Mrs Adenike Ogunlesi is the Founder and Chief Responsibility Officer of “Ruff ‘n’ Tumble, a children’s clothing line with 150 employees and 13 branches across the country, as well as several distributors round the West African coast.
For Mrs Nike, business started as one would stumble on beautiful piece of artwork. However, the success that has emanated from her entrepreneurial journey did not happen by accident; she was strategic, and intentional.
Born on July 14, 1959 to a Lawyer father and a fashion businesswoman mother, Nike Ogunlesi dropped out of school (Ahmadu Bello University, Zaria) shortly after gaining an admission to study Law. She dropped out of school because she realised Law was not the field for her and this angered her father who had been initially elated that his daughter was going to take up after him.
Dropping out of the University, she joined her mother’s Afrocentric Fashion business, Betty O, which had about 30 staff at the time. Consequently, she found that she enjoyed making clothes too. Therefore, she learnt the basics of making well-tailored clothes while she was with her mother.
Nike Ogunlesi gave up the job to became a full-time mother after having her children. One day in the year 1996, she ran out of pyjamas for them and although she found some up for sale, she couldn’t afford them. and then, that’s when she remembered she could sew too. She picked up some cotton material and made really beautiful pieces of pyjamas for her children. The outcome were so beautiful that Nike began to give more thought to making wears for her children.
She started with studying her children’s ready-made cloths – what the manufacturers did and did not do – and learning from these, she began to make shirts, trousers, shorts, and dresses for her children. Once her sister-in-law saw the pyjamas and she ordered seven pyjamas from her.
Encouraged by her husband, Nike made some children’s outfits which she carried in the trunk of her car to bazaars and school markets to sell. Sales were so inspiring that she rented a small space to start and eventually outgrew the space.
Ruff ‘n’ Tumble has since grown to become a top Nigerian brand, specialised in designing, manufacturing and retailing of children’s wears up to international standards. Yet another feature that makes her brand stand out is the use of Nigerian children as models for advertisement purposes. Although this started as a way to cut cost – her children being her first models, it has proved to be a unique and authentic model.
Nike Ogunlesi is a recipient of so many awards including; City People Awards for Female Achiever in Children’s Fashion (2001), The Nigeria Entrepreneur Award (2014), and The Glam Awards in the Female Game Changer in Children’s fashion industry category (2014). In 2005, she was recognised as FATE Foundation Model Entrepreneur.She is a finalist of the CNBC AABLA (All Africa Business Leaders Awards) in the category of the Businesswoman of 2014 and has been featured in the Africa Open for Business documentary. She is also a mentor at the Mara Foundation and Women in Successful Careers (WISCAR) as well as an advisory board member.
She is the founder and first President of the Network of Entrepreneurial Women at the Nigeria Employer’s Consultative Association (NECA).She sits on the board of Lafarge Africa Plc, a position she has been occupying since March 11, 2015. She is also an advisory board member of the Entrepreneurial Development Centre (EDC) at the Lagos Business School (LBS).
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