What would you do as an African parent if you discovered that your daughter used the fees for her master’s degree to start a business? I think Jumoke Dada’s parents would not mind today since she started Taeillo, an Afrocentric furniture business with little to no capital, and turned it into a lucrative venture that has raised over $2.8 million investment in 5 years.
The furniture and interior decor space is not a traditional niche. Still, Jumoke Dada is redefining the space, adding innovation to her business by employing an Afrocentric style and AR/VR technology. Taeillo is the first furniture company in Nigeria to incorporate these emerging technologies to help better its customer service experience.
Jumoke Dada spent less than two years in the Nigerian corporate industry before becoming the founder and CEO of one of the biggest furniture companies in Nigeria and Kenya, Taeillo.
How did it all start?
Jumoke Dada did not expect to run a business all by herself in her formative years. Growing up as an introvert, She claims that her mother considered her someone who was not vocal enough even to run a business. But here we are.
Coming from a family of architects who worked in civil service, Jumoke had been made to believe this was the pathway for her, especially by her dad. It could have been an easy ride for her as she was already exposed to the industry and could leverage family connections.
I come from a family of architects, so I already had like my life planned out.Jumoke Dada on childhood ambitions
However, during her 3rd year at the University of Lagos, where she was studying to earn her bachelor’s degree in Architecture, Jumoke Dada had the most significant opportunity in the field, which turned out to be an eye-opener for her future.
After participating in a building project, she realized how difficult it would be to advance to the industry’s desired level and decided to make changes for herself.
I had seen one of the biggest buildings anybody would want to be part of in the architectural industry. I don’t think architecture was for me because at what point would I get to this stage? So I said, okay, you know, what, I’ll be able to express myself more with interior designs.
Jumoke focused on furniture design and manufacturing, but with a twist. She decided to introduce the concept of Afrocentric styles. She also noticed a loophole in the industry; furniture makers tended to target only wealthy people. So the desire to change that narrative became the goal of her business.
With very little capital, Jumoke Dada leveraged technology to start her business and get it operational. She started by posting furniture designs online without actually having physical ones. She made her first sale on Facebook, which helped her gain visibility, and eventually began the success story of Taeillo.
Redefining the Nigerian furniture space whilst leveraging AR/VR technologies
According to Jumoke Dada, one of Taeillo’s core missions is to provide better services for its customer and remain ahead in the game. One of the solutions devised to achieve this was introducing AR/VR to its business operations.
While several international brands like IKEA have adopted this technology, Taeillo claims to be the first furniture brand to implement the feature in Nigeria. Fortunately for Jumoke, her experience as a game developer exposed her to the concept and the benefits it holds for businesses. She created the virtual environment that now serves as the company’s VR showroom.
In an interview with Eberechukwu Etike of Technext, Jumoke explained that the company’s financial limitations at the time motivated her to incorporate this technology. After all, a virtual showroom is cheaper than renting space to showcase the products.
I think it’s because there was no money. Yeah, so, it’s just the truth. You know, if you don’t have money, you will be forced to think of innovative ways to solve your problem. And for us at Taeillo, we don’t have a showroom, we don’t have anything. The best was just to leverage on technology as much as possible.Jumoke Dada, CEO Taeillo
According to her, Taeillo customers love the virtual showroom. It is a new experience for them and further evidence that there is a need to work on adopting this technology in Nigeria. Jumoke also said this service is primarily used in fairs and events as there are few walk-in customers at the office.
There are several problems that a startup like Taeillo – which incorporates furniture production and e-commerce in a country like Nigeria, faces. For one, there is insufficient tech infrastructure to boost the business drive. Then there are other challenges such as logistics, supply chain, and other problems that many other companies face in this part of the world.
Also, it is not easy to hire and retain the right talent. Today, Taeillo has over 100 staff, 70% for manufacturing and production. This talent gap has birthed the idea of building a talented artisan school for people who wish to gain hands-on skill training, an idea that could be realized in the future.
A typical day in the life of Jumoke Dada, the CEO
Jumoke spends a lot of her time in the virtual world every day. As a very imaginative person, creating in Virtual Reality is one way to escape from the real world.
Her morning ritual involves prayer, meditation and daydreaming before she leaves for the office, where she is involved with administrative duties like clearing backlogs and responding to emails. She is also actively engaged with production and sales, constantly communicating with team members to discuss their challenges amidst other responsibilities expected of a chief executive officer.
Jumoke Dada does find time to relax and have fun outside of work. However, she is not a big fan of social media and prefers spending that time in the virtual world. She can barely wait to return to her virtual reality.
Future goals and plans
Since its launch in 2018, Taeillo has sold over 10,000 pieces of furniture in Nigeria and beyond. The company has already established itself as a pacesetter in many ways. How does Taeillo intend to improve customer satisfaction and scale the business going forward?
According to Jumoke Dada, Taeillo plans to increase its footprint in Kenya and expand to other African countries like Cote d’Ivoire.
It also plans to increase its market share and, who knows, maybe in two, or three years, make deals with international departmental stores to sell some of its pieces there. There is also a plan to expand its services and improve its products, especially its “Pay With Flexi”, a buy now pay later service.
Jumoke’s ultimate goal for Taeillo is to get acquired by a much bigger furniture company, which she admits might happen faster than earlier anticipated, as the company has already been in the eyes of some big international furniture companies.
But for Jumoke, there is a goal and revenue target, and this acquisition can only be possible once the goal and revenue targets are met.
Building generational wealth
As the business is growing faster, Jumoke Dada seems pretty indecisive about her plans to make Taeillo a family business for her children.
However, she believes that every child should find their calling, though she may establish a trust or foundation where the wealth is preserved, and they will undoubtedly own stakes in the business.
I would not tell them what to do, right? Well, I mean, I might change my mind. I’m still young, so I might not see things the way I’m seeing now, but obviously, they will own stakes in the business, not that they have to come around the business. Funny enough, if they have to, if they have to work here, they will apply like everyone else.
The inspiration behind the names of Taeillo’s products
For the nomenclature of her pieces, Jumoke Dada’s inspiration comes from her mood and the form of aura at that time. Her furniture pieces have African names, such as Nwosu Bed, Kemi Sofa, etc. These names are inspired by people she interacts with, including staff, friends, etc.
She chose this approach to fit the Afrocentric style of the business. To her, this gives it a new sense of identity and allows people to see a part of themselves.
In running her business, Jumoke Dada has made sure that she surrounded herself with successful women who have helped her navigate her way through the business world.
But when it comes to inspiration. She doesn’t have just one role model. She loves people for different things, some for their work ethics, others for their unique way of think, and most especially, their resilience and strength to build a successful globally recognized business like Jeff Bezos, Rihanna, Elon Musk, and so on.
Her message to young girls
“Just shut out every voice. Not many people believed in me, but I had to believe in myself constantly. Odds were stacked against me just like every other girl, but don’t let it get to you.
Let people see your confidence and strength. Let people see how passionate you are about creating a change.”
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