by ALEXANDRA MESTER
November 4, 2018
From buying and reselling used clothing in Nigeria to growing a high-end haberdashery business in northwest Ohio, Valentine Ononye has found his place in the world.
The 41-year-old owner of V Couture in Perrysburg and V Concept in Sylvania has carved out a niche providing complete styling services for men.
“I really wanted to be where I could serve others and help them realize their inner self, their true self,” Mr. Ononye said.
He has always loved fashion as a means of self expression and began dabbling in it during his teenage years in Nigeria.
“I would always go and buy the used clothes at whatever market we had at the time, and sell it every Saturday,” he said. “I always loved making people look good. It never left me.”
He graduated high school in his native country in 1995 and began a laborious, three-year process of applying to 105 American universities and colleges by mail. A connection through his home economics teacher and an academic scholarship led him to Bowling Green State University in 1998 to study computer science and information systems.
He worked a number of years as a forensic accountant in Chicago, Toledo, and Novi, Mich., but continued pursuing fashion on the side. In 2005 he went to the Chicago Collective — one of the nation’s premier annual menswear shows — where he talked to designers, and began working on building his dream.
“Every child has something they want to do. Everyone has a dream. My dream has always been, how can I make people look good?” Mr. Ononye said. “I love business. I love style. And I love people.”
He started V Couture out of the trunk of his Honda, and later converted the second bedroom of his Perrysburg townhouse into a small boutique. He began hosting a trunk show and selling to his friends each Saturday.
“Very soon, word spread around,” he said. “I kept on selling out [of] everything I got and grew my clientele.”
Mr. Ononye opened his storefront at 123 W. Indiana Ave. in March, 2010. A second store, V Concept at 5630 Main St. in Sylvania, followed in 2011. He has eight full-time employees and offers services beyond that of a custom clothier, including grooming and concierge services.
“Loving people is what this job is all about,” he said. “If you don’t love people, you cannot do well at this.”
He said building a strong, personal relationship with each client is the key to his success. He describes his business as relationship-based rather than simply transaction-based.
“It’s about the client, about being proactive not reactive,” Mr. Ononye said. “It’s about getting to know that person ... being a part of their life and meaning it.”
In return, many of his clients have taken a personal interest in his success. One couple even planted the flower beds in front of the Perrysburg store.
“People take it as a responsibility to see that we do well,” he said.
It’s a model that has served Mr. Ononye, and other small retailers, well. A 2018 report from global professional services firm KPMG found that, while many traditional brick-and-mortar stores continue to give ground to online retailers, others are thriving thanks to a customer-first philosophy.
“Put simply, stores that are doing well offer a customer experience that meets or exceeds customer expectations,” the report states.
And in Mr. Ononye’s case, his business is indeed growing. He is looking for a larger location to expand the Perrysburg store.
“From a concierge perspective, a grooming perspective, and haberdashery perspective, all around, we try to be very different from what the marketplace is doing,” he said.
His first mannequin bust is dressed and displayed prominently in the Perrysburg store. That will go with him everywhere, he said.
“I worked so hard to come here,” Mr. Ononye said. “This was my dream, coming to America and making something out of my life.”
First Published November 3, 2018, 6:37pm
by ALEXANDRA MESTER