In this interview Founder, Veekee James, a leading luxury fashion brand in Nigeria, Ruth Eritan James, speaks with Sunday Ehigiator about her brand, and the need for government to be more intentional about Small and Medium Scale Enterprises (SMEs)
Let’s meet you?
My name is Ruth Eritan James; I am from a family of three. I am an only daughter with two brothers. We were all born and raised in Ajegunle, Lagos, mostly by mom as my dad passed when we were still so little, there were great times and a lot of really tough times but that all shaped me into the resilient young businesswoman that I have become.
I went to primary and secondary school in Lagos then embarked on a tertiary journey for a Degree in Biochemistry at the University of Uyo, that did not go as my family would’ve liked it at the time, I was one of the brightest kids from high school but at college, my fashion business side kept fighting the academic and it won, a flawless victory might I add. I dropped from college to pursue the life I now live and love in fashion. I believe firmly in education and so on, I will bag my first degree.
What informed your interest in fashion?
My mother was a tailor, she was great at it. This is how she was able to raise us; she had many different young girls trained under her, so that space was a natural resource for me. I hung around there so long that the skill just found its way to me, so much so that I started sewing without any cautious intent to learn because it came so naturally. I kept doing it and I made so many dresses for friends from high school for free because it felt good, it did not feel like work at all, it does now but I love it dearly.
Tell us about Veekee James as a brand?
Veekee James is a luxury fashion brand and I do not say that to imply that we are expensive as that is subjective, but because the very foundation of our service is to ensure that when any client puts on an item from us, they feel really good.
To wear Veekee James is to look and feel good and that is what luxury means to me.
How long have you been in business?
Almost too long, I might say, I have done so much from childhood; I made and sold knitted accessories from like 8 years old, started making dresses, went into hairdressing and make-overs then finally settled with fashion designing. None of these ventures failed, I made good strides with every handwork I tried, I would transition into a new creative area and would keep getting countless consistent calls from clients and references from my previous vocational adventure.
One would argue that Veekee James is at least 7 years old because I had decided to stick to fashion design around that time, but I would say the brand is just about 3 years old. The level of business awareness and discipline I have developed to build a fashion business like Veekee James can only be allotted to the past three years the level of growth the brand has seen from only 2 years ago is alarming and almost feels like a lot like dream. So I would say that Veekee James has been in business for 3 years as a brand.
What stand you out as a brand?
Authenticity, the absolute intent to be original and creative in designs, stands us out.
Where do you draw your inspiration?
From a few designers online, the creative international fashion space, and God who has blessed me with such a gifted mind and talent.
Tell us about some of your brand accomplishments?
There have been a few awards, then there’s the immense growth of my social media. When people interact like that, you know you offer great value.
What would you consider the most notable accomplishment as a brand?
The expansion of the business in this year, half of it is not gone and we have surpassed the financial target, the showroom has been revamped to perfection, a new separate workspace is ready for the staff and business just keeps rolling in. Building a brand with exceptional growth like this is my biggest accomplishment.
What’s your working mantra and brand specialization?
Well, it is to always seek perfection on every idea, that way you can get as close as possible to perfection even if you do not attain it, as for specialization, the brand is very versatile, and there are no bonds.
As a young lady in this line of business, how do you keep up with meeting clients’ deadlines?
Well, I would be very wrong to imply that I have the absolute perfect plan for this, but honestly one has to love what they do so that when you have to work into the late hours of the night which is almost all the time, you are not losing sleep and doing what you do not love at the same time. Be willing to invest inadequate human resources and good equipment, it should not all be done by oneself and done not take on more than you can, be hungry, not greedy.
Also, who are your role models?
My very fabulous self
Where do you see your brand in the next 10 years?
I see my brand going bigger, a lot bigger with several spaces beyond Nigeria.
Is the country’s economy favourable to MSMEs like you?
The true answer to this is in my view no! This is my opinion and it might be subjective.
What role do you think government can play in supporting the growth of MSME’s?
The government needs to be intentional about SME growth, policies need to be developed to encourage the creation and sustainability of a small business, more easily accessible SME funding initiatives, relaxed and growth facilitating tax regulations and rates, swift and affordable SME legalization procedures, and a lot less custom/excise duties and shipping regulations, this is a major problem. I would like to believe that government knows what to do.
How do you unwind?
I do not get to do that as often as I should, but I get outdoors with family and friends, depending on the mood, might go see a movie, go clubbing, and eat somewhere, the normal stuff. I must begin to travel more; I have not had the time for it.
Any other information you would love to put out?
I must send love to my online community for all the love and support, they go hard for me and my client base in Nigeria and abroad, especially because more than 80 per cent of my clientele are based abroad but they support me so much and keep coming with all the referrals, I just want to say that I am so grateful for all of you, thank you so much.