There has been numerous calls for sportsmen and women to think of life after rugby and do something about it. For rugby, beyond the try line is a popular phrase. Well, Kenya Sevens Assistant Captain Jacob Ojee heeded the call and started a business that is now flourishing. In a departure from the norm, we are going to only focus on his venture in the growing branding and urban wear industry.
The Maverick: How old is The Outlook?
Ojee: The OutLook Brand was founded in October 2014, as a business mainly dealing with clothing and branding. That would make it almost 6 years in operation.
The Maverick: How did you start The Outlook? What was the motiva tion?
Ojee: I always had an interest in branding, clothing, and the fashion industry in general. I started by doing t-shirt branding for a few groups on a contract basis, though my main objective was to have my brand and make a mark in the local clothing industry. I drew inspiration and motivation from some of the pioneer Kenyan brands like Jamhuri Wear and Vazzi hence the birth of The OutLook Brand in 2014.
The Maverick: Capital has proven to be an Achilles heel for many startups, how did you get your working capital?
Ojee: I came up with the very first design which I printed on 50 t-shirts which upon selling helped me build up my working capital; I did not have much of that when starting up.
The Maverick: What exactly does The OutLook do?
Ojee: Since being founded in late 2014, The OutLook was a registered clothing and merchandising business. It started as a clothing brand mostly dealing in urban wear such as t-shirts, vests, hoodies, jackets, sweatsuits coming in different designs and fabrics. Later, we expanded to include suits and ladies ‘ fitting. We also do customized corporate branded merchandise.
The Maverick: Is it still a business or a company?
Ojee: Earlier in the year we started the process of incorporating it to a private limited company and recently, in June 2020, we received the certificate of incorporation. That broadens the objective of the company as a whole.
The Maverick: How is it juggling rugby and business?
Ojee: It is very challenging; you have to create time for both. You have to strike a balance to ensure both ends are successful. When I started, I was alone in the business, and this would mean whenever I was out playing, the business would stall or I would have to miss out on a few games or tours to tend to business and school since I was also in campus. This proved very challenging and probably played a part in the slow growth of the business in the initial stages. But I did my best to try and strike a balance. I also picked up a lot of valuable lessons along the way. I’ve since graduated from campus and gotten a partner and that has helped improve operations and free up some time for me in the rugby front.
The Maverick: What are the challenges of being a businessman and how do you deal with them?
Ojee: I have had several challenges since I started:-
-as earlier stated, juggling school and rugby, I knew that if I was going to dedicate myself to starting and nurturing a business to success, it was going to be nearly impossible and I had to dedicate myself to simultaneously try and manage all of them no matter how challenging it would be.
-Another challenge is team building. This is especially difficult if you’ve never run or managed a team before. Even if you have management experience, picking the right team for a startup is stressful and difficult. It’s hard to find candidates who fill certain roles. For instance, getting a steady supply of the materials we need, or finding the right tailors since we stitch the clothes from scratch, or even finding the right personnel to do the branding could be tricky. It’s been a challenge but we’ve managed to put a good team.
-The biggest challenge though would have to be cash flow management. I read a survey by CB INSIGHTS that had listed 20 reasons why startups and SMEs fail and cash flow management was in at number two. Businesses just run out of cash. Cash flow is essential to the survival of small businesses, yet many entrepreneurs struggle to pay the bills (let alone themselves) while they’re waiting for checks from creditors. Part of the problem stems from delayed invoicing, which is common in the entrepreneurial world. You complete a task, send an invoice, and then get paid ( hopefully) 30 days later. You should be able to balance the books right, otherwise, you’ll run out of cash.
The Maverick: How do your teammates support your business?
Ojee: They buy my clothes. Most of them are usually keen on the fashion and urban wear branch of the business. That’s like the most direct way to support the business. But others go one better to recommend me to some of their contacts and give referrals whenever there’s an opening which goes a long way in supporting the business. Liking and sharing of the posts from the social media pages is also a great show of support.
The Maverick: How big do you want The OutLook to be?
Ojee: The aim is to make The OutLook Brand one of the main clothing outlets in the country. This is with regards to the fashion and urban wear branch of the brand. As a company, we seek growth.
The Maverick: What would you advise rugby players who want to venture into business?
Ojee: They should go for it. If you have the passion and drive to pursue a certain business venture then you should pursue it. It’s not easy and you’ll encounter a lot of challenges but strive to learn and grow. And remember, if you’re a startup or a small business, to grow, avoid credit. Cash is king.
This is one of those interviews I feel would have been great in a podcast but anyway, I hope you have been inspired to venture into that business you are passionate about. The trigger phrase from Ojee is “ just start.”