Jane says, “we always try to remember that we are sisters first and business partners second, and that we were sisters before we were business partners. We want to have the closeness of our sisterhood as the foundation that keeps us upright before we have any debates and discussions relating to the business. Every thing we do, we do with love at the centre of it, but that does not mean that we don’t have disagreements - sometimes even major ones.
For example, we could be at a pop-up event, and something little can just escalate under that kind of pressure, to the point where we are arguing like sisters and not business partners. But in spite of that, and even within that, we are still happy to have each other, and that goes beyond everything. Above all, it is a family business, and even our managers, and the people we work with in Nigeria, we treat them all like family, because we want that ‘family business’ ethos to permeate the entire business”.
Respecting each other, and what the other person thinks is important to the girls as business leaders. Adeola acknowledges the fact that Jane’s experience in social media, marketing and web development gives her an authority in that area, so she respects her expertise, and her voice on these matters. Similarly, Jane would respect Adeola’s opinion and input on contracts and legal matters. They also work together on the things that they both are unsure of, and are fully aware of the fact that they may not know everything. Adeola is adamant about the importance of communication in how they conduct their business and family relationships. They are intentional about not letting irritations fester and build up without bringing things out into the open quickly. “Sometimes, when something is going wrong at a pop up, we are not able to hash it out there and then, and we can’t really get into a fight when we are facing customers, so we have to put it aside until the right moment where we can go for a walk, and talk honestly and openly about our issues”.
Working things out AFTER the heat of the moment really is very helpful, because it gives both parties a chance to reflect rationally about what happened, and to digest and process things, so that their thoughts are more fully formed when the time comes to talk about it. This fosters a better environment for more mature and productive dialogues where issues can get resolved quickly, and solutions can be found. The girls are all about helping themselves and each other to grow as people, by being honest about their mistakes, and finding proactive ways to do things better going forward.
Jane says “we did this thing where we went for a run together, and we were so out of breath that as we were telling each other what we didn’t like, we couldn’t really argue, and the running helped us to get the frustration physically out of our systems. This really helped our relationship, as well as making sure it doesn’t happen again. And if it ever does come up again, we will try to come up with a better solution, like maybe working separately on certain days. Proactive coping techniques are so important”.
A business that feels like a family
It’s great to see the ways the girls promote family values among themselves, but promoting those same values takes it to a whole new level. I was curious to find out how they practically go about filtering down that culture through the whole business, to the people that work for them.
Adeola told me how they involve everyone in the decision making process. They have a Whatsapp group where everyone comes together to share opinions, and give their input about what is happening at any given time. This also gives them a forum to celebrate victories, such as reaching 1000 followers, for example. When building up a new collection, like the one they are now getting ready to launch, they have a long process to go through, which involves sending pictures, swapping ideas, sharing thoughts, selecting fabrics, naming items on the website...everybody is involved, even down to the smallest decisions. This makes people feel like they are a valued and important part of the business.
As well as this, the girls are committed to developing the tailors that work for them. Some people have even started their own brands, as a result of the work they are doing for Cultureville. Jane and Adeola champion people to go off and grow their own businesses, and celebrate them as they do so. They promote these brands on their main company website, to make sure they get the recognition they deserve. The girl in Manchester who works for Cultureville gets her products and brand showcased in the pop ups that Cultureville run, and they share with her the things that they have learned the hard way so that she does not have to face some of the things they faced.
Adeola sums this up really well - your wins are our wins!