Welcome to the second half of the year! Six months down, another six to go! I thought I would kick off the second half of the year with a conversation I had with an absolute boss, Rebecca Tembo.
JF: Who are you and what do you do?
RT: My name is Rebecca Tembo and I am a London based fashion designer specialising in luxury bespoke jumpsuits. Interestingly, I started off doing dresses when I initially launched in April 2015. It all started by accident and was initially unplanned – I posted on Instagram and received an influx of requests for bespoke dresses and gowns given it was prom and graduation season. Whilst it made sense at the time, I had no real clue as to what I was doing. I did go to fashion school and I knew how to use a sewing machine however, constructing garments was a whole different ball game. I must admit, I did struggle for 2 years. However, in 2018, I made a choice to rebrand and towards the end of last year, I decided that things needed to change and focussed solely on designing and constructing jumpsuits.
JF: Why jumpsuits?
RT: I was constantly constructing jumpsuits to wear when I was going out and they received the best reception when wearing them. I did initially consider whether it was too restrictive and did have doubts when starting out but, Rebecca Tembo is jumpsuits and we aim to uphold unrivalled standards of quality and elegance with every piece.
JF: Who is the ideal customer?
RT: The ‘Rebecca Tembo’ woman is one between 27 – 35, a woman with substantial disposable income, living in a main city, enjoys independent things, often goes to high-end events and has a great social life and wants to look and feel good whilst doing all of the above. Whilst on a recent trip to LA, I became very detailed on who my customer is and ensuring that the developments I make to my brand are mindful of the customer.
JF: Hearing a little more about what you do and a brief insight into the history of the brand allows me to appreciate the rebrand all the more. I am a massive fan of jumpsuits and love how elegant your designs are. I believe that in order for a brand to truly grow, it must evolve as per its season. So how has your 2019 been thus far?
RT: In all honesty, pretty good. The past few years have been really difficult. I felt as though 2018 was a year where I became really mature. Growing up, I was always very mature but 2018 taught me what I like to call ‘the learning rules of life’ – mainly discipline, consistency as well as other attributes that create a successful person. So far, this year has been pivotal in my journey and stressed the need to implement the principles I have learnt and really just focussing on my mental state as a business owner.
JF: You touched on success and cultivating the characteristics of a successful person - what does success mean to you?
RT: The definition of success evolves as I grow. Right now, it means impacting people to actually take action. As humans, we are inspired by so many things however it is only effective if you do something. I endeavour to be as open as I can be so people can see my truth, my journey and in doing so, hopefully empower someone to take action. On a side note, I like nice things and want to create a life that I want for myself.
JF: I notice that you have a philanthropic element to your brand, tell me more.
RT: I aim to be impactful and with every sale, we donate a self-development book to an adolescent in Africa or Asia. Self-development books have transformed by life. Whilst their environment may not be favourable, I believe that in an adolescent having access to the books like Shoe Dog by Phil Knight, it will give them an insight into the journey of a brand they may see often and how they too can aspire for more.
JF: The future is indeed bright for Rebecca Tembo, how are you working now to achieve your goals?
RT: I use a journal called The Best Self Journal, which upholds the theory that 3 months, 13 weeks, is enough time for you to achieve a goal. Having used the journal, I definitely agree. I set my goals for the year towards the end of 2018 and I broke my goals down to what I could do within 3 months. It’s no longer a big goal with no plan, it’s a goal with milestones which give you the confidence to achieve. Funnily enough, going to LA was one of my goals for the year and I have already ticked that off (see, it works!). Having a journal has definitely helped and I would encourage all entrepreneurs and creatives to have a similar level of introspection.
JF: Most of us know that the pursuit of more is never easy. What has been the hardest pill you have had to swallow?
RT: Good question – honestly, there have been so many but the one I’ll speak on is having to take responsibility for everything. I worked at an estate agents for about 3 weeks and my boss fired me – quite nicely might I add! – But she said that I had ‘middle class syndrome’, highlighting that I came from an environment where even if I didn’t have a job, I would be OK. As a result, I did not really take responsibility for my livelihood. I mean I knew I wanted to be someone but I just expected things to happen. The world doesn’t work like that. I had to change my mindset. Having a business has taught me to shift my perspective - a book that really helped me with this was Obstacle is the Way, by Ryan Holiday which speaks on how obstacles ought to be seen as opportunities.
JF: That is so key. It is all about your perspective – whilst you cannot always change a situation, the result or outcome is definitely contingent on how you deal with it. You mentioned a few books you have read, what resources have you found useful in this journey and general self-development?
RT: Books! I always buy the physical copy of books as I would love to have a library in my home one day. I read a lot of self-development books (a few of my favourites aforementioned) and try to read books from fashion designers and authors also. I have found Instagram to be quite helpful when it comes to finding support groups and communities, as well as independent lifestyle publications that focus on empowering women and entrepreneurs. Entrepreneurship can be a lonely road so having such groups available is extremely helpful. I try to not spend too much time on Instagram, though! Newsletters and podcasts are also fantastic and I listen to quite a few at work. I often step away from my industry in order to get a feel for what others are doing and gain transferrable insight.
JF: Very handy resources! I definitely agree that looking at those in other industries can be very insightful. To a young entrepreneur within the fashion industry starting up, what advice would you give to them?
RT: Get experience within industry so you understand what you are doing. Even though I started designing and creating at 18, I humbled myself and applied for jobs in fashion industry where I worked on the business side. I learnt so much about the business, developed strong business acumen which has allowed me to be clear and focussed concerning my own vision for ‘Rebecca Tembo’. I know exactly where I am headed and this would not have been possible if I didn’t get experience. Creatives need to understand business! Know whether you want to be a sole creative ultimately creating or a business person. Secondly I would say discipline, be disciplined! Discipline is ultimately the ability to be consistent, persistently. I recently read the ‘Compound Effect’ by Darren Hardy, where he stressed the importance of everything in life ultimately having a compound effect. You may feel as though you have no time, but how do you spend your Saturdays? If you spend your weekends poorly consistently, you cannot complain about not having your desired output – the compound effect!
JF: Discipline is paramount and one mantra I personally live by is ‘be an effective steward of your time’. There is time for everything provided you are disciplined, productive and make the necessary sacrifices if a season calls for it. Speaking of seasons, what is next for Rebecca Tembo?
RT: ‘Rebecca Tembo’ aims to be a diverse, clean and professional brand. Coming back from LA my vision got clearer. LA was such an important trip for me and the ideas have just been flowing. I have been working hard and honing in on my particulars, notably packaging, visual branding and just ascertaining my ideal customer.
Rebecca is nothing short of inspiring. Witnessing her growth over the years on social media is encouraging and our conversation was indeed refreshing. I am a huge supporter of women striving for success and their overall development and I genuinely cannot wait to see the great things Rebecca will go on to do with her brand. Rebecca will be speaking at the next Hustle Bucks event alongside some awesome panellists, click here to grab your free ticket - I am sure it will be a worthwhile evening!