23. How Going Back To School Led to Business Success
Taffi Ayodele, the co-founder of Thandos (pronounced tohn-dos, the “h” is silent) Shoes, joins me this week to discuss her thriving business and her path to entrepreneurship.
I met Taffi at a Tall Society event, where she was selling her unique Ankara-print foldable flats, and once I saw these shoes, I had to have a pair. As an owner of a pair of these flats, I can attest not only to the comfort and durability of the shoes, but also how stylish they are.
Interestingly enough, the inception of the business was generated when a stranger approached Taffi and offered to pay $100 for a $10 off-brand pair of flats she was wearing. At that point, Taffi had a light-bulb moment, and with her background in finance and government, vast network, and experiences garnered through her M.B.A. studies, she started her business. Taffi shares about the pitfalls and lessons learned throughout her journey, but also her mission to serve others along the way.
- Started career in Finance after graduating with bachelor’s degree in economics
- Worked in government, creating a diversity program of New York State of four years
- Took a “leap of faith” following market crash in 2008 and returned to school to pursue M.B.A.
- Leaving full-time job and going back to school “was the best decision”
- She met her business partner and husband at school
- “Going back to school was one of the best decisions I ever made” – Taffi
- Global internship helps to recognize a need and untapped market
- Took them two years to find a manufacturer
- Lesson learned: Spent 10k on a website that didn’t work; they now have a great website at a fraction of the cost
- Perseverance: Missed getting sales their first Christmas because there was a major strike at the port; thought it was a huge disappointment they didn’t let that get them down
- Instituted crowdsourcing model to distinguish business from other shoe retailers
- Promotes customer engagement and participation
- Supports African artist and African women in trade markets
- Created a design competition for Nigerian artist
- Lessons Learned: Be persistent, follow-up is important, and tap into your network
- Fun fact: More than 30% of women around the world wear a shoe larger than sizes 11 and 12 (retailers make larger shoes!); Thando’s sells shoes in sizes 6 – 15!
- Passionate about serving others and education
- Looking to expand business globally within the next few years
- Can’t live without God and Fennel tea
- Get 5% off on your first purchase by use this coupon code: STUDIO78
- The Bookshelf: Check out my top recommended books!
- 08. How Face-to-Face Events Build Online Community Engagement with Bree Wijnaar of The Tall Society
- Shopify (website e-commerce platform – I love it to and use it for creativeroute.com)
- Sesor Africa (Non-profit that provides relief to villagers in Africa after the floods)
- New Jersey Seeds (Changing lives through education)
- Traditional Medicinals Tea