During a conversation with a business associate I was sent the Instagram link for Jésù Ségun London. On visiting their page, I was absolutely blown away by the quality of the photos and style of the shoes. To me, this brand was quite exquisite, I was rather impressed and a bit upset that I knew nothing about it prior.
When I began planning our Boss In You 2018 event Jésù Ségun was at the top of my list of successfully launched Black-owned businesses. I contacted my associate and asked him to make introductions.
Fast forward 5 days later we arranged to meet after a brief telephone conversation. I whipped out my MacBook and began scouring the internet for all the information I could find about the company. One must always be prepared for conversation.
Jésù Ségun London is a luxury brand selling bespoke, hand crafted ladies and mens' footwear. Since its incorporation in 2016, the brand has been featured in the London Fashion Week, African Fashion Week and has been worn by celebrities all around the world.
Reading reviews and blog posts and watching a BBC radio interview further added to my initial conception - Jésù Ségun was doing very well.
What interested me more than anything else was to find out about the journey thus far - how did Jesu Segun London come into existence and what has it been like to build a global luxury brand from scratch. The only person that could give me valuable insight would be the Creative Director, the man behind the brand Andrew Mackenzie more informally known as Moss, with whom I had a meeting scheduled.
As I shook his hand and sat down, my very first remark was 'Jesu Segun is doing so well'
With much humility he questioned my statement 'Are we?'
I was a little taken aback by this rhetoric. My reply 'Yes you are, of course you are, don't you think so?'
He just smiled wryly.
It quickly became apparent that whilst I was excited by the success I had read about, Moss had much bigger aspirations for his brand, it was nowhere near where he wanted it to be. He was far from satisfied.
Moss originally did tailoring for a living and had a strong passion for fashion. It was when a friend asked him to design a pair of shoes for him, that he realised his true calling. He began taking orders for bespoke shoes designs and thus embarked on the journey to creating his own brand. In native Yoruba language Jesu means Jesus and Segun means victorious/conquest.
Getting Branding Right
For Moss' branding is everything. He intended to create a brand that differentiated him from the rest. It was clear to me that he had done his competitor analysis into luxury brands such as Christian Louboutin and various others. Jesu Segun London has branded every bit of their merchandise, each shoe is individually inserted into branded shoes bags before being placed into the shoe box, which is also branded. The sole of the shoes carries a 24 carat gold crest which is sourced and sent to the manufacturer by Moss himself. The sole is hand painted in green which makes it even more distinctive. Men's shoes comes with a branded shoe horn and shoe cleaner. The Jesu Segun Logo is strategically placed on everything. Business cards are exquisite and of the highest quality.
Moss brings it to my attention that whilst he has been accused of over-branding the products by his investors, in essence he would never compromise quality and buyer experience for short term gain. The Brand promise is a key element in his brand strategy and must be delivered to his target customers.
Marketing and PR
For most startups Marketing and PR are often not at the top of the agenda as this would often consume a large proportion of start costs. But for a luxury brand like Jesu Segun London, Marketing and PR were an important ingredient to their success. Moss has spent over 40% of his turnover on Marketing and PR. According to him, it was important to enhance and build a reputation through media. The brand has been featured in magazines and blogs, the director has been interviewed by various radio stations. The social media platforms has also been professionally managed with over 31,000 followers on Instagram alone. This plays an integral role in keeping the brand current and relevant to its target customers.
But ofcourse, these come at a cost, it is imperative that a budget is included in the cashflow forecast for Marketing and PR activities. Having changed PR companies 3 times since starting up, Moss makes it clear that it is important to ensure that your Marketing and PR team's aims and objectives are aligned to that of the company's inorder to achieve the desired results.
After grabbing the target audience attention through intense advertising and branding, Moss then went onto product diversification. He launched new complimentary products to this same audience.
When I asked him about his other products, he excitingly retrieved his Sentimental box for my perusal. This is made from real leather and is also cleverly branded. I asked him what the purpose of this box was ad he simply replied 'Anything'. Needless to say, I immediately envisioned my jewellery sitting nicely in one of these boxes. I had never before seen a sentimental box of this , so again, I was impressed by his creativity. Jesu Segun has also launched a hat and cufflinks range.
Whilst there are so many areas into which he could diversify, something told me that Moss was holding back so I questioned him on it.
Reality of Being an Entrepreneur
Moss explains his reality to me; when your business is your only source of income, a personal survival budget has to be heavily considered. In an industry such as this it is fairly easy to get cash tied up in stock/inventory which will limit your cashflow. Like many small businesses which are funded solely from owners investment, cashflow can become an obstacle to growth.
Products are made in small quantities which increases the cost per unit. A large amount of capital investment would be needed inorder to buy in bulk/large quantities and take advantage of discount. The issue of storage must also be considered, where would he store all these products? Then, ultimately cashflow would be affected as he would have then have an enormous amount of cash tied up in stock.
He also reminds me that the businesses has other overheads which must also be taken into account such as administration costs, company car, shows and events such as London Fashion Week and most importantly Marketing and PR.
For this reason, he seeks to find the balance between investing in marketing activities to increase brand awareness and exposure and reducing manufacturing and production costs.
A Man on a Mission
Moss strikes me as a very prudent individual, he is very patient and believes in his brand. He is on a mission to grow organically, one step at a time, one day at a time.
Moss has recently turned down an offer from department store retailer Selfridges. In his honest opinion he does not believe the offer was reflective of the value of his brand. To even be approached and given an offer from the likes of Selfridges is great achievement and definitely a step in the right direction.
In his words, 'If you don't have the passion to do something, don't do it at all, you must have a passion'
As our time together comes to a close, I ask him what is next for Jesu Segun, you could see his face light up with enthusiasm.
Next year we can expect to see new product ranges, more fashion show appearances and more features and product placement. For 2019, Moss will still be heavily focused on Marketing and PR and building Brand awareness.
Moss' has 3 Tips for aspiring entrepreneurs:
1. "Have a business plan, it is imperative, without a business plan you have no sense of direction"
2. "Passion, you must have passion, if you do not have passion then it just does not make sense to embark on the entrepreneurial journey"
3. "If you want to do fashion, get some hands experience working in the fashion industry"
It is absolutely amazing to meet an entrepreneur who displays such passion and belief in his company. He is a testament to all aspiring entrepreneurs that once you believe, you can conceive.
"BELIEVE IN YOUR JOURNEY"