Ayo attributes her laid back style to growing up in Port Harcourt. A woman of many talents, she enjoys singing, dancing, drawing, meditating and listening to music. An alumnus of the Federal Government Girls’ College Abuloma, Ayo holds a degree in Mathematics and Computer Science from the Rivers State University of Science and Technology as well as some certifications from NIIT and Aptech.
26 year old Ayo, runs Colours of C.U.E, an Abuja based creative powerhouse. She speaks to us about harnessing her creative talents into a profitable business venture.
How did you get the idea for Colours of Cue?
Growing up, I always knew that I wasn’t cut out for a white collar job because I easily get bored with routine. I wanted an avenue to widely express my various passions and talents. It was just a longing for me at the time and not even a business idea. C.U.E is a stage name I coined for myself and the name Colours of C.U.E describes the various personalities of C.U.E.
What steps did you take to actualise your idea?
The first step I took was to imagine. I didn’t consider the actual state of my finances or my inabilities. I wasn’t scared to imagine big so I pictured everything that I would love to do. This picture in my head motivated me. I wrote down every detail and with time I expanded on the details and thought about how to achieve those goals considering my resources at the time.
I did a lot of reading and research online. For instance, I would google, “how to start a company” or “how to be a designer”, and read up on the information available. I wrote down key points, referred to them often and prayed a lot.
I did this until I gained enough confidence to write out a plan but I never put figures otherwise, I would have been scared. I just believed that I could do all things through Christ who strengthens me.
At a time, the plan became a part of me. I was effortlessly attracting opportunities that tallied with my dream. I jumped at every opportunity and gained returns. The process was fun and exciting and never felt like work.
Please tell us a bit about Colours of C.U.E and how long have you run it for?
I’ve been running the business since 2008 but it became a registered company in April 2011. It’s a creative company that offers a wide range of products and services. At present:
We design and produce clothing and fashion accessories including swimwear, casual, work wear, evening wear, jewellery, and accessories for both male and female clients. We offer ready-to-wear clothing as well as bespoke services.
We define and develop a client’s/company’s image or brand identity employing visual methods such as logos, corporate stationery, websites, banners, ad campaigns, promotional clips, promo items, and outdoor displays.
We sign on aspiring models and train them to meet international standards. Models trained by Colours of C.U.E are highly sought after in the industry. Watch out for the official commissioning of the Colours of Cue Models in 2013!
We conduct workshops, courses and training on some of the services we offer. One of our frequently held workshops is tagged “CONCEIVE”, where participants are equipped with the commercial skills needed to transform them into business owners.
Do you have any formal training in design?
Well, not exactly. Fashion designing came naturally but I learned the sewing basics from an excellent designer and friend, “Scissors & Buttons”. For graphics design, I have an Information Systems Management background from Aptech. This training helped my design experience because it got me comfortable with computer applications. With that introduction, I expanded on my knowledge and learned how to use design applications from instincts, trial and error, online info and downloaded tutorials.
I still plan to get more formal education on these very soon. Just for the fun of it.
How are you able to access funding?
In the beginning, I never had access to the funds needed to operate. I mostly had a fraction of the cost or nothing at all. What I do is, I create a picture, figure out what needs to be done, cost it, pray about it and opportunities arise. I utilize the opportunities and produce funds or skill which I use to foot the bills.
I discovered this one trick while I was developing and I still use it till date. The trick is to invest so much in knowledge, exposure and skills such that your brain becomes the capital for your business.
With this trick, you end up doing a lot of what needs to be paid for yourself. For the others that you aren’t interested in doing yourself, there is always some expertise or knowledge that you could offer in exchange for whatever you need. Where there is a will, there’s always a way. Most importantly, I have grace and favour from above.
How do you create your designs? Do you draw by hand or use computer software?
When a concept comes to mind, I quickly sketch it using pencil and paper. To get a clearer representation, I sketch onto my laptop using a Wacom tablet and a design application. I’m fond of using Adobe Illustrator to develop my ideas.
What inspires your designs?
I believe I get inspired by the Holy Spirit within me. He helps me visualise concepts; like how the shape of a vintage car can influence a jacket or a logo. I also get influenced by nature, emotions, environment, music, scenarios, and colours. Traces of these factors tend to come up in my designs.
What is your motivation?
My motivation is the word of God as contained in the Bible. It tells me that I am a masterpiece, well fashioned, and equipped with the ability to do and be anything approved by God. To me, I just want to stretch and see how far this masterpiece can go. How unstoppable this masterpiece can be.
Life is a gift, I didn’t make myself or the talents I have. I just found myself on earth with these abilities, so I’m curious to explore what I’ve found. My motivation is simply to be who God says I am, expressing the perfections that God has invested in me.
That is where my company slogan comes from; “The Expression of God’s Perfection (1 Peter 2:9)”
What challenges, have you faced in the course of your job and as a young person running a business in Nigeria?
In the course of my job, one challenge I’ve faced is being underestimated because I’m young and a woman. Sometimes, people don’t take me seriously until I show off my work.
Also, sexual harassment is a bit of an issue but you need to stand your ground while still being as professional as possible. The good thing is that this is usually taken care of when I show my work.
The major challenge in running a business is the inconsistent power supply. A large fraction of my business requires electricity for production and for powering equipment so power outages take a toll on the production speed. It’s not exciting buying fuel for the generators with limited resources.
Do you have a signature style?
Yes, I love infusing a bit of an edge and play into my designs. There has to be an extra exciting detail. With graphics, I play around with shapes a lot; like a square transformed to something that almost look like a circle.
With fashion, there’s got to be an exciting colour combination or a play of prints, detail, trimmings or buttons. A Colours of C.U.E couture piece cannot be bare, you must find one button or stud somewhere or made of weird print/fabric mix.
What sets the Colours of C.U.E brand apart from the rest?
Our passion for design, innovation, excellence and our love for each client sets us apart.
We don’t impose ideas on clients; we work with the client’s preferences, dreams and desires and make it beautiful. Client satisfaction is our ultimate goal.
Ayo can be reached on Facebook