Ginika Okafor: I wanted to create colourful products that are uplifting in every way

ginika okafor
Being an entrepreneur is no child’s play in Lagos - Ginika Okafor, founder Yili Footwear Click To Tweet

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

  • Perseverance
  • Hardworking
  • Hopeful

If you’d like to share your story with She Leads Africa, let us know more about you and your story here

Susan Granger: My biggest passion and purpose is to empower African women

Susan Granger: @nubianon101 has been inspired by my lavish taste for art and style Click To Tweet

Nubian Queen on 101 is a niche, quality and exclusive online boutique store, specialising in genuine leather handbags and accessories, all designed and made from the heart of Johannesburg, Gauteng in South Africa.

The brand offers a range of contemporary genuine leather bags that bridges the gap between high street and luxury brands. The carefully selected crafted pieces are designed and created by founder and managing director Susan Granger.

What is the story behind the name Nubian Queen on 101?

Nubian Queen on 101 has been inspired by my lavish taste for art and style and the compelling desire to bring quality bags to everyone despite their social or economic status.

Our brand designs are stylish, affordable, versatile and timeless and are not dictated by trends.

Besides your frustration at not finding an affordable leather bag, what else informed your decision to create Nubian Queen on 101?

I always wanted to make a difference in the community I live in and running a successful business has become my doorway to achieving this.

One day, I would like to provide help and tangible assistance that will inspire other start-ups. I know how it feels to look for help, especially when it seems like no one is interested.

Nubian Queen on 101 Leather Bag
Nubian Queen on 101 Leather Bag

What were the biggest teething problems you experienced starting out and what are some of the pressing issues you encounter presently?

The truth is I am so grateful that I did not struggle at all when I started because I had done my research and planning before I launched the company. I recall on launch day a friend of mine asked me, “Is there anything you didn’t think about before today?” My answer was simply nope, because I had planned everything leading to the day.

My pressing issues at the moment is securing funds for expansion. I have self-funded up to this point, but for me to get to the next stage of growth I need to buy my own factory equipment.

Susan Granger: Running a successful business has become my doorway to make a difference Click To Tweet

80% of your workforce who make the bags are women. Was this an intentional decision on your part or a purely coincidental one?

Before I started NQ, I always wanted to empower other women through jobs. So during one of my several visits to the factories I met a woman who fully understood my vision. When she mentioned 80% of the work staff were women —many of whom were breadwinners— I knew I found the place to call home until I could afford to own my own equipment.

Nubian Queen on 101 Leather Handbag
Nubian Queen on 101 Leather Handbag

In an interview, you mentioned you didn’t have a team save for the outsourced factory staff. How have you been able to manage Nubian Queen on 101 without one?

My family members have been my support centre. Most evenings are set aside to do admin work and then during the day I make sure orders were processed.

My daughter, Nicola has been my greatest source of support. She is studying law, and during her free time, she covers for me. I’m very grateful to her and the help she’s given me.

Susan Granger didn't struggle when she started @nubianon101 because she had done her research Click To Tweet

How have you been able to ensure the craftsmanship remains consistent since quality control is a major struggle facing many entrepreneurs on the continent?

This is the amazing thing about an exclusive brand that is locally made. Everything is very contained.

Our quality control and craftsmanship are consistent because we do not make hundreds of bags at a time. That is our niche.

Aside from setting up retail outlets across Africa, what else does the future hold for Nubian on 101?

The long-term goal for Nubian Queen on 101 is to collaborate and extend into other branches of fashion, like shoes and clothing while establishing our boutique stores globally.

My biggest passion and purpose is to empower African women through job creation.

If you’d like to share your story with She Leads Africa, let us know more about you and your story here.