Anika Hobbs is the owner and chief curator of Nubian Hueman, a fashion brand that partners with almost 500 artists and designers, from 6 different continents, and over 25 countries. But Anika didn’t just fall into entrepreneurship — instead, she used her years of working at a large corporate fashion brand to learn everything needed to go off and be successful on her own. Her story is inspiring, and those out there who have yet to leave their 9-5 jobs should see this as a motivator that your journey into working for yourself doesn’t always happen right out of college.
Anika went to Syracuse University for environmental design and immediately worked for H&M right when they were new to the US and only had 5 stores here. She worked as a sales associate, cashier, and helped put clothes away from the dressing rooms. It wasn’t a fancy role, it was exactly what a newly graduated college student would be doing in a retail store. From there, she moved into visual merchandising for a few years and then started traveling with the company to help open new stores as they grew. Eventually she became a district manager and oversaw several stores along the east coast. She left in 2012 after learning everything she needed to know about running and managing a successful retail business. Anika opened her first store in D.C in 2013 to work with brands of color and bring their items to customers here in the US.
“I feel like I got my masters degree working for HM based on all the experience I received. There is a lot of learning when you work for someone else before working for yourself.”
Marketing Advice for Fashion Brands
Anika explained to us how working in fashion requires you to be comfortable with change — fashion is seasonal, and that means the type of items you source for your store will change every few weeks. Plus, trends come and go as well, so you can’t get too attached to just one kind of look or item. She also suggests knowing your buying cycle — some brands who are based around the world have opposite seasons and that can affect shipping, timing, etc.
Also, many brands of color (which are the brands Anika specializes in) can’t produce goods for each season so her buying cycle is different from a standard boutique. This is something she had to learn over time and figure out how to schedule properly.
Anika also suggested not getting too comfortable with one kind of marketing channel since interest and how people buy can change quickly. She recommends being able to pivot to be able to serve your customers with what they need more of. Studying your customers and filling the gaps for them is how you become their go-to supplier. She says you should also study the numbers associated with your marketing, including website traffic, email open numbers, social media engagement, and more. These numbers don’t lie and will help you figure out what’s working and what isn’t.
Challenges She Faced So You Don’t Have To
When it comes to a brick and mortar store, you should have our SOP’s (standard operating procedures) written down so you can hand it off to someone as you expand. Not having this written down makes it harder to communicate it to other employees. Anika also highly suggests having an accountant and bookkeeper from day one, as you need to have someone tracking your money. You need to know what's coming in and out and what’s making money. Without this information money can be spent in the wrong places.
About Nubian Hueman
Nubian Hueman is a catalyst for culture, community, and the development of the creative economy by connecting the consumer to independent artists from across the world. They bring popular culture and fair-trade to a modern brand experience by serving as a means to promote collective interaction, community development, and global responsibility through a fresh and artistic platform.