Oluwatoyin Inumidun Bakare is the Deputy Managing Director of SAS Textiles, home to exquisite world-class fabrics and textiles. SAS is a generational business that has been in existence for over 35 years and a wide clientele base of over 10,000. SAS Textile is arguably the number one choice when it comes to Aso Ebi and weddings.
Toyin oversees the day-to-day running of the successful indigenous trading concern raised on the values of integrity and excellent customer service. She is a Certified chartered accountant (ICAN), an alumnus of Fate Foundation’s EEP, LEAP Africa’s Business Leadership Programme, Lagos Business School’s OMP and sits on the board of Genesis House an arm of Freedom Foundation. She is an associate member of the Women in Management and Business (WIMBIZ), a wife and mother. Toyin is a public speaker and pastor.
She takes us into the world of SAS Textiles.
WP: Let’s talk about SAS Textiles, yesterday and today
TOYIN: SAS textiles was named after my late mum Sola Adedeji, SAS stands for Sola Adedeji Stores. The journey started in the mid 80’s in a room in our family house known as Rara Itaja (a sales room). My mother worked on her vast popularity amongst her work colleagues from the Nigerian Railway Corporation and Family Relations to patronize and support her newfound love of fabrics in the Mid 80’s. Loads of customers from all walks of life came in to buy fabrics for their special occasion and every customer always connected with her thereby starting a relationship that has surpassed generations. In1994 our Matriarch and the founder of the business passed on and in 1995 my siblings and I started running the business and it was incorporated as SAS Textiles.
Today, we have evolved from being a one room store to a 5 chain store cut across Lagos with my sister and I in management along with 32 full time staff to keep the values and legacy that our mum passed on to us which are excellent customer service, hard work, integrity and absolute trust in God who has been very good to us.
WP: Decades after, what is responsible for SAS being the number one textile company in Nigeria
TOYIN: We have put God first in all we do and He has indeed established us a brand in our industry both locally and on the Global scene as well, also our excellent customer service, our tenacity and paying meticulous attention to details. What has also set us apart is that we cater for a wide range of clientele and we are able to meet the textile needs of both the wholesale and retail market, high net worth individuals and corporations as well as to every discerning bride who wants value for their money. We constantly pride in our creative and innovative ability to provide quality fabrics at competitive prices in a customer friendly environment.
We place high premium on our values of integrity, fairness to all, and one of our strengths is maintaining customer relationship. We have examples of mothers who when they were getting married my mum sold their fabrics and so when their children are getting married we continued the family tradition of selling to their children as well. We are very detailed and we have a vast knowledge in fabric selection and pay particular attention to customer’s requirements when advising on customized choices with high passion and energy. Also our business track records over the years coupled with our customer’s loyalty and business goodwill has set us apart over several decades.
WP: Talking about Asoebi, you meet a lot of people looking to make decisions on this, what role do you play in the selection of choice, colour combo and who wears what?
TOYIN: We actually play a very big role once a customer comes in and wants to place an order for Asoebi which has been one of our greatest strengths. So basically once a customer comes in,we act as your consultant and advice on the colour of the day, we ask for your budget and would gladly work with it, we advise on the colour combo and make sure it’s a perfect match and not an eyesore, we ask for the quantity you want, agree on the price, colour preferences for the two families, we advise on the kind of fabric choice that would be appropriate for both men and women, sometimes we introduce what is called a Mix and a Match for the couple so that they can stand out on their special day and be the cynosure of all Eyes. Once your sample is approved, we place your order with our manufacturers abroad and tell you it would arrive within the shortest time possible and ensure we keep to our words. The Aso ebi choice is seen as being stressful when it comes to managing the people that would be buying, the number of people buying and payment mode. At SAS, we also handle Logistics. Taking the stress of the Customer.
WP: The trend of both families wearing the same thing, how did it evolve and do you see it sticking for much longer?
TOYIN: The trend actually evolved in the Millennium because hitherto both families just wore their different fabrics and colours but in recent times wearing the same fabric shows uniformity and indeed proves that the two families have become one. But, we have seen a lot of drama come to play in the “Iya Iyawo ,Iya Oko Nigeria ltd”, now we see differences and a lot of tension due to different cultures and economic status, we see a lot of deception when it comes to making choices but eventually, we come to a compromise and agree and the pictures tell it all. It really has come to stay but we allow for the different families to make their choice
WP: How are lace trends set and what role do you as a merchant play dictating the next trends to come?
TOYIN: Fashion evolves every day but there is really nothing new under the sun. So Lace trends evolve daily but as a fabric merchant we work with a blend of the old and the new providing timeless and classic pieces that will stand the test of time and also make sure what you are wearing is in vogue. We go the extra mile in working with all our designers and manufacturers to ensure our customers get the latest fabrics.
So we have seen fabrics evolve from cotton laces to satin laces in the 80s, velvet, Satin organza to the double organza now we have net laces, tulle, chantilly fabrics etc. Based on the forces of demand and supply, we dictate the next trend. WP: Some people have an idea of what they want but how do you deal with a clueless family?
TOYIN: What we do is offer our customized consultancy services. Firstly we take it in stages working with your budget which will determine the choice of fabrics, then we sort out the bride and groom, we then move on to the parents of the day, we determine the colour scheme that will be appropriate for them based on their taste and choose different fabrics for both the Engagement and the wedding ceremonies. Then we move to the Asoebi. which will be customized to your taste. Once a deposit is made we go about to place your order with our suppliers.
When the asoebi arrives, the customer is contacted and the look of joy on their faces always completes the story and makes us feel fulfilled.
WP: What are the challengs you face running a textile business?
TOYIN: Challenges are not limited to the High cost of doing business in Nigeria, the fluctuating exchange rate, the rate at which the Chinese people have infiltrated our industry, changes in customs regulations etc but we have chosen to be resilient and rise above every challenge and to keep moving forward.
I remember about 10 years ago in December which is our high season, we eagerly awaited the arrival of one of our special asoebi for a loyal customer’s wedding, only for us to be informed by our clearing agent that the goods had been impounded by customs and this was the first time we would encounter this! After going through the shock and help was not coming forth, we informed the customer but we assured her that we would get her a substitute and within one week we did and the wedding went on without any hitch and our relationship keeps waxing strong.
There have been so many challenges but our ever faithful and dependable God has always helped us and made a way for us just in the nick of time and removed shame from our business.
WP: What is the next level for SAS?
TOYIN: The next level for us in SAS is to continue to be a one stop shop for all our clients, spread the good news of SAS all over the world and to go into owning our own manufacturing factory and producing our fabrics in Nigeria.
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