How to Land New Clients: the Basics to the Complex

by Atim Annette Oton

The secrets to landing new clients is not really a secret; it is really what you should be doing to stand out from other businesses. Clients are everywhere but most times, they do not know what you do or you are barking up the wrong tree or in the wrong place looking. To help guide you, I thought I post these three articles that say a lot about the process and act you to try some of these things.

I have run a business for 10 years and I am entering my 11th, so every year, my goals are simple, build my clients and grow my business. So, every new and old way I use to do this grows the business.


Technology as a Business Paradigm Shift

by Atim Annette Oton

As Calabar Imports became 10 years old, I sat back and imagined what it would be 5 years later and made a strategic decision to embrace technology in more ways that I could imagined. To do this, I look at what areas we were using technology and what areas we could use more technology. This due diligence analysis would become part of the mode of building the brand for the future. What I was able to see was that we were using technology in some of our key areas:

  • Website: A Mobilized Website –
  • Social Media – Facebook, Instagram, Twitter and Instagram
  • In-store transactions – we chose Square for sales processing.
  • Product Orders

What we were not using technology for and have begun to add to our stores:

  • Mailing List
  • Clothing Customization
  • Research and Development (R & D)
  • Feedback Looping


Mailing Lists: How to make them work for you

To change and incorporate Technology in your business with your customers, you must actually listen and watch your customers when it comes to their adaptability. As we opened Calabar Imports in Harlem, we optimized our processes in the store to look at what we were not doing and begun to implement some of these items. We went backwards by testing the handwritten mailing list as a system and found that in this store, more people were willing to give us their information so readily as opposed to some of the other stores – why? We simply created an area on a podium for it. Lesson learned. Next, it will have an Ipad so that it is all digital.

Clothing Customization

As a business, when our customers ask for something – we listen carefully and in Harlem, it’s been about customization but if we have to do it – we really need to look at how to do it as we already know its a capacity issue and not just a satisfaction issue. Capacity means that the tailor or system we use must be able to supply the customization process and item with ease. This is a big issue and managing that system is why we see most tailors hiding from customers or not being able to deliver products in a timely manner. I have spent the last three months in research on this – from our store experience to what we have seen in business to what’s available in technology and have devised a solution but will be implementing it next Spring if it is affordable. The real issue is cost upfront to justify each individual customer’s wants and desires. Measuring that is tricky.

Research and Development (R & D)

As a business person, this is where I really spend a good bit of my time. From reading to observing what’s happening in each of our stores. I am looking to understand what needs to be done better and next for the company. It’s a task but if it is not done, my company and brand does not grow effectively or efficiently. Research bleeds into Development of the business in directions that you need to grow.

Technology as a Business Paradigm Shift is an imperative for small businesses in this ever-changing time. Each business needs to assess what it needs to do and find solutions that work for it and its customers. It’s time to change. Your business demands it.

Re-building a Brand: Moving Beyond Disasters and seeing Opportunities

by Atim Annette Oton

This article was written for Calabar Magazine, see here.

Some people experience a disaster and it ends their businesses; I see it as an opportunity. So, in June of this year, when a fire destroyed our store, Calabar Imports on Washington Avenue. My business partner and I took time off – she traveled and I spent the summer in New York at the beach. I did a lot of reading and caught up with friends – lots of lunches and dinners. Simply, I took time to cleanse, re-imagine and build a return in the fall.

Our Business 101 required that we had fire insurance, so, in some ways, we were lucky. Some businesses I talked to after mentioned they did not have any. Business is about taking a leap of faith and risk, but not taking chances like having no insurance. The fire happened on our seventh year.

Our return is our re-birth and it is in stages. If it took us 7 years to build a brand, and to re-build it will take time, not the same seven years. We know it and are patient enough to understand.  The first stage is to re-open in a second location – a new neighborhood and a new place. And this new place is Dumbo, an opportunity and a place to cast a story, to try new things and to change some old things. The second stage is to re-open to the old space in Prospect Heights by December (now in May 2012) with a new vibe. The third stage is to expand and create another location – and this will involve the search for space in Harlem and Williamsburg. I am an entrepreneur, it is in my DNA.

A disaster should challenge you to work even harder. It is that simple. It will make you build better. I have five rules of business smarts for recovering from a disaster:

  • Tenacity
  • Re-invent your dream
  • Challenge yourself not to Fail
  • Imagine the Results
  • Re-build the Brand


Tenacity simply is guts – the ability to work through thick and thin. Do you have it? As an entrepreneur, it takes guts to create and maintain a business. Guts requires that you understand that there will be hills and valleys. They would be fast and slow days.

Re-invent your dream:

This is the place to dream big again. It is to imagine your idea in a new place or state. It is an opportunity to see new things and create a new place. An entrepreneur has a box of tricks – not just one trick.

Challenge yourself not to Fail:

It is hard when you fall to get up, I was raised to pick myself up and begin again on the walk I started. So, the challenge was easy. I saw opportunity and not failure when I began to re-dream again.

Imagine the Results:

This requires you look ahead and beyond the re-creation and see the completion. It is the end of the story of creation.

Re-build the Brand:

As a child, I loved Lego and later I studied architecture, so I am by nature a builder. I can build and re-build. I get the notion of time and making changes. My lesson here is to re-examine the old, change the bad and create new goof things. The brand is back. Calabar Imports is on the rise again.