Best known for her resilience and authenticity, Toyosi Gregory-Jonah is undeniably a force who understands the importance of staying true to yourself and sticking to your life path.
Toyosi Gregory Jonah is the Founder of the fast-growing clothing store Desire1709, the brain behind the fashion house 1709thelabel and the inspiration behind the pacesetting Fashion Biz Academy.
Her leap into full-time fashion entrepreneurship began in 2012 right after she graduated with a Styling Diploma from
The British College of Professional Styling. Today, what seemed at the time like a gamble with a little bit of savings has grown into a business with increasing 6 figure profits yearly. This Q&A is loaded with knowledge and we hope you enjoy reading it as we enjoyed curating it.
In Three Words, how would you describe Toyosi Gregory – Jonah?
Resilient ,Impactful ,Authentic
What do you consider your greatest achievement in your life so far?
Personally, I am proud of how I have been bringing my two young boys up and how well they have been adapting to and welcoming the path – I am training them to become good husbands’ in the future. As a whole society focuses on the girl child but having two young boys who will become men. I want them to avoid the failures of masculinity and the man tribe – I’m doing my part to bring up well rounded young men. I’m all proud that I have been able to build and sustain a budding career with Desire 1709, building it from scratch nurturing it and together with my team watching it scale. We still have very big plans ahead for the brand, but I’m proud we are still here.
What would you say are some of the practical steps you have taken towards ensuring consistent growth in your career?
Ensuring I have the right team, training them and enduring I’m always learning the business of fashion so that I offer value, coupled with good customer service because for women; buying and purchasing is also wrapped up in the feeling you give them.
In addition, our ability to adapt quickly to the market and trends means we are able to offer the solutions our customers need. We are able to move with the trends and offer stylish, affordable and readily available clothing for our extremely busy business clientele – this has been a big part of our fast growth in the industry. Each time a customer reaches out – we were there for them, as they grow, we grow too; growing together!
What inspired the start of your fashion business – Desire 1709?
I have always loved making people look good and helping them choose what to wear, I grew up making and buying clothes for people as a hobby so it is natural that I transitioned into it fully as a means of livelihood after I left my banking career. Another thing that helped is the fact that I grew up in an entrepreneurial family with a lineage of women who are business moguls; I was able to learn solid entrepreneurial skills that have helped a lot in starting, running and scaling Desire 1709 from inception till date.
Describe your ideal ‘Desire 1709’ woman.
An ideal Desire 1709 woman is Effortlessly stylish And Authentic
Share some of the struggles you have encountered building your brand particularly regarding investments and profits.
The production of pseudo quality is an issue, especially for mass production because it’s way cheaper, pricing was initially a major problem. I took my time to source the best qualities in the market, and it was disheartening to then witness copy -cats who would produce the same style for cheaper or less. (The perils of the business) Over time we needed to understand the business, study the trends fully in order to avoid making large investments that wouldn’t yield profits. It is indeed a business of numbers – gauging the appropriate quantities to produce – which we’ve begun to perfect over time. For instance, if the style and design are too popular, customers run from it. Our solution was to then go into making our own ready to wear styles, which has been very effective in terms of yielding a worthwhile profit.
I’ll add that in terms of investment, we are investing in marketing, especially digital and influencer marketing. Instagram is the culture shaper right now because people want to wear trendy and stylish outfits, so we keep on top of trends on digital and we also invest on the platforms to communicate and understand what our customers want. There’s a lot of trial and error at first, but slowly we are fine-tuning things! We strive to keep things on-trend and produce the items that are trending and in line with customers’ tastes. We do this because major problems arise if we produce styles that are irrelevant, it affects investment, cost of production and profit.
Forex is another issue. Instability of foreign exchange affects the cost of production and by extension the cost of sales which affects the profit margins.
If you could give your younger self one advice, what would it be?
When you start your business, never sell on credit. Secondly, invest in personal development, seek knowledge and nurture relationships. Self-awareness is important to succeed in everything.
What is the most important life lesson you’ve learned so far?
An abundance mindset is a place where it all happens. When you have the abundance mindset, you’re able to create multiple streams of wealth, live a peaceful life and generally flourish because you are not in “hustle mode” that causes people to run around like a headless chicken.
Where do you draw strength on days when you feel no motivation to get things done?
With a compelling vision comes the energy to do, so I’m mostly self-motivated as I focus on my vision and goals, I am a no retreat no surrender type of person.
Another source of strength is my children, I understand that as a parent, I am their role model and looking at them gives me the strength to move because if they are looking at me it’s important I put my best foot forward, always.
You seem quite passionate about what you do. Can you share briefly on your journey to building the Desire Fashion brand and the key lessons you have learned so far? How have you built this brand from nothing to where it is right now.
My interest in fashion entrepreneurship can be traced back to my undergraduate years. As an undergrad at the University of Lagos, I took up opportunities to sew outfits for students who were attracted to my awesome sense of style.
Although she eventually graduated with a Bachelor of Science degree in Zoology, I transferred her animal knowledge into her style and flair for business. After graduating from the university, I had little access to the students that were her clients forcing her to change her customer base to corporate clients instead. My early days in this new terrain were characterized by running deliveries from retailers to new and potential customers with the speed of motorcycles popularly called Okadas.
What is your take on “women supporting women”?
As women, when we support each other genuinely, we can do amazing things and take over the entire world. We should think and focus more on collaboration than the competition so the world can be a better place. We should aim to be the change that we want to see and hand in hand we can make an amazing difference in the entire world.
Who is one woman you look up to and why?
Jumoke Adenowo- she literally has it all together and she carries herself with so much grace and humility despite the level of success and wealth she has attained.
Share a word of advice for entrepreneurs globally
Whatever you do /decision you take every step of the way in your entrepreneurial journey ask yourself “Is this sustainable. ” If your answer is yes, then go ahead, if your answer is No, then you want to have a re-think so you don’t crash your business prematurely.
What would you like to be remembered for?
I would like to be remembered for Impacting everyone that comes in contact with me; my positive vibes, and my authenticity
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