Featured Startup: AKLASU
Every now and then we enjoy talking to some interesting folks in the startup world, exploring their entrepreneurial adventures, and finding out what makes them tick. This week we’re featuring an interview with AKLASU’s Mensah Aklasu in hopes to learn more about the story behind the business.
Tell us a bit about what you do.
AKLASU provides the highest quality ties — each hand-made in Italy. It’s designed for men who crave a simple or understated aesthetic and appreciate fine craftsmanship. We cater to men who are detail-orientated and are looking for pieces that can easily integrate into their wardrobe.
AKLASU is for people that value a look where no single garment attracts a lot of attention. You’ll see the individual from head-to-toe and they’ll fit in but look great — ultimately because there’s been tremendous attention to detail.
What inspired you to start your own business?
As a chemical engineer coming out of school, I had to go through many job interviews — typically two or three for every firm I interviewed with. With a fairly limited budget, one of the problems I was coming across was what to do about the fact that I only had one suit.
I knew I needed to make sure my ties weren’t too loud. They needed to be understated but classic so that I could wear the same suit but change out shirts. It became a real challenge to find quality ties that were simple and made well.
Accessibility to fair-priced ties that were made to last became a real issue. So early on I saw the need for something like AKLASU. I wanted to create something that men could wear with just about anything and that could handle the wear and tear of frequent use.
What’s the best thing about being an entrepreneur? The worst thing?
I think the best thing, at least in my perspective, is that I have some control of my life. I love that.
The worst thing is that you don’t always know. The road that you’re taking isn’t always clear and only after you take a step things do things unfold. But on the other hand, that’s the thing that attracts me to the idea of being an entrepreneur. I like challenges; if I knew everything there would be something lost in the venture.
What’s the most crucial business lesson you’ve learned since launching your company?
I can probably list out fifty things, but if I had just one minute to share something with someone it would have to be about getting help — or rather, buying help.
Cheap labor is cheap labor. What I mean by that is that there comes a point when a business owner needs to invest the time and money to get good help.
You don’t hire someone because his or her rate is the cheapest.
You hire someone because you’ve done the research and understand what you’re looking for. You hire someone because they’re a subject matter expert and can deliver the results that you desire.
It took me a while to figure this out because everything was self-funded. I used to make a shortlist of people based on their hourly rate and then look at their experience. What I should’ve been doing was looking at their track record of success first and then determining how much I need to save in order to get this individual to help me become successful.
How do you define success?
I am successful when I have 100% control of my time.
That means that I have full control over my vacation, the time I spend with my family, and some guaranteed income that allows me to do what I want and when I want.
I can wake up, go to bed, and set up meetings at times that are convenient for me. Having to answer only to my family and my customers is success.
What’s something you’ve learned about yourself since starting a business?
I’ve always had this mentality that I can be a jack of all trades. But the truth is that I have strengths and I have weaknesses.
I’ve learned that there’s no shame in getting help and that I don’t need to be able to do everything alone. Sometimes you need to let some control go so that people can come in and help you achieve your goals.
If you could give people one piece of advice about starting their own business, what would it be?
Start your business on your own terms. This means that when you start your business you should be in a position where you only have to answer to yourself.
I think being bootstrapped and funding everything yourself is the main way to do this. I’m not faulting entrepreneurs that get loans or raise capital — but I think there are some negatives to it. Besides influencing your final vision, it can lead to some undue stress.
The path that I’ve taken and I would advocate — if you can — is to try to fund everything yourself.
How has Refersion helped your business?
I’ve been looking at affiliate marketing for a long time. Refersion came to my attention when I came over to Shopify. All the other players in this space have a big capital investment and large operating cost, while Refersion is more cost-effective.
What I like about your app is that everything is automated. It’s not bloated; it’s simple to use and easy to understand.
I’m especially interested in the Marketplace to help grow my business and get our name out there.