Sometimes we let fear get the best of us. We are afraid of failing. We are afraid of looking silly. We are afraid of struggling. We may even be afraid of succeeding. The thing is, running a business long-term will likely cause you to do all of these things, more than once. Tomara Watkins of Loza Tam can attest to this. Nile recently sat down with Tomara to talk her amazing business, Loza Tam, which sells satin-lined headwraps, turbans, and other headwear for women. Tomara talks the ups and downs of being in business below. First and foremost, if you have an idea, “just launch it,” Tomara says. And, “don’t get too married to your lil idea” because the market may tell you they want something different!
Tomara, who is from Florida, has lived everywhere from New York to California, before settling back into the DMV area. She is a proud graduate of Howard University, and a seasoned entrepreneur who launched Loza Tam in 2016. Her mission with Loza Tam was simple. Give women great headwear that’s good for their hair. And when we say women, we mean all women. Women of all backgrounds enjoy Loza Tam products, which are crafted by tailors in Accra, Ghana. The brand has also been featured far and wide, from Essence Magazine to the CurlyNikki blog.
How do you source your pieces for Loza Tam?
I work with an amazing group of women vendors in Ghana. I went to Ghana for the first time for my previous business and built so many amazing relationships. I love Ghana and I just kept going back. Somewhere in between all of those trips, I had the idea for Loza Tam, so I hit up a friend to get connected with a group of women tailors in Ghana. I learned that in Ghana you truly have to take your time to build relationships in order to make things happen, so I really made sure that I built connections with the people I wanted to work with. Things move slower there and you have to have patience. You have to take into account that things don’t move as quickly from ideation to execution as they may in the US. And you need liquid money because they are NOT about credit cards!
What has been your experience working with your tailors in Ghana?
It’s been beautiful. These women have taught me patience, but more importantly, they have taught me that the human experience is universal. I started with around 6 tailors, and now my team has expanded to 12. Just to see the difference that Loza Tam has made in their lives is amazing. It may be small, like one woman being able to get a new generator for when the electricity goes out. But that means a lot to me.
I went to Howard for undergrad and love my HBCUs. But when I started looking into different HBCUs, I thought Hillman was a real school - and even tried to argue with anyone who told me it wasn’t!
What is your biggest business horror story?
So, every turban that we sell is the result of extensive designing and prototyping. We have to make sure that each piece looks and feels the way that it should on the head. Usually, I go to Ghana to meet with my team and go over designs, then produce and perfect a prototype before we start production. So, once, I decided that I wanted to save myself some money by working through the designs and prototypes on WhatsApp instead of in person. Needless to say, I ended up with a huge batch of turbans that would not fit on the head of anyone more than 8 years old. I had to refund all of my pre-orders, and I undoubtedly lost some (dissatisfied) customers. I learned my lesson about trying to cut corners on the important stuff!
Fan Girl Moment:
Anytime that a celebrity orders from me, I get so excited. Like, how did they even find out about me?!
What is your favourite part of running your business?
Reading customer reviews. I love reading about the good experiences I’ve been able to give my customers, so I read those whenever I’m down in the dumps.
What advice do you have for fellow entrepreneurs?
Make sure that you budget for f*ck ups and for the unexpected. Sometimes a shipment may get lost or ruined. Sometimes you will have to travel for business unexpectedly. For example, the head of Loza Tam’s production had an unexpected death in the family, and I had to make different arrangements for production. These things happen — often — so be prepared.
What’s next for Loza Tam?
Wellllll, I’m working on a dedicated production facility for Loza Tam in Ghana. Planning for the facility is starting in January, and I plan for it to come online in 2020. Most excitingly, I want to open the space up to other brands interested in producing goods in Ghana. So if you are looking to make moves in Ghana, let me know! I want to build a community to grow Loza Tam with.
Nile’s full site launches in January 2020. You’ll find Loza Tam, and other dope Black-owned brands making awesome accessories on Nile’s stie when we launch. Loza Tam will also be featured in Nile's Holiday Gift Guide, dropping (with discounts!) on December 1. In the meantime, sign up for our mailing list (below) to get the inside track on businesses coming to Nile. You can also connect with Nile on Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram @theNileList.