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

September 26, 2011 2011- articles, Business Smarts

by Atim Annette Oton


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.


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