Small Business Interview: Damilola Okuboyejo, Parchment by Dami
Introducing Damilola Okuboyejo, owner of Parchment by Dami which specializes in luxury invitations and fine stationery. Dami's business started after she made the invitations for her own wedding - They were such a hit, she started receiving several inquiries to make invitations for other people. Fast forward a few years later, she is now a full time business owner of a very profitable business and on the verge of launching a new business.
In this interview Dami shares how she prices her worth, her business mistakes and successes and startup advice for other female entrepreneurs. Beyond working with amazing clients and creating amazing work, Dami loves cake, reading, living in the moment and creating memories with her husband and twin boys in Harlem, NYC (where they reside) and around the world. Enjoy!
"Those words made me realize that I could not allow anyone devalue my hard work and it was time for for to create my legacy."
Please introduce yourself and tell us about your business. What is it called and what services / products do you offer?
My name is Damilola Okuboyejo and I am a lover of keepsakes and paper. I live in Harlem, NY with my husband and twin boys. I own Parchment by Dami, a luxury Invitation and fine stationery design house. My goal is to create high quality and timeless designs suited for the discerning clientele. I am passionate about clean designs, flawless craftsmanship, attention to detail, originality and impeccable customer service.
Can you share a bit about how you choose this line of business? What transition did you make to owning your own business?
I like to say this job chose me LOL. When I was planning my wedding 6 years ago, a friend told me she would gift me my wedding invitations. I actually accepted the gift, which is very unlike me, but little did I know it was all part of God's plan. Needless to say, the plan fell through and I decided to make my own invitations. The awesome thing about a (good) invitation is that it sells itself. Every invitation that you send out lands in the hands of a potential client. So you are essentially advertising your products with everything you do. I started getting lots of inquiries about who did my invitations, and for the longest time, I declined to do it for others. But after a couple of inquiries, I said yes. And the journey began.
As for my transition to full time, that is another interesting story. Due to the success of Parchment by Dami, I had to change positions (I was a head teacher, which was my dream profession). I decided to be an assistant teacher and work closer to home. Because I refused to say "yes" to a structural change that would have been at a huge disadvantage to me, my boss asked me "What exactly do you do here?" (and some other unimaginable things that I have chosen to forget lol). I remember walking out of that meeting knowing that I was putting in my resignation letter immediately. Mind you, I found out the week before that I was pregnant with twins and did not have any real savings in place. But I do believe that I needed something to push me. I walked out of that job in faith and by the grace of God, I am soaring in faith. Those words made me realize that I could not allow anyone devalue my hard work and it was time for to create my legacy.
Do you have any special training?
Nope. I have a Ph.D. in determination. My husband is a fashion designer and I watched him navigate different design software until I started experimenting myself. I am still learning and I enjoy the challenge.
What are some of your biggest accomplishments as a business owner?
For me, it is so simple. My reward is being home with my twin boys. My biggest accomplishment is being able to do what I love and not miss a second of the early years of the boys. There is NO greater reward. These moments are simply invaluable. Worth more than earthy treasures or accolades. (I know my answer is not typical, but that is my honest answer)
How soon after you started did you start seeing profits? Or when do you project to begin earning a profit?
Profit was immediate. Mainly because there are no real costs on my end. The client pays before we begin work. Which covers my design time and supplies. But the real issue was how much profit I was making.
How did you decide how to price your services? How did you determine what your services were worth?
I am still learning this. But I am MUCH better at charging my worth than I was in the past. I had to realize that everyone is not an ideal client and I can't try to meet everyone on their budget. But thankfully my husband is a business school grad turned fashion designer. So he has been an instrumental part in helping me charge my worth. Every single thing has to be considered down to the light that needs to be on for me to be able to assemble invitations at night and quite frankly the quality of life that we want to live is also a factor. And a whole bunch of Excel calculations later, we arrive at a simple formula that helps inform my pricing.
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?
I could write a freaking book on this. Soooo many many things. First of all, have a solid contract and stick to it. Find your ideal client and stick to it. I have made major mistakes of not charging my worth. I was scared that I would scare people away. But I started to burn myself out and create jobs that did not really speak to my personal design philosophy. I started to compromise. Now when inquiries come in, I am very upfront about my fees. And I am not worried about losing a job or not sealing a deal. If I don't get the job, then it simply was not meant to be. I don't take anything personal with business. When clients come to me, they are are getting way more that a finished product. They are getting my expertise. My professional guidance and creativity. And I know (NOW, after lots of falling and getting back up) that I am totally worth it.
What do you consider the most important elements of running a successful business?
I think this question depends on where you are in your business. I am currently in the middle of a much-needed expansion. And the most important thing right now is creating and managing the right team. In order for Parchment by Dami to grow, I have to be able to trust and manage my team. I can't have my hands in everything. I am going from gluing paper to managing people that are gluing paper. Which is a completely different ball game. So right now, I would say the most important element for me is to create a team that is in sync, efficient, feels valued, feels fulfilled (professionally) and happy!
Do you have any start-up advice you can share with women reading this who would like to launch their own businesses?
Yes, as I am right smack in the middle of a new business (Clutched by Dami, shameless plug) is to know where you fit in the market. Do some research so you can roll out already targeting your core clientele. Make sure your brand speaks to your ideal client. Also, find a mentor in your field. Be part of a tribe that will influence you positively and pushes you to work hard and attain your goals. One more advice. Don't compare your chapter 1 to someone else's chapter 10. Stay focused on your own race and run it to the best of your ability.
Do you have any advice on managing your small business finances?
I know what my strengths are and this is not one of them. My short and sweet answer to this is Quickbooks and a business accountant.
How do you balance work and life owning a small business?
I am a firm believer in the saying, there is a time for everything. I have 2-year-old twin boys that are home with me full time. There is no such thing as balance. They come first and work works around their schedule. But I know this is a phase. The first 3 years of PD, it was just me and my hubby and I was able to do so much. Now, I work at night and during naps. I spend an extra minute in the bathroom to respond to an email (crazy but true). It is a complete circus- one that I would not trade for anything. Once they start going to preschool in a year, I will get back to my structured 9 to 5 schedule. For now, I work when I can from Mondays to Thursdays. Take Fridays off and I have an awesome team of 4 who help keep the wheels turning.
Where do you see yourself in 5 years?
I feel like I am just taking off. In 5 years, I would not have to introduce myself or my brand.
Please share a fun fact about yourself.
I LOVE being home. I would pick a good book, cake and my couch over almost anything.
How can readers find you?
Thank you so much Dami for your time to complete this interview. I know my readers will love getting to know you a little better, and seeing your work. It is beautiful!