Business Interview: Modupe Ibironke Sarumi, Ronke Sarumi Footwear (RSF)
Introducing Modupe Sarumi. She is a practicing pharmacist and the founder of an affordable stylish shoe line - Ronke Sarumi Footwear. Despite not have any footwear design experience, Modupe went ahead to pursue her dream of owning her own shoe line by learning as much as she could about her line of business in order to bring it to life.
When she is not busy at her job as a full time pharmacist AND full time shoe line owner, she is either reading a good book or spending time with her wonderful husband. She also recently took up mini gardening as a hobby, so she's been spending time nurturing her lonesome pepper plant. Now how's that for a multi-talented boss lady. In this interview Modupe share her progress, lessons learned and success as a new business owner. Enjoy!
"The fact that my “little secret” idea was able to overcome the doubts, challenges etc. that come with any venture and come to fruition is very humbling. "
Please introduce yourself and tell us about your business. What is it called and what services/products do you offer?
My name is Modupe Ibironke Sarumi. I am the creative director and founder of Ronke Sarumi Footwear (RSF). We are the stylish working woman affordable footwear line. We believe that all women are beautiful and exquisite and they deserve to look it. Our goal is for women to complete their outfits with beautiful footwear without breaking the bank.
Can you share a bit about how you choose this line of business? What transition did you make to owning your own business?
I have always loved shoes. There is a running joke amongst friends that since my feet are on the smaller size, I tend to find the nicer shoes. The truth is as much as I love shoes, I also understand that love for something (particularly material things) and affordability should somewhat go hand in hand, hence the birth of RSF. In terms of transitioning, I have a full-time job, so running RSF, (which is another full-time position) occurs, after work, weekends and whatever time duty calls.
Do you have any special training?
I have a Doctorate in Pharmacy and Masters in Public Health. I do not have any special training in designing or footwear merchandising. However I have made it my mission to do a lot of self-study through books, magazines, and internet research. I also attend webinars that are geared towards any aspect of my craft.
What are some of your biggest accomplishments as a business owner?
In as much as I don’t think that I have reached a point where I can highlight my biggest accomplishments, I would say the fact that RSF is where it is today is an accomplishment. In other words, the fact that my “little secret” idea was able to overcome the doubts, challenges etc. that come with any venture and come to fruition is very humbling.
How soon after you started did you start seeing profits? Or when do you project to begin earning a profit?
We launched in spring 2016 and so have not seen profits yet, as we have been focusing a lot of our energy on creating awareness through marketing. The projection is to hopefully start seeing profit by Fall/Winter 2016.
How did you decide how to price your services? How did you determine what your services were worth?
Pricing was one of the challenging areas. Particularly because it had to center around our goal. "Availing working women beautiful selection without breaking the bank." Our pricing came down to three things, cost + expenses+ focus group. Combination of all three helped in deciding the final prices of our collection.
What mistake(s), if any, have you made with your business? What have some of your biggest challenges been? What did you learn from the experience and how did you bounce back?
We have made some mistakes along the way. For instance, since we manufacture outside the US, we have had to rely heavily on the expertise of the manufacturer. Though I chose and approved every selection and stage of the process. There was a style in the early stages that was not up to standards. So when that was discovered, I had to halt production. The lesson I learned is that I need to ensure that my thoughts and design are delivered and received clearly before I give the approval to proceed. The bounce back would be a more fabulous design, now that my design, production team and I are on the same page.
What do you consider the most important elements of running a successful business?
Determination, Dedication, Perseverance, Patience, and Prayers
Do you have any start-up advice you can share with women reading this who would like to launch their own businesses?
Depending on what your belief system is, for me, it means faith and hard work. Surrounding yourself with like-minded people is also very crucial. The idea of mentorship can also be advantageous if you a blessed to find that person. Lastly, focus on your mission/goal more so than profitability and trust that your gifts would make room for you, which would eventually make you profitable.
Do you have any advice on managing your small business finances?
I am not a professional in this area, so I defer to the expert who assists as needed. It is imperative to keep the business account(s) separate from the personal. However, keeping accurate documentation is also very important. To be honest, I am a work in progress, I have days/weeks where I feel unaccomplished and others that I feel like I did something tangible. The key thing is to keep “working” the business, pause to evaluate, then adjust accordingly.
How do you balance work and life owning a small business?
Your support system is extremely important. I am blessed with an extremely supportive husband who keeps me grounded. As my husband, he knows that life must go on and he assists in every way as he is able on the home front, also he also knows how important RSF is to me, so he assists in various capacities of it as well. As a silent partner, he also understands that we have business goals that must be met and he does what he can to achieve those.
Where do you see yourself in 5 years?
In 5 years I hope to have diversified into other related fashion line(s).
Please share a fun fact about yourself.
I am ambidextrous (more so a leftie, than a rightie!)
Thank you so much Modupe for your time! We all really enjoyed your interview and cannot wait to see how RSF will do!