‘There is a limitation in terms of where to practice or apply your professionalism’ – Taeillo Founder
Jumoke Dada is a graduate of the University of Lagos, Nigeria. She graduated with a first-class in Architecture. She also holds a Master’s degree in Environmental Design from the same University.
She developed her interest in furniture making when she interned at Interstate Architecture Ltd. during the reconstruction of the Central bank of Nigeria. Meanwhile, during this internship, Jumoke realized that she didn’t want to practice just architecture. She felt architecture would limit her from expressing herself. After working as an Intern at Interstate Architecture Ltd, Jumoke also served as an intern in another company, an Interior Design company. Her interest in furniture making and design grew as she explored the world of interior design. She would later participate in a workshop organized by the African Contemporary Institute of Design. Jumoke Dada was inspired to start her brand after attending an Interior Design Conference in 2016. At the conference, she met with many designers from across the globe.
How has Taeillo furniture grown over the years?
If I’m being honest with you, running Taeillo has been challenging. It has been a bitter-sweet experience, just as running any sustainable business. To mention a few, this clime does not smile on manufacturers; Imagine having to deal with infrastructural deficit – inadequate power supply, shortage of raw materials, and other structural challenges. No wonder the manufacturing industry has seen a tremendous decline in recent times. So, as a business, we have had to deal with a lot of these issues, but the good news is that we are still running against all odds. Also, finding competent hands and the right talent can be a herculean task in this industry. Not to leave out the good part, it has been a beautiful experience shipping happiness into the homes of people across Africa. The challenges become worthwhile when I get feedback on how happy customers are about our furniture pieces.
Give insight about your experience as an architect?
I have not practiced as a full-blown architect. Although, I interned at an architectural firm where I was opportune to work alongside other professional architects. I think architecture is fascinating, but in this part of the world, there is a limitation in terms of where to practice or apply your professionalism – I guess this prompted me to diversify into what I am doing today because I sat back and thought to myself ‘’ How many houses can I design before I retire and how many lives will I impact through my journey?’’ my response to myself was not satisfactory, hence my diversification.
What are the challenges you have faced over time?
If I were to state all my challenges over time, we probably would not live here. However, the most recurring one is people. Trying to understand people has been very challenging for me. Well, maybe because I am introverted, but if you agree with me, you need to understand people to know how to deal with them. Be it employees or even customers. For customers, it’s easy because all you need to do is a market survey and ensure quality. However, for employees, I am still struggling.
Also, finding the right talent that understands our industry has been an issue because our niche is unique and not saturated. Therefore, finding those whose experience fits our needs has been challenging. Imagine trying to employ a certified and experienced quality assurance and quality control person for furniture. Yes, there are QAQC people in other professions, but for the table, we probably must interview tons of people to find one person that is somehow capable. Another major challenge was COVID-19; As a young person in business, dealing with the irregularities that came with the pandemic was strange and confusing, but the upside is that we could navigate it to our advantage. We launched a workstation that served the needs of many people at that time. (Amakisi Table & Ikenga Chair)
How were you able to build Taeillo furniture to be the brand it is today?
Building Taeillo into the brand it is today was not my sole effort. It is a buildup of the contribution of everyone who has ever worked with us. For everyone who works with us, we ensure they understand and buy into the vision that drives optimum delivery. Also, many people think running a business is glamorous, but the truth Is that running a business requires many sacrifices. You may need to sacrifice your lifestyle, time, and many things that people ordinarily see as an excellent way of life. You have to be willing to give up so much, and I say this contextually because If you stray away for a moment, you might wake up and find out that you do not even have a business anymore. So, I got involved. When we started, there were days when I had to sleep in the factory covered with sawdust and dirt. So far, It has been a tenacious and dogged ride.
What is your contribution to Africa’s growth?
One of my goals for creating Taeillo was to create a brand that Africa could be proud of. Before we started, I attended a seminar where a foreign speaker said, ‘’ Africans are not creators but consumers’’ I took that up as a challenge to change the status quo. So, I will say our contributions so far are as follows, building a global brand for Africa by Africans’, impacting the economy through creating jobs for over 90 people across Africa, and reducing importation.
What do you think differentiates you from others in the industry?
Our differentiation ties back to our brand essence; the plan is to project Africa to the world, so we have adopted a strategy that makes people resonate with the brand effortlessly. A typical Taieillo piece gives an Afrocentric vibe that portrays its origin at first glance when spotted worldwide. The indigeneity embedded in its upholstery (Ankara, Adire, Kente, Zuri, etc.), its structure, finishing, and even product name – our furniture pieces are named after actual people from across Africa (Femi, Ada, Mensah Wanjiru, etc.)
What can you say you have done to achieve growth over the years?
Tenacity! On some days, I wake up and feel unmotivated, but when I remember the vision, I stride along regardless of the obstacles and challenges.
How have you achieved the goals set for Taeillo furniture?
I wouldn’t say we have achieved our goals because the vision is enormous. I look forward to seeing Taeillo become a successful global brand out of Africa. Being the IKEA of Africa is the goal. So basically, we are at a phase where we are putting in the work to ensure this vision comes to fruition.
How do you feel being celebrated among forty outstanding African women in tech?
I feel honored to be recognized as one of those advancing the course of Africa.
How did you achieve the use of virtual reality to showcase furniture pieces to customers?
It is no news that technology is shaping our approach to many things. The world is evolving, and we have seen a shift in how purchases are made globally. So, as a young and vibrant brand, adopting augmented and virtual reality was not an option; it was a necessity. We especially considered that a lot of our target audience is tech-savvy folks.
With e-commerce as the preferred shopping option, buying furniture online became feasible. Although this feasibility does not suffice because there is still a hurdle of how perfectly the piece fits in the buyer’s space to be crossed. Based on this shift, we decided to be futuristic by creating digital experiences that feel closer to stepping into a store and boosting in-store experiences with digital elements.
The augmented reality function on the website gives buyers a more personalized experience; they no longer must guess befitting furniture pieces for their space when they can sit within the confines of their home, check out a piece of furniture and immerse it into desired space in real-time to get an idea of how it matches their aesthetics.
Also, the virtual reality option came in handy since we did not have the capital to set up a showroom when we started. We designed a digital gallery where customers who walk into our office space can see all the furniture pieces we have available from the VR headset.