Ginika Okafor is a lawyer, art lover and a Motherland Mogul showing that young Nigerians can wear #MadeinNigeria with pride. In between trying new foods, visiting new countries and experiencing their culture, Ginika designs and creates footwear. Her brand Yili is fun, colourful and Nigerian-made.
Ginika is secretly an adrenalin junkie, so you may catch her either bungee jumping or sky diving (but just make sure her dad doesn’t read this). Here she shares with us the challenges of sourcing local materials in Nigeria and sums up what it means to be an entrepreneur in Lagos in three words.
Why did you decide to start Yili?
I love colours. I like to be surrounded by bursts of colours and as a result I infuse a lot of colours in my everyday outfits and surroundings. With this in mind, I started Yili because I wanted Nigerian-made and sourced footwear, which infuses bursts of colours in its aesthetics.
Furthermore, I notice colours have positive effects on moods and I wanted to create colourful products that are uplifting in every way. This is why you find most of Yili slippers are combinations of different bright colours.
Also, there is an option for customers to choose the particular materials and colours that will go with our existing designs. This makes each footwear more personal, unique and more meaningful to each customer.
How have you (or do you) overcome challenges that your business faces?
One of the many obstacles I faced so far is the sourcing for materials locally. We get our leather from the local markets, and what is available this week may be sold out the next. I overcome this struggle by widening my local contacts.
This means I travel across Nigeria in search of good local manufacturers selling quality materials. This also affords me the opportunity to see different parts of country and to better understand the culture and everyday living experience of many Nigerians.
Also, due to the exchange rate crisis, the prices of a lot of our raw materials have increased in price thereby forcing us to increase our prices. In this forex instance, I can’t really do much but hope the price of forex comes down. All in all, I have learnt to continue to push through in spite of various obstacles. #andyetshepersisted.Sourcing for local materials have taken Ginika Okafor to very interesting parts of Nigeria Click To Tweet
Can you share the process of sourcing for materials as a 100% made in Nigeria brand?
Our products contain different materials from leather to adire to calico etc. What many people don’t know is different parts of the country specialise in different goods/material. Take
ake adire for instance. The best adires are found in Abeokuta. So, when I’m buying my adire I don’t buy it Lagos; I travel to Abeokuta, speak with different families and vendors that have produced adire for decades. I learn from them on what is new, how they come up with new designs and so on.
This applies to all the materials we use. Sourcing for local materials have taken me to very, very interesting parts of Nigeria and I hope to tell the different but amazing stories in a memoir one day.
Where do you see Yili in the next two years?
Expanding. This expansion includes opening a local manufacturing plant, having our own standalone stores in in Lagos, Abuja, Port Harcourt and Kano as well as in three African countries.
We would like to partner with various independent retailers to stock our products. However, we want to ensure that whichever store we stock in must understand the ethos and vision of the brand. Also, we want customers to be able to order Yilifootwear from our website and have it delivered anywhere in the world.
What do you think is necessary to take Yili to the next level?
We need funding. Expanding the business requires a lot of money we don’t have now even though we are open to investors. Also, we believe having a e-commerce website will not only give the brand the visibility it need but it will improve accessibility too.
We are currently working on our website, once that is up and running anyone can order Yilifootwear and we be shipped worldwide, thereby expanding the brand presence globally.
What’s your favourite Yili footwear design?
The Max slippers because I named it after my eldest sister who has been a huge support and inspiration in my life. #loveyouMaks
What three words describe being a young female entrepreneur in Lagos today?
Being an entrepreneur is no child’s play in Lagos. It is a wilderness out here and every day is the survival of the fittest.
That said, being an entrepreneur (especially a female entrepreneur) can be described thusly
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