How I Grew My Independent Fashion Brand to 6 Figures - By Iman Akilah



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April 24, 2022 3 min read

Seven years ago I was working in Human Resources for the City of Atlanta, and left to become an independent fashion designer and launch my independent fashion brand. I launched two collections before opening my clothing boutique Shop Nami (Nami is my first name spelled backwards) in 2016. I opened my boutique in Atlantic Station located in Atlanta, Ga before moving our location to Perimeter Mall before we closed and became an e-commerce brand.

Iman Akilah Ingram | Boutique Owner, Fashion Designer | By Iman Akilah

In 2019, I began the journey to trademark my Shop Nami name only to realize that my name had already been trademarked. Y'all I was heartbroken - all of the hard work that went into building the brand, the brand assets, the money spent on creating my website, logo, signage, etc. 

But, I took this as an opportunity to get back to why I became an entrepreneur in the first place. To be a Fashion Designer and design my own styles. 

So along came By Iman Akilah officially in January 2020, at the start of the Pandemic. Well before I even knew a Pandemic was coming. The first dress I released was my Puff Sleeve Dress, named Joyce. The Joyce Dress is named after my grandma Lucinda Joyce Crawford-Belin - affectionately known as Mother.

By Iman Akilah | Puff Sleeve Dress, White Puff Sleeve Dress, Teal Puff Sleeve Dress, Pink Puff Sleeve Dress

Mother was the most regal woman. She was class personified. She could dress from head to toe - with the jewelry, handbag and shoes to compliment the look. Mother knew how to sew and ultimately the reason I wanted to become a fashion designer. Mother was my role model. My WHY! So it was only right I named my first dress under the independent fashion brand Mother inspired after her.

After the release of the Puff Sleeve Dress, I thought I needed to release a full collection - so I released our Black Women Collection in FW20' which was a complete flop.

I'm going to keep it real with you - you're going to get the transparent version of me. Because how can I show you me growing this brand organically if I don't share the lessons I've learned along the way.

Okay, so back to the Black Women Collection - I had this genius idea to make this custom fabric of an abstract illustration I created of the faces of black women. I released the collection and it DID NOT SELL. Whew baby, was I disappointed. 

Your girl should've taken that as a sign, but being the bull head I can be I doubled down and released a new collection in SS21' - This collection featured shorts, blouses, dresses, and pants. But again that fashion collection didn't sell as well as my Puff Sleeve Dress collection. 

I spent the rest of 21' trying to see where I had gone wrong. What is tea!! But it gets worst - I went on to design a whole suit collection. The suits again fell flat.

All my time, energy, resources and attention wasted because I didn't pay attention to what my customers were showing me with their buying habits. They wanted my DRESSES!

It boils down to I was trying to be everything to everyone, instead of doing what I do best. Design playful and fun dresses that women can party in!

Fast forward to 22' and I've finally learned my lesson. A very expensive lesson though - y'all I have spent so much on FB/IG Ads with every rebrand. 

I spent the first quarter of this year really focusing on narrowing down my niche and paying attention to my data.

My Puff Sleeve Dresses were my number one category.

Each dress I design passes my 3 F test - fun, flirty, and feminine. By Iman Akilah is an independent fashion brand that offers bright color dress options for women to party in. Our Sexy Birthday Dresses Collection offers a fresh dress option for women to celebrate in.

This year I vowed to be consistent, show up for my community and share my journey on building my brand organically from the ground up. I solicit your prayers, referrals and encouragement.

Join me weekly for the breakdown of what I did that week to grow the brand, how my sales grew and the marketing tactics I used to hit my sales and growth goals.

Xo, Iman

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