[dropcap custom_class=”normal”] When you meet genuinely patriotic Nigerians such as the Founders of Always Me, you just can’t help but share the awesome discovery with the world.
In this post, I’d like you to meet Nkemdilim, Ijeoma and Ashim, founders of Always Me by Anne Li. These ladies are not just beautiful, they are interestingly energetic creative ladies, that have mixed their love for children and their passion for the Nigerian identity to put our beautiful country on the map to be known for quality handmade products. Let’s meet them… [/dropcap]
Please introduce yourself and your background.
Always Me was founded by 3 vibrant young women: Nkemdilim, Ijeoma and Ashim. We are proudly Nigerian and while we have different educational backgrounds, ranging from IT to Supply Chain Management to Finance, we are all passionate about putting Nigeria on the map for quality hand made goods.
Please tell us about your work. How did Always Me by Anne Li start?
Always Me by Anne Li’ is an African inspired baby and lifestyle brand, with the following lines; Always Me Baby & Me, Always Me Fashion and Always Me Living.
Our pieces are one-of-a-kind, as we select limited edition fabric prints and strategically produce pieces in single or low quantities to assure that our customers have unique pieces and keepsakes they can admire for a very long time.
We also offer customization of our products, such as monogramming, selection of specific fabrics etc., which makes our products even more bespoke.
Where did the idea for Always Me come from? Where do you find the inspiration for your designs?
The inspiration behind Always Me came mid 2013 when Nkemdilim was unable to find a unique and African inspired gift for the impending birth of her first niece. She thus proceeded to scout the markets for beautiful fabrics and made the first ever playmat.
After receiving several orders at the baby shower where the mat was presented, Nkemdilim teamed up with Ashim (her sister) and Ijeoma (her friend) to explore the possibility of building a business that focuses on producing bespoke African Inspired products for babies and kids.
After several months of researching the market and potential customer base, sourcing the right materials and training tailors, ‘Always Me by Anne Li’ was born. The brand was officially launched at the 2014 Lost in Lagos Exhibition, one of Lagos largest shopping and lifestyle events.
Can you remember one of the first things you crafted? What makes it memorable?
We can’t forget – it’s the first ever playmat that Nkemdilim made for her niece. It’s extremely memorable for us, as this is the playmat that gave birth to the brand. The playmat is a keepsake that will remain our reason to keep on pushing.
What are the challenges you face in business?
In the current economic situation we are faced with even higher costs of production, yet less disposable income within our target demographic. Furthermore a lot of fabrics and raw materials are now lower quality, so we need to be extremely careful with selection of fabrics and raw materials, to ensure that the high quality our brand stands for is not compromised. This is our biggest current challenge, but we believe that it is a temporary one.
What is your most popular product?
The playmats, which come in 4 standard sizes are our best sellers as they are unique and we never replicate any design. Our customers love the option of having the mats personalized with their child’s name, DOB (Date of Birth), a prayer, bible verse etc.
To what extent do you draw upon your Nigerian heritage for your work?
Our Nigerian heritage is part of what shapes the essence of the brand. We use locally sourced fabrics and raw materials, employ local tailors and find inspiration in our colourful and bustling city of Lagos. Without our Nigerian heritage the brand would not exist.
What are your goals for the future, both work wise and life?
Our immediate goals are to move into the international market, which we have already started by securing stockists in the UK and South Africa.
One of our future goals are to start mass production of select products predominantly for large retail chains in the international market by 2020; as well as increase our stockist/retail presence local and internationally.
We also want to have empowered at least 100 young women from less privileged background with skills and hands on experience in the business through our vocational training programme, which will be launched in 2017 and is focused on training and economically empowering young women.
What would people be surprised to learn about you?
Nkemdilim is a powerhouse in the gym
Ijeoma was once in the army
Ashim used to play football
For someone who wishes to take up this kind of career, what kind of advice would you give them?
Producing Made in Nigeria goods is not as easy or cheap as many think, so no matter what field you’re in, you must make sure quality control and attention to detail is at the forefront of your every move.
Also, if you could give one piece of advice to youths who want to start their own company, what would it be?
Take it serious, be ready to work hard and be honest with yourself and your customers at all times.
And finally, I would like to give you this opportunity to share two to four images of your work with us and tell us a little about each.
Thank you guys for participating in Bellafricana’s Exclusive Interview. We are always proud to see Africans growing a strong business.
We hope to join you in your journey as a successful business owner.
Here’s a link to Always Me’s page as a verified lister on Bellafricana: https://bellafricana.com/listing/lagos-always-me-by-anne-li/