A translator turned designer and manufacturer, her entrepreneurial journey started in 1992 when she tried her hands at making a diaper bag for her first daughter.
Since then, she has poured all her energies into building her business, consistently pushing the boundaries and emerging as a leader in the Nigerian leather space.
Renowned for her statement, colour-drenched pieces, Femi has received several awards, and in 2013, her business became a case study for MBA students at the prestigious Pan-Atlantic University in Lagos.
Nothing, absolutely nothing in her background had prepared her for the world of entrepreneurship and she did not have an entrepreneurial mindset as both parents were academics.
She learned all she needed to start up her business from books, as the Internet was barely three years old when she started and Google didn’t exist then. She kicked off as soon as she got tangible information and started with her friends and family as her first set of customers.
Success as they say, is 10% inspiration (creativity) and 90% perspiration (hard work), that failures, frustrations and setbacks are all part of the growth process and that very simply put, in spite of the curveballs that life may throw at you, you must keep showing up.”
In her words, “A major turning point along my journey was being selected in 2008 as one of the first set of Goldman Sachs 10,000 Women scholars. This gave me the opportunity to attend an entrepreneurial programme at the Enterprise Development Centre in Lagos and undergo a business course for the very first time. After that, the ball started to roll and I was twice nominated to attend mentoring and networking programmes in the United States, where I job-shadowed some famous American handbag designers.”
“In 2010, I participated in my very first stand-alone international Accessories Show, Pure London. I felt the time had come to reposition my brand, and that led me to rename my line of leather handbags; Femi Handbags was born. Before long, my business became a case study for MBA students at the Pan-Atlantic University, Lagos.
“In 2017, determined to change the landscape, I took the boldest step of my life and created the Lagos Leather Fair, a platform designed to promote Nigerian talent, tackle the industry challenges and begin to unlock the massive potential of the leather industry in Nigeria. With the support of the Bank of Industry, and a few other organisations, we were able to curate a massively successful, world class event. We have earned some recognition and been featured on local and international media, including CNN Marketplace Africa and BBC News Africa.”
2018, she opened her first flagship store in a high-end area of Lagos, showed on the runway at the Autumn/Winter edition of the London Fashion Week and have since participated at two editions of the Coterie trade show in New York at the invitation of SheTrades, a businesswomen’s empowerment initiative under the International Trade Centre (ITC) based in Switzerland.
Femi believes you are not successful until you have creates value in the lives of others.
Your team plays a very vital role in your business, and no matter how successful you become, you’re really nothing without your team.”
She enjoins entrepreneurs to work hard as much as they believe in their dreams. She believes in hard work, grit and tenacity as the key to success.
She said they must not be afraid to ask for help, but build a tribe on the way up, because at the end of the day relationships matter. That they must stay focused, stay curious, expand their mind and programme their mind to win, so they can develop a growth mindset and continue to thrive and grow.
Entrepreneurs must keep challenging themselves, never stop learning, keep building and preparing because, like they say, luck favours the prepared mind. They must seek to exceed expectations, and excel in all they do. And finally, they should trust the process, and remember always that good things take time.
In terms of the brand however, Femi Handbags has become much more than a handbag brand. It embodies the values of excellence and integrity to be cherished and has become a symbol and an expression of creativity, positivity and possibilities.
The brand sends out very clear messages and seeks to tell a powerful African story, change the negative narrative around ‘Made-In-Africa’ brands and shatter established stereotypes around African luxury.