F2FA: How has the response to Koélé been so far in Nigeria and beyond?
Leilani: People have responded very positively to the Koélé brand. For a brand that took off last year, I am very happy with the direction it is going. My goal is for people to think of Koélé when they are looking to purchase good quality leather and Ankara bags or sandals. Customers in Nigeria contact me when they want to buy gifts for friends and family; others order because they need to do some retail therapy, both in Nigeria and abroad. I feel blessed by the amount of support I have received and look forward to more opportunities in the future.
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F2FA: What has been your biggest challenge in promoting the brand?
Leilani: The biggest challenge in promoting the Koélé brand is not just a Koélé issue. You will find that many business owners work from their homes or in shops outside of Lagos because not only is renting a shop expensive, but you pay 1 or 2 years up front!
For Koélé, our target market was overseas via online marketing and social media. However, the economic issues in Nigeria recently have made it difficult for that to happen. The scarcity of the dollar, high interest rates and lack of foreign currency make it difficult to promote overseas. Resources have become more expensive which means production costs are high, among other problems.
The government needs to step in and get consumers to be able to spend their money in Nigeria. One way for Nigeria to get out of this sticky situation is to encourage Nigerians to buy locally made products. Nigeria is a country full of resources and skilled individuals. There is no reason why a country with so much is at its knees!
With that said, most of my customers order through our website from all over the world and they absolutely love our brand. They are amazed at the good quality of the bags and sandals that are affordable and are shocked that they are made in Nigeria.
F2FA: Where do you see Koélé in the future? What is your mission for the brand?
Leilani: I see Koélé in the future being a household name, not only within Africa. I would like for Africans in particular to embrace African brands. People worldwide appreciate Africa, our various cultures, art, music, food, fashion, etc. It’s about time that we as Africans are proud of where we are from, support African-owned businesses and create the wealth in our countries instead of taking the money abroad. By creating businesses, we are creating jobs and empowering our local communities.
We need to be self-sufficient and not depend on the Western World to pull us out of the rut that we find ourselves in, due to corruption and greed. After all, Western companies come and do business in Africa because they see the opportunities – the resources and the talent within Africa. Why can’t we do the same?
I am very passionate about the topic and will continue to change the perception that products made in Africa (particularily in Nigeria) are of inferior quality.