My special moment started in 2003, when I designed my own wedding invitations. After I got engaged, I started looking for invitations that spoke to me, but couldn’t find any that represented my culture. I saw something simple and classy in a wedding magazine, and that inspired me to design my own, using my home printer. Fast forward to 2008, when I decided to make invitation designing a legitimate business, I had an epiphany, ran up to my bedroom closet and began cutting old Nigerian fabric and adhering them to paper. I hired a professional photographer to take photos of my product, hired a website designer to launch my site, and the rest was history. IJORERE became the very first stationery company that used a popular African fabric known as “ankara” (Batik) on paper. This signature design catapulted IJORERE’s popularity worldwide, especially amongst the west African diaspora. I went to school to study architecture, graduated with a bachelor in architecture, and blessed to work for big companies like General Motors, Starbucks Coffee, Sears, & etc. However, my ideas and dreams of being a practicing architect was a bit of a disappointment, with the realization of the hurdles being a minority in a predominately male field. What became a venting outlet turned into a thriving business, and in May of 2013, I left almost 20 years in the design & construction field and ventured out as a full-fledged entrepreneur.
What were the biggest initial hurdles to building your business and how did you overcome them?
There wasn’t any workshops or study guides on how to start up an invitation design business in 2008. In fact, I recently attended an event in Atlanta. I was invited to be one of the key speakers at the very 1st educational stationery conference, called The Art of Stationery. It was the 1st of its kind. Had this resource and community existed then, a lot of mistakes would have been avoided. Fortunately, through those mistakes, I learned and refined myself. As the saying goes, ‘’when you know better, do better’’.
What books are you currently reading? And your recommendation for entrepreneurs to read?
The power of NOW by Eckart Tolle and Called to create by Jordan Raynor.
Did you ever deal with contention from your family and friends concerning your entrepreneurial pursuits? How did you handle it? What would you do differently in hindsight?
I did initially deal with contention because, how do you go from being a 6 figure making architect to becoming just an invitation designer? There were also the uncertainties of when income will come, which goes hand in hand with being an entrepreneur, but I had a lot of faith and great conviction about what I was getting into and I handled it by simply winning. Every year, my business showed an upwards financial growth. My popularity grew, all around the country and internationally IJORERE became a known brand, in the wedding and events industry. Any doubts my family or friends had previously eventually dissipated. I have more financial freedom, ability to do what I was born to do, and flexibility to be present with my family, than I ever did as an architect.
What would you say was the single most influential factor in your business success?
I focused on perfecting what I do best. I read a book back in 2005, Now, discover your strengths, and it details examples of the most successful people in the world; Tennis champions, Williams’ sisters, Tiger Woods, etc., simply worked on perfecting their strengths and NOT their weakness. This book helped me realized how kind of absurd it is to focus on something one is not very good at. Focusing on perfecting a weakness could never really be a strength, however, when one perfects what they are naturally good at, success is inevitable.
What do you know today that you wish you would have known when you first got started as an entrepreneur?
It is so important to prepare, prepare for things when they fall apart, because they do. I wish I had paid more attention to utilizing adobe, particularly illustrator and photoshop. Had I been more proficient in those areas, I won’t have been so co-dependent on my staff, waiting on them to send me revisions, because I didn’t know how fix them myself.
What advice would you give to an upcoming entrepreneur locally and internationally?
Attend workshops, networking groups, or conferences, so you’re well informed. The more you know and are aware of, the less mistakes one can avoid. ‘Knowledge is Power’. I would also tell them to take it easy! Don’t be so hard on yourself, placing unrealistic pressures to become BIG right away. Success stories do take time.