matter who you are, rich/poor, old/young; you need clothes. Since the fall of Adam, Man has needed to put on clothes. I’m sure you know the perception of Nigerian tailors. Disappointment, lies, greed etc but I have consciously distinguished myself. Fashion for me is the market place. I have learned to see my business as the market place for the gospel. As a market place leader, I can’t just do a shabby job.
1nebody: Do you mean you see your business as a market place to propagate the gospel?
ABM: Absolutely yes. I have had the opportunity of pointing people to Christ through my business several times. But I don’t just tell them the cliché answer “it’s God o”. It’s also important to tell them how God did it as well. That’s the most important aspect which many people fail to do. I had a muslim come to my workshop last week. She wanted to set up something similar and was asking for my advice. I told her about core values, what to do/what not to do. She confessed that she was already learning a lot from me since she started making outfits from me. Being a muslim, I could not tell her, “the Holyspirit taught me this or that”; she wouldn’t have been able to relate with what I was saying. But I was able to tell her the processes of how I got to where I am which she can better relate with. Christians need to stop saying “it’s God” . You need to also tell them the process so they can see how God did it. After telling them, they understand that God is your backbone. To every Christian out there, please tell them more than “it’s God”. Some people don’t know how God helped them but it’s not out of place to pray and ask God ‘show me how you helped me” so that I can bless others with my testimony.
1nebody: How else do you think Christians can dominate their respective sectors? ABM: I tell people to be excellent in whatever they do. If you’re working for others, be excellent too. It’s unfair to be unproductive and expect to be paid at the end of the month. Even when no one is watching, be valuable. It’s the challenge many entrepreneurs are facing. The workers expect to be paid at the end of every month even when they haven’t been productive. I try to break such thoughts from my tailors. The Bible says, a worker should not be denied of his wages but it means you must have worked to earn those wages.
1nebody: This has been so impactful. The bit about the marketplace is totally captivating. Could you say a bit more?
ABM: The market place leader is also something I have in the works. For now, it’s called “market place leader”, it’s targeted at getting teenagers to learn a skill. We’ve been running it for a while now. During the program, we teach them basics on fashion. 1nebody: Is that run round the year or at particular times? ABM:We haven’t had a time-table for it but beginning next year God’s willing, we’ll have a time table for it. It works well during the long vacation. I also did something for University students and it’ll come up again in January. When we get more volunteers, we can teach them other skills . For now, it’s strictly focused on fashion designing. It’s a crash course and the primary aim is to identify the passionate ones whom we would eventually work with.
1nebody: Goodness!! You do that too?
ABM: Yes, we do. I am very passionate about teenagers because I want them to start out early. That way, they get focused early enough and can achieve a lot more in a few years. I thank God I started early but I wish I had even earlier. 1nebody: Wow. This has been more than impactful. We would keep opening up deeper discussions if we don’t bring this to a close. It’s been such a great time talking to you. We’ve learnt a whole lot beginning with being market place leaders. God bless you for sharing your “king-ing” testimonies.
ABM:Thanks for providing a platform to share. God bless you too.