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Step into the captivating world of Bella Mayei – a small business owner and business development manager with a passion for sustainable fashion. Her store, "Retro Addicts," is an eco-friendly vintage thrift shop that transforms classic pieces into stylish wonders. Bella's heart beats for the planet, making sure every creation is mindful and elegant.
With her keen business sense, Bella navigates the world of commerce, turning "Retro Addicts" into a haven of style and sustainability. In her world, fashion meets sustainability, and each purchase carries a deeper meaning.
In today’s edition of Daily 2k stories, discover how Retro Addicts brings a touch of timeless fashion magic while caring for our planet's future.
We'd like to know the brains behind the brand. Can you introduce yourself?
My name is Bella Mayei. I’m a huge fan of everything fashion and vintage. I also work as a business development manager. I enjoy styling and retailing. Growing up, I had a very eccentric style that would get people talking. I’ve always been expressive about who I am, you’ll see a lot of me in the way I dress and the things I do. When it comes to the things I love, these three things definitely top the list – music, retro fashion and business. I’m not even gonna lie, I love doing business because that’s one of the ways I express myself.
Okayyy, Sophia Amoruso! Can you tell us why you decided to start an eco-friendly brand?
Thrifting itself is one of the best ways to look out for the planet because you’re making sure that pre-loved items are not being thrown away. I’m very big on climate change and that guides most of my decisions. I for one want the earth to still be in good shape in the future. I mean, I’ll want my kids to grow up on a planet that isn’t toxic. One of the ways I realised I could make sure of this is through thrifting. I’m not a fan of fast fashion because it prioritizes quantity over quality. Where most people see “waste” in old items, I see “usefulness” waiting to be explored.
We love an eco-conscious queen! So what were you doing to earn money before you started Retro Addicts?
My first business was an accessories business, which grew into a full-blown fashion brand. I was also a business manager or an artist manager as some people might call it. Working with artists and knowing their success relies heavily on you is crazy. But I had loads of fun doing it because, as I mentioned earlier, I love music and business, so whenever I see an opportunity to fuse my interests together, best believe I’m taking it. I’m very big on doing the things that I enjoy. I don’t ever want to be that person that is stuck at a job they don’t like.
Nobody wants to be that person lol. Now let’s talk about the name Retro Addicts, what is the story behind it?
Do you know when you realise that you stand out for specific reasons? If I had a dollar for every time someone told me that my style isn’t conventional, I’d be a very rich woman by now. Growing up, the things that I was drawn to weren’t exactly mainstream. You’d take one simple look at me and you’d be able to tell that this babe is lowkey unusual. I liked the things I liked and one thing I learnt early in life is the art of styling. I used to feel a little bit weird when I was younger, especially when I get stared at by strangers but as I grew older, I understood the power of representation. When you are built a certain way, no matter how unusual people think you are, there are other people out there that are just like you. You’ll always find people that vibe with the same things you vibe with. That’s why I operate in a niche market. I know that not everybody likes what I sell but the people that like it exist and they’ll definitely find me. My goal from the beginning was to tend to the fashion needs of people that are like me and that was how I was able to build my community.
How is that going?
I still have a long journey ahead of me. I believe that growth is continuous and for growth to happen, you need consistency. I’m not exactly where I want to be but I can’t deny the fact that the growth has been real.
As a small business owner, what are some of the difficulties you’ve faced?
I started this business a while ago and one thing I’ve realized is that times are changing and people’s definitions of vintage wear are changing too. When I was younger, the miniskirts Genevive and Omotola wore were the same thing girls my age aspired to wear when we grow older. And when we finally reached that age where we longer had to ask our parents for permission to wear miniskirts, they had already evolved from “it girl fashion” to vintage fashion or Y2K fashion as the cool kids like to call it. If you ask any Gen Z what their definition of vintage is, they’ll tell you that it’s the Y2K fashion era. If you ask millennials, they’ll most likely talk about the late 90s fashion era. But I wouldn’t really describe it as a challenge. Life is moving and whether we like it or not, we have to move with it. But the real challenge my business faces every day is Nigeria. Nigeria can happen to anybody or anything, to be honest. The exchange rate is affecting the price of everything. Operational cost is also increasing and there are policies that don’t just favour small businesses in this country.
(Sighs)Let’s move on to a lighter topic. 9-5 Or entrepreneurship? Which one has your vote?
Entrepreneurship does it for me but I work a 9-5 sha (laughs). I love the freedom entrepreneurship gives me. You get to make your own decisions and benefit from those decisions or bear their consequences.
True. What’s your ultimate goal for your business?
I’d love to grow my business into a globally recognized brand. There are vintage lovers all over the world, not just in Nigeria. People that have unique fashion tastes deserve the best of the vintage world and that’s what I aspire to provide in Nigeria and beyond.
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