Happy New Year, all! A tad late but better late than never. I pray that 2018 is indeed a year of excellence for you and yours. Expect more amazing and inspiring content from JENNIFERFRIMPONG this year!
This time last year, I interviewed co-founder of Trim-It, Nana Darko, who shared his experience in business thus far - click here to read if you haven't already. I jumped at the opportunity to speak with the CEO of Trim-It, Mr Darren Tenkorang himself and I am glad to be kicking off 2018 with this inspiring interview.
JF: So, please tell the readers who you are and what you do.
DT: I get this question often and if I am honest, I find it difficult to answer. I always have to start off by saying I am a son and I am a brother. I say this to reinforce the fact that I am literally your average Joe. I am from South London, lover of hip-hop and R&B. To tell you a little about my journey, it makes sense to start right at the beginning. In secondary school, I wasn’t particularly bright but one day something clicked. I managed to get decent grades. Sixth form now, I had my heart set on going to the University of Sussex. One of my teachers told me quite frankly that I wasn’t smart enough to get into Sussex. As you can imagine this was rather demoralising however, it made me realise that I actually feed off negative energy. I got my head down and left college with the grades to get into Sussex University which was a fantastic achievement for me. Around this time, I started two businesses that ultimately failed, one of which was Alter Fashion, where I was creating bespoke clothing incorporating African culture into Western items. I am no designer so it was evident that it was not going to work. Whilst at university, I actually did a 6 month placement at an insurance firm. I thought I had made it, I felt dapper wearing a suit in the city! After a while, I began to view the corporate life as ‘grey’, it just wasn’t for me. It was in that same summer, I founded Trim It. A few stories and challenges down the line, here we are!
JF: You mentioned that some of your business ventures prior to Trim-It and I quote ‘ultimately failed’ - why? How did you identify these failures and apply the lessons learnt to your current business model?
DT: A major lesson I learnt from Alter Fashion failing was that it is important to understand your costs! I realised the business was failing when my costs were seriously outweighing my revenue. The loss I incurred came from having a business based in London and actually schooling in Brighton. My hidden costs were in train fares. This experience took me into accountancy, the ability to ensure that things make sense financially. If train fares are causing more loss than revenue, it is evident that it wasn’t making much of a profit!
JF: How did you come up with the concept for Trim-It?
DT: Some may find this quite funny. I was going out with a girl at the time and she began to imply that I needed to take her out more. As a typical guy, I left things to the last minute. If I am honest, I did not know what I was doing – I didn’t do anything, didn’t know what clothes I was going to wear, I hadn’t organised a restaurant, I hadn’t bought her flowers (I was trying to be a sweet boy, you see!) and most importantly, I did not have a trim! I called up my barber and asked to see him at 2pm. I got there on time and I ended up waiting for 3 hours. Not only did my phone die, but I spent the waiting time watching table tennis. I was so late to the date and the fact that I do not go out with the girl now possibly shows that the date did not go so well. No one has time to spend the whole day in the barber shop. The world is incredibly fast-paced and it is important that industries accommodate this. Trim-It aims to rectify these issues and ultimately revolutionise the barbering industry!
JF: How interesting. I love the concept and the story behind it. Now with regards to your relationship with Nana, how did you know he was someone you wanted to partner with?
DT: It’s funny because I actually had a little resentment to Nana because when he was ACS President in second year, he actually ignored an email of mine. That is beside the point. So during the business competition, after every session, Nana would come up to me and give me some really good feedback. The guy would literally refine my idea. As expected, this did boost my ego; however, I began to notice that he was passionate about my idea, despite the fact that he had his own business idea and plan to work on. The passion is what connected us. When he speaks about Trim-It, I see the twinkle in his eye. He is so ready to sell to barbers; he is a good guy, man! I believe that some people are God-send, Nana is definitely one of them! I couldn’t think of a better business partner.
JF: I love that! I have spoken to you both and I can see that you both gel together so well. Now, onto your team, what are the dynamics like?
DT: I have an amazing team. More often than not, a lot of people came to us. Funnily enough, I went to the coding society whilst at university, in the hopes of learning how to code. It was there that I met our now CTO, Elliot. After hearing one of my presentations on Trim-It, he tapped me on the shoulder and said “I do not know how to create websites but I would like to help”. Initially, I did not think this guy would be of much help to me, given that I was creating an app. Elliot actually leads the development team and heads up the back-end of our business – linking the website to the app. He has the same twinkle in his eye and supports the vision wholeheartedly. I mean, there have been nights where I am up at 5am brainstorming and Elliot is up with me, pacing his room and helping me plan processes. Peter heads the product (the iOS app), Joshua Allen and his lovely girlfriend, Chiamaka head up our high-quality visuals. Christina also, she has an amazing professional background, having worked for the likes of Google, she heads up social media marketing. The list is endless but our team is honestly amazing. Everyone brings something unique to the table.
JF: It is good to see you have an amazing team and I guess this is translated into the quality of your work and product. Aside from this, what is your support system like? I am a firm believer in having honest, positive people around you that support your growth.
DT: I definitely agree. I have an extremely supportive family. After university, I actually got an amazing graduate job offer that offered an amazing salary but I declined it to pursue my entrepreneurial dreams. Coming from an African household, I am sure you can appreciate that turning down an amazing job opportunity in itself is almost seen as a taboo. My mother though, she got it – I mean it did take some persuading but she supports me wholeheartedly. My friends have also been amazing. I receive texts here and there from my friends letting me know how proud they are of me. I think it is important to have a healthy support system because as an entrepreneur, you will encounter some serious challenges and it can indeed take a toll on your body and your mind. I find it healthy to first and foremost, pray, speak to my girlfriend, friends, family - obviously the Trim-It family, too!
JF: What has been your hardest life lesson?
DT: If I am honest, managing peoples’ expectations. I make out that I am superman. I know that I am not but managing peoples’ expectations and letting people down has actually been pretty difficult. Over the years, bridges have been burnt as a result; however, I have learnt that it is better to say no, rather than saying yes and not being able to meet your necessary commitments effectively.
JF: I totally agree. What advice you would give to your younger self?
DT: To my younger self? I would say that it is okay to be different and it is okay to stand out. People will love and respect you in the long-run for being yourself. Secondly, I would say to everyone in general, carry on ‘doing’. Humans are extremely creative and we all have hundreds of ideas within us. Get started! I am a ‘do-er’. You learn the most by doing. I can honestly say I learnt the most from being hands on with Trim-It than in my whole 3 years in university.
JF: Please share a piece of advice for young entrepreneurs.
DT: This may seem a little controversial but there is a culture nowadays where failure is almost glorified. People have become complacent and have now accepted failure as an ‘alright outcome’. I think the message about failure ought to be refined. It is okay to fail because you learn from said failure, however, you must always strive to succeed and execute your vision perfectly. Make whatever you are doing bang to the highest degree!
JF: I totally agree and believe that is even a word I needed to hear for myself! What can we expect from Trim-It this year and in the future?
DT: Without giving too much away, expect a lot from Trim-It. What you currently see with regards to Trim-It is nowhere near as close to the ideas I have in my head. We will indeed be agents of change and will revolutionise the barbering industry. As a little teaser, bookings and appointments alone will not change the industry. Our team is ridiculously creative and we are in the process of bringing all our ideas into fruition.
I am so glad I managed to have a chat with both Nana and Darren of Trim-It App. These young men are so inspirational and when you speak to them, you definitely feed off their positive energy. Success has already begun and will definitely continue. Trim-It has officially launched and so has their amazing mobile barbering service - fellas, download the App and be sure to arrive at your dates on time and with trims (shade no shade!) Please ensure that you follow them on all their social media platforms and continue to support young businesses!