The entrepreneurship journey is one laced with many challenges that could deter one from pursuing the path. In Africa, things are worsened by factors such as bad governance, poor infrastructure, unavailability of funds, and poor technical support.
But despite the challenges, a lot of young people in Africa have proven to be capable and ready to overcome the struggles and create a foreseeable future for themselves.
Such is the story of a 26-year-old Jumoke Dada who is the CEO of a multimillion-dollar furniture company, Taeillo. Taeillo is primarily a social commerce furniture brand that represents the African style, color and culture in its pieces. The young CEO – Jumoke Dada has proven to be resilient, proactive and determined to impact lives both locally and internationally.
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Jumoke Dada : Background
Jumoke Dada is a graduate of the University of Lagos, Nigeria. She graduated with a first-class in Architecture. She also holds a Masters degree in Environmental Design from the same University.
She developed her interest in furniture making when she interned at Interstate Architecture Ltd., during the reconstruction of the Central bank of Nigeria. Meanwhile, during this internship, Jumoke realized that she didn’t want to practice just architecture. She felt architecture would limit her from expressing herself.
After working as an Intern at Interstate Architecture Ltd, Jumoke also served as an intern in another company, an Interior Design company. Her interest in furniture making and design grew as she explore the world of interior design. She would later participate in a workshoporganized by the African Contemporary Institute of Design.
Jumoke Dada was inspired to start up her brand after she attended an Interior Design Conference in 2016. At the conference, she met with a lot of designers from across the globe.
Jumoke had this to say about her journey: ‘Taeillo was a brand I started after attending an Interior design conference. We had Japanese and American designers come around. They tell us that Africans are consumers, that we don’t produce anything from this part of the world.’
She said that she wasn’t happy about that, and thus, she resolved within herself to make a change to represent Africans. For her, that was a way of contributing to the local and sustainable development of Africa.
She wanted to incorporate the African culture into her business. First, she started with a tour around Nigeria; she visited so many states. Here, she got inspired on the best way to harness the local resources to create something beautiful. Jumoke Dada believed that there was a way of integrating African art to create something that the average Nigerians would love. And that was precisely what she did.
Jumoke’s parents were not supportive of her business idea; they wanted her to get a job after school. But, she stood her ground.
Her startup capital was her school fees. She created her first piece of furniture as a master’s student, and it was for exhibition. But someone loved it and bought it. The customer posted a picture of the furniture online, and most people reached out to her to purchase more. At that point, she knew that this was something she had to build. Taeillo started in 2016 as a side project, and she was showcasing the pieces as an artist.
Taeillo as an E-commerce business
Taeillo is the first e-commerce furniture business in Nigeria and is expanding across other African countries.
On entering the furniture industry, Jumoke met with prominent brands already established in the market. Taeillo was a new breed, trying to grow and stand out even with significant players in the industry. She realized that most of the furniture companies were importing foreign products. She distinguished her brand by using local resources like Ankara and Aso-oke to make her furniture pieces unique. Ankara and Aso-oke are popular clothing materials in Africa.
She didn’t just use African art and lifestyle in her pieces. She also uses technology to make it easy for people to shop for furniture from the comfort of their homes.
For Jumoke Dada, she wanted her company to be like IKEA. IKEA is one of the largest furniture retailers in the world that uses AR to promote its products. By using AR (Augmented Reality) and VR (Virtual Reality), Taeillo enhances their customer’s experience by allowing them to envision how the furniture looks in their space before purchasing. Also, the furniture all have a native name like Femi, Ngozi, Ada, Segun and Africana etc. According to Jumoke, her main driving force is making the customer experience easy and fulfilling.
Jumoke said she wants her business to outlive the founder and that’s she is not managing Taeillo like a family business. She wants Taeillo to be a household name beyond Nigeria, and the Africa of her dreams will one day rely on its resources to solve their needs. This is expressed in the company’s motto; ‘furniture as rugged as Africans’
- Taeillo was chosen as one of the startups to represent Africa at the Google pitch drive Asia.
- Jumoke won the Tony Elumelu foundation award for the 1000 entrepreneurs that will shape the future of Africa and the Diamond bank Building entrepreneur award.
- In 2021, she was recognized as one of the 100 most inspiring women in Nigeria. Again, she was recognized on Elle decoration South Africa as one of the creatives representing Africa through their impact.
There’s so much to learn from Jumoke Dada. Starting up a business here in Africa comes with a lot of challenges. But, the fear of failure should not be a hindrance; instead, keep trying and putting in the effort.