Name: Dami Akinwale
Course: Actuarial Sciences
Lost Designs provides high quality customisable varsity jackets with cow leather sleeves to individuals and groups, such as university sports clubs and societies, across the UK.
What motivated you to set up this business?
Lost Designs was not originally intended to be a business idea. In 2011 my business partner (Lekan Adebanjo) wanted to find an item of clothing that would distinguish and promote his dance society called “Funky Fresh Collective” at Nottingham Trent University. It was only after seeing the quality of the jackets we had produced that I saw them as a promising business idea.
In December 2012 I was required to develop a business plan as a piece of coursework for a module I took called ‘Strategic Business Decision Making’ and halfway through doing the plan and financial statements I realised the true potential of the business idea, and knew I should pursue it.
What have the biggest challenges been setting up your own venture?
I think the biggest challenge has been maintaining a strong working relationship and good communication with our overseas supplier, because we are so far apart.
How has this experience made use of your skills and experience?
I have been able to apply knowledge that I have picked up from subjects such as Business Studies, which I took at GCSE and Economics for International Business, which I studied during my time at UEA. I have used and developed my negotiation skills when speaking to my suppliers, and also my interpersonal skills, as I am required to communicate with the general public quite a lot.
How did UEA Student Enterprise help you?
Without the module ‘Strategic Business Decision Making’ I would never have made the initial business plan that showed me how promising the idea actually was.
The Student Enterprise team introduced me to an Entreprise mentor, who sat down with me and gave feedback on my business plan which I used to improve it, and the SEED manager, Julie Schofield, told me about the Santander funding grants and encouraged me to go for it, which I did and was awarded £3000.
What are the main positives of starting your own business?
- The main positive for me is the flexibility I have in my life in terms of time, being able to do things in my own time is an element of starting my own business that would not trade for the world.
- I have also learnt so much in terms practical learning that cannot be found in textbooks, yet it has allowed me to apply my text book learning to certain situations, where I would not have necessarily known what to do otherwise.
- I also love that if I have a good idea I am really in a position to influence change within my business, which unfortunately we are not always able to do when we work for someone else. When you have your own business, you are the boss and can try all the ideas you want.
What are your dreams and aspirations for the business?
I want Lost Designs to be a well-known brand in the UK. In the long term I would really like to work alongside universities in the UK to provide jackets for the students.
What advice would you give other students and graduates looking to launch their own venture?
Statistics show that starting your own business may not work in your favour.
I say don’t listen to statistics or anyone who tries to tell you that you’re better off getting a job, I believe that if you have a business idea that you’re really passionate about and you have done extensive market research which proves that it is a feasible idea, then go for it.
The journey may be long and at times you may question whether you made the right decision to start up your business but you should have faith in your judgement. However, people should remember that it is difficult, and that a feeble attempt at starting your own business is not good enough; it requires real hard work and they need to give it their all.
Finally, from a financial point of view, make sure the initial projections are realistic and should remember that not all businesses make enough money from the start to ensure that you can afford to take a wage, so for a while you might be working for free but its all part of the bigger picture.