Design Wednesdays: 3 Project Definitions and Needs

by Atim Annette Oton

My three projects that I work on are: Calabar Imports, my retail company, The Creative Side, a fashion and design incubator, and Atim Oton Consulting. Each of these projects are businesses that I define as part of me and my passions. It is part of the third stage of following my life’s path in the creative life I inhabit.

3 rs two

Calabar Imports, my retail company, can be defined as the core of myself and my business partner. It is now almost ten years and I am working on its next ten years – a retooling and re-definition of what it will be. As a person who recognizes the path my ancestors created for me, I look back to where and how Calabar evolved and what we wanted to do with it then and re-imagine what it can become in its future. I came to Calabar to make things and have done so periodically – but in order to understand making, I realized after watching my students at Parsons – I needed to understand selling things. So, I can say, I understand it and in the last two years have been making things – jewelry and clothing in Nigeria with a team.


What does Calabar need for the next ten years? I have been conceptualizing a new version of Calabar from an affordable store to a mid-range store with select goods concentrating mostly on clothing and jewelry and shifting from home decor and objects. This shift has been happening for the last three years and when our new location opens in Boerum Hill, it will reveal the first stage of the new Calabar equiped with an IPAD, staff and less goods on display. Where did this come from? It has been evolving from our customer base and their focal interest, and we have been listening carefully. Business needs come from your customers and not from you. I try and tell business people this all the time, and the smart ones listen.


The Creative Side, a fashion and design incubator I ave been brewing just opened in Manhattan with space, a few designers and classes. I took my time on this because I knew and set the path to create a space that was about producing results. The goal are simple: Assist in the development of small, independent and emerging fashion and design companies. Get them ready through mentorship, production assistance and training and provide a path to funding as the create and develop product orders from shops and boutiques. And most importantly, build a team around them so they can run their companies and actualize profit.

What does The Creative Side need for the next five years? I knew it before I started – a team of focused designers interested in doing fashion business not fashion shows. This is a critical difference as business is about sales and not about showcasing fashion only. The Creative Side also needs an astute salesperson who can get the designers work to the market in several categories. And most importantly, invest time, people and resources to assist businesses grow within an 18 month period.


My consulting business, Atim Oton Consulting, is small – intentionally, as I know that I am one person. The goal here is to utilize my skills, expertise and experience to teach and train others to grow their businesses. I also perform services and do contracts in design education. What this business needs is clients in the US and across Africa. I have been fortunate to get a few in Nigeria and Ghana and will need to expand my reach, which will take time, outreach and networking.

All my three projects have plans – a roadmap to take me where I need to go. And that map has stages and funds attach to it. To plan without thinking of costs is not a plan.  Design Wednesdays is a conversation about growing your creative endeavor, and I am using my three companies to show you how you can do they same. Next week, I will illustrate money and planning using one of my companies.


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