Avatar photo
BY Abu Mubarik, 11:00am June 13, 2024,

‘Beyonce-approved again’: Meet the Cameroonian whose bag has been sported by Beyonce for the 2nd time

Anima Iris founder and CEO Wilglory Tanjong outside of the Wharton School of the University of Pennsylvania. Photo: CNBC

Wilglory Tanjong is the founder of Anima Iris, a luxury handbag company she started as a side hustle while pursuing an MBA. Like many entrepreneurs before her, she started making her bags “for fun” and soon, the venture turned into a six-figure business.

Today, her bags can be found online with big retailers like Nordstrom and Revolve, and on TV in HBO’s “Insecure”. In 2021, her bag became “Beyonce-approved” and on April 7, 2024, the “Cowboy Carter” singer shared a picture of herself on Instagram wearing for the second time a luxury handbag designed by Tanjong.

“ANIMA IRIS IS BEYONCÉ APPROVED… AGAIN !! Beyoncé really loves Anima Iris, no cap all facts,” Tanjong said on Instagram. “I know y’all will ask so YES, I’m releasing the bag we made just for Bey and I’m naming it the Cowboy Carter ZAZA. Available now on animairis.com…AHHH BEYONCÉ APPROVEDDD.”

She started Anima Iris in 2020 and formally quit her full-time job before moving from Atlanta to Philadelphia a month later. She first went viral after being featured in a Vogue article promoting Black-owned beauty and fashion brands.

Tanjong told CNBC Make It in 2022 that she designs the bags but they are hand-stitched in Dakar, Senegal. Tanjong said she pays her Senegalese artisans twice as much as the average artisan earns in Dakar.

“For so long, Black people have really defined the culture in America, but I’ve never actually gotten to reap the benefits of it,” Tanjong said. “It’s so wonderful to see so many Black creators finally being able to actually build their businesses, grow their businesses and for people to have other options outside of the options we’ve typically had that actually have excluded us.”

Today, the brand, which was launched using $5,000 from her earnings, has generated $2.3 million in revenue in four years.

The success of Tanjong’s bag business is no fluke and can be attributed to her entrepreneurial background which helped her minimize mistakes at the early stages. She grew up watching her parents hustle. And when she was two years old, she and her family moved from Cameroon to Maryland.

Tanjong and her sisters assisted their father in his business, including helping him flip houses in the summer. The family also owned a laundromat. Tanjong’s mother, on the other hand, was a nurse who also managed a cosmetology studio out of the back of their home.

What pushed Tanjong into financial independence at an early age was when her mother was diagnosed with breast cancer when she was eight. And also, when she was 14, her parents divorced. She watched as her family struggled financially. “I’ll never forget the day when my mom told us that we were finally approved for food stamps,” Tanjong told CNBC Make It. “Having those kinds of experiences really pushed me to be financially independent as quickly as I could be.”

Despite the challenges, the Cameroonian woman soldiered on and got admitted to Princeton University. In her senior year at Princeton, she lost her mother but that did not deter her from becoming a first-generation college graduate.

After her graduation in 2018, she moved to Atlanta, Georgia to start a career as an operational manager at a manufacturing and supply company. Her job came with a decent salary. However, she took a leave of absence after a year in the professional world.

She used her time to travel to Africa, starting from Ghana where she met young entrepreneurs and documented their experiences. She subsequently traveled to Senegal where she met artisans who made shoes and bags, and that was where she got the inspiration to start Anima Iris, her luxury handbag company.

Last Edited by:Mildred Europa Taylor Updated: June 13, 2024

Conversations

Must Read

Connect with us

Join our Mailing List to Receive Updates