Meet Kobi Amponsah. Kobi is a Sheridan grad and the Owner and Founder of Neck Couture, a custom bow-tie company focused on advocating individuality. Neck Couture started with Kobi being a fashion-minded individual with an entrepreneurial spirit that had been inside him waiting to erupt.
We sat down with Kobi to ask some questions about his experience becoming an entrepreneur and running his business.
Tell us a bit about yourself.
My name is Kobi Amponsah. I’m the owner of a custom bowtie company called Neck Couture by Kobi. The sole reason why I started a business was actually to inspire other people to start their own businesses. I’ve always been a firm believer that if you want to teach something you have to lead by example. With Neck Couture specifically, I focus on customization. Typically, when people want a bowtie they go to H&M or Zara and they have a small selection there. When they come to me, I widen their selection with a whole range of bowties, whether it’s one of the bowties I carry on my website or a bowtie they want created to match their outfit.
When did you realize you wanted to become an entrepreneur?
A lot of people ask me this, and I say there was no “a-ha” moment. It was a long process of being around the right people at the right time. My mother is a full-time nurse but she always had her side hustles. She would do things like fly to China, buy items in bulk and sell them over here. As a kid, that made me realize there’s other ways to make money than working for someone else. I had a lot of cousins in the personal training industry. Watching them charge people to be trained outside or in the gym got me thinking. I started reading business books and following people who were business-minded. I saw common themes and started implementing them.
Did you ever picture yourself becoming an entrepreneur?
I’ve always had it inside of me. I feel like everyone has it inside them. Even if their goal is to work for someone else, they have some sort of entrepreneurial spirit inside of them. I always dreamed about it when I was a kid. It was executing that dream that brought me to the next step.
What’s your favourite part of running Neck Couture?
It leads back to my purpose. Hearing from people that I’ve inspired them to start their own business, or coming to me for advice when I was once going to others for advice – that’s really what I love about Neck Couture. I’ve always taken pride in having my own unique style and I can give that feeling to anybody. When a groom gets married, I make bowties that no one else in the world has and can add that special touch to their wedding day. It’s amazing in that sense.
Where do your ideas come from?
Sometimes they come to me in the shower. An idea pops into my head and I literally have to jump out of the shower, get my iPhone and put a note in there. I have a book that I transfer my ideas to off my iPhone. A lot of times they come from listening to other people – listening to entrepreneurship podcasts and applying what they’re talking about to what I’m doing. There are certain times in the day when I sit and think just to be creative.
What’s your current greatest frustration with being an entrepreneur?
People think entrepreneurship is great, but when you search the hashtag all you see is glamourous stuff – fancy cars, items that don’t show what entrepreneurship really is. Entrepreneurship is staying up until 4am, maybe not knowing how much money you’re going to make the next day but still having faith your business will come through. There’s so many hardships that a lot of people can’t endure and this whole stigma that it’s very glamorous. It’s not like that at all.
What’s your strategy to deal with failure?
It’s pretty simple – just learn from it and don’t make it again. I don’t use the word failure at all. It’s just experiences you go through and learn from. It’s all part of the process of getting to where you’re going. I don’t have a specific “ABC” strategy but I always look at how I got to this point and think what could I have done differently?
Any words of advice for entrepreneurs just starting out?
My biggest advice would be to find your purpose or why in life. When things are getting really hard, you’ll go back to your purpose and it’ll keep you focused. Write it on your wall and be obsessed with it because nothing else is going to drive you further.
What’s your mantra?
Mine is to help other people find their purpose in life and be their best self. Some people find it later, some people find it really early. I feel like you’re eating away at yourself if you aren’t fulfilling your true purpose. Deep down we all know what our true purpose is. It’s just a matter of following through with it. If you’re in a job right now and every day you’re going to that job thinking “I hate this,” you’re not fulfilling your purpose.
What achievement are you most proud of so far?
There’s two situations. The first one is fulfilling my purpose through mentoring other entrepreneurs. The other one is becoming an official bow tie supplier for Spike Lee. Those two are pretty much my biggest achievements as an entrepreneur.
What does life/work balance look like for you?
If you have to think about life/work balance, you probably aren’t fulfilling your true purpose and that’s fine. Some people keep their business separate from their family and still become successful, but if you’re really fulfilling your purpose life/work balance shouldn’t be in your vocabulary. For me it’s not.
What do you do for fun in your spare time?
Ha, I always have trouble answering this question. I’m a very focused individual and I don’t want to say having fun is wasting time. Well, I kind of do. If you look at the most successful people they aren’t spending their time going to parties. Take a look at Gary [Vanyerchuk]. If you were to ask him this question he’d say “Fun? What’s fun?” If you really want to achieve something you work your ass off and you get to that point. Any time you’re having fun you’re delaying what you want to get to. The most fun I’ll have is watching a TV show that adds value to my life. I’m not going to watch some of those pointless reality shows or something like that. I like Marvel so when those movies come out I’ll watch them. I like trying different things that involve activity. I have a kinesiology background so I like to try out new and fun activities. Parties for me are rare unless it’s a close friend’s birthday or a networking event that helps me achieve my purpose.
Who influenced you along the way to success?
My mother. She’s supported me since I was a child and has been a big part of my life. My cousins have supported me too. Virtual mentors have been great too – there’s so many virtual mentors out there that I’ve learned from in terms of business. It’s been a handful of people. My circle is really small – I have four close friends on a similar path of entrepreneurship and finding their purpose so when you’re surrounded by them, it definitely propels you forward. You always want to surround yourself with people who have the same mindset as you or people who are where you want to be. If you’re the smartest person in the room you’re in the wrong room. It means you aren’t progressing.
What’s the future look like for Neck Couture?
I have Neck Couture by Kobi. I also have a kinesiology degree and I’m a competitive powerlifter, which keeps me even more busy. I’m currently working on developing the Kobi brand which is about inspiring people to achieve their true purpose in life. I’ll have Neck Couture which will be the fashion side of it. My public speaking is important too. I also want to launch an entrepreneurship podcast in the GTA. There’s a lot of them in the States but nothing like that here. I would be interviewing entrepreneurs across the GTA. I want to hear their stories and have a last-minute round where everyone gets asked the same questions like “What was your ‘a-ha’ moment” and “What type of books do you read.” People will get tangible tools they can take and apply to their lives. I want entrepreneurs to be inspired and realize they can do this too. I want to release within the next month and a half hopefully. I’ll have my power lifting which will be used as motivation and to show you can gain discipline through lifting weights. I plan to monetize this through the firefighter training I provide on the side as well. It all goes back to the original message which is fulfilling your true purpose. That’s what’s next for Neck Couture!
Anything else you want to say?
Make sure you’re fulfilling your purpose. Make sure you know your why. If you don’t know your why make that your task right now.
Visit the official Neck Couture website at kobicouture.squarespace.com to keep up with Kobi’s latest work!
Get to know Kobi better at Let’s Taco ‘Bout Startups on July 11 at Sheridan’s Hazel McCallion campus.