How Lola Banjo bounced back from 136 rejections to build Italian-made luxury travel bags

Abu Mubarik December 14, 2022
Lola Banjo. Photo: Linkedin

Lola Banjo describes herself as a “global citizen”, a name inspired by her love for traveling. She has traveled to over 100 countries and counting. As she traveled across the world, she realized how difficult it was for her to find quality and affordable travel bags.

According to her, this inspired her to start Silver & Riley, a luxury Italian-made handbag and travel accessory line after realizing the gap in the market. As a “dreamer and a doer,” Banjo prides herself on seeing possibilities in everything.

She was raised by entrepreneurial parents. Her mother owned several businesses, including a kerosene shop, a jewelry trading business, a tailoring business, and a school. It, therefore, seemed to have sealed her fate that she would become an entrepreneur herself.

From then on, she knew she wanted to create a consumer brand. However, the journey was anything but straightforward. Life took her through several twists and turns as she refined, saved up for, and planned for her brand.

According to her, Silver & Riley was born after years of market research. “The brand produces luxury timeless accessories that combine style with function while not breaking the bank,” she told Style Rave.

Banjo runs Silver & Riley as a side hustle. She has a full-time career as a Corporate Strategy Executive at Salesforce, one of the world’s largest tech firms. In that role, she is part of a small team of leaders, strategists, design thinkers, and innovators who advise and partner with the C-Suite of client firms on their business strategy, she told Style Rave.

“This comes after years as a Strategy Consulting Executive at Deloitte and Accenture,” she said. Her past client list includes major brands like Estee Lauder, Kellogg’s and Coca-Cola. Others are Bacardi, Hostess, CVS, Best Buy, and Bank of America.

Banjo makes her bags in Italy. She travels there once a month to visit the factories where her bags are produced to ensure quality. Silver & Riley prides itself on being one of the premiere Black and travel accessory lines in the industry. In addition to her day job, Banjo, who has Nigerian heritage, is a writer and an avid photographer. 

The New York native has a BS in Materials Engineering and Mathematics (from Rutgers University), an MS in Financial Engineering (from NYU), and an MBA in Strategy, Finance, and Decision Sciences from Emory.

She also studied at business schools around the world, including (FGV) Rio (Brazil), (WHU) Koblenz (Germany) and (RSM), Erasmus (Netherlands). In addition, she studied at The London School of Economics, and (SDA) Bocconi (Italy).

When Banjo started her brand, she got rejected by 136 manufacturers because her order quantities were too low due to being self-funded. “As demoralizing as that can be, I kept trying and eventually found two to work with me,” she said.

Her brand now stands out among her competitors because it supports female entrepreneurs by helping them launch, grow and scale their businesses. She hopes to fully establish her Women Entrepreneurship Fund to the point where she will be giving $10,000 to 20,000 grants.

Last Edited by:Mildred Europa Taylor Updated: December 14, 2022


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