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If you’re African, (Nigerian especially) then the word “Adire” is a familiar name to you. In this interview, we had a conversation with a Bellafricana Verified Member, Sisi Aladire, whose Brand has long become a Household name in the world of Adire.

Meet Ms Olubunmi Davies of Sisi Aladire Enterprises (SAE).

Read on to learn about how the amazing Sisi Aladire Enterprises was born, goals for the nearest future, and many more.

Please introduce yourself

I am S. M. Olubunmi Davies (Ms), a retired Architect and the founder/Chief Executive Officer of Sisi Aladire Enterprises(SAE). As a daughter of a diplomat, I went to school in 5 countries.

I actually wanted to be a broadcaster, but a friend of my father, told me to study Architecture. I am a member of Neca’s Network of Entrepreneurial Women (NNEW), an organization that has taught me a lot about being an entrepreneur.

I live and work in Lagos.

Tell us about your work. How did Sisi Aladire Enterprises start?

I started Sisi Aladire Enterprises about 30 years ago.

I really do not remember why I started but I remember talking to late Mrs Okuboyejo (Betti-O) about buying and selling Adire fabrics. I spent a weekend in her house, creating different patterns on plain fabrics. I would go to Abeokuta to buy some Adire to sell to family and friends.

When Betti-O found out the quantity of Adire I was going to buy in Abeokuta, she told me to buy at Tejuosho market because the difference in price was little. The first product made by SAE, is the Yemisi bag, a tote bag which was an improved version of an Ankara bag, given to me by Ms Yemisi Ransome-Kuti.

I got tailors to make outfits for me with Adire which people liked. Orders were made and SAE started making ready to wear garments.

Picture of the Yemisi Bag, as held by Prof. Judith Byfields
 How did you come about the name and what does it mean?

I liked Aladire, but there was already a business with that name, so I added “Sisi” to the “Aladire”.

 What is your niche and how did you know it was a market to get into?

To be truthful, I did not know that there was a niche in the market. I liked the idea of selling Adire and got started.

In the 1980s, I do not believe most people did market research before starting a business.

 Where do you get the inspiration for your products?

Initially, I made outfits or garments that I liked, but after some time, people asked for what they wanted.

At times, I adapt styles that I see on people or in magazines.

Can you remember one of the first products you made?  

Like I said Earlier, the first product was the tote bag named after Ms Yemisi Ransome-Kuti. Although it has been modified over the years, it is still a popular product of SAE.

 What are some of the challenges you face in your business?

I did not do any research before I started my business, because I did not know I was suppose to do so, therefore, issues like funding and structure were not considered at the beginning.

Now, I am working with some consultants on creating a structure for the business.

Tailors, especially good ones are not easy to get. Work ethics is also an issue with tailors.

Do you have any regrets venturing into this line of business?

No, I do not have any regret venturing into this business. Although I wish I knew some of the things I know now when I started.

What is your most popular product?

It is difficult to say. At times, I get orders for kaftans, wrap round skirts, tops or bags. However, I believe I have sold more tote bags than any other product.

To what extent do you draw upon your Nigerian (African) heritage for your work?

Adire is a product of a traditional industry, but we are adapting it to suit contemporary life style.

What are some of your short term and long term goals, both in your business and life in general?

My short term goal for SAE, is to make it very successful, financially, while making Adire fabric, the preferred fabric of choice.

The long term goal, is to have a massive factory with about 10 thousand workers, producing garments, bags, accessories and many other products with Adire fabrics.

What would people be surprised to learn about you?

Most people are usually surprised when I tell them that I am an Architect.

What profession would you be in if you weren’t in this Industry?

I think I will like to be a painter.

If you could give one piece of advice to anyone who wants to start their own business in your industry, what would it be?

Anyone who wants to start a business, any business, must be steadfast, have a positive mindset and be ready for setbacks.

Connect with Ms Buunmi Davies on Instagram @sisialadire. Otherwise, you can reach her on +2348023343453

Follow us on Instagram @bell_africana for more amazing creative indigenous brands, and to fine out more about the beauty of Africa.

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