Ready. Set. Flourish.
Kicking off the Behind the Brand Blog Series
Welcome to our new blog series , Behind the Brand! Have you ever bought something you love and wondered, "Where did this come from?", "How was it made?", "What inspired the design?", and “Who started this company/brand?" I know I have!! I’ve always found it intriguing to learn about how a company started and gain more insight into the creator and their journey. For me, it makes what I am buying much more special and valuable.
It is that curiosity that inspired me to create the Behind the Brand blog series. If you know a little bit about Asa Afrique, then you know that all of the products we sell are made in various African countries by African designers. Yes, the designers that we work with are amazing, talented, and making major moves but they are also like you and I. They've experienced trials and tribulations, joys and successes, uncertainty and so much more in their personal and professional lives. My hope is that after reading about the designers we work with, you feel something good-- whether it be happiness, inspiration, excitement, or comfort and that any purchase you make with Asa Afrique becomes more meaningful.
To kick off the series, I will talk a little bit about my journey and what lead me to start Asa Afrique.
In fall 2010, I entered the University of Toledo as a freshman ready to take on the world of pharmacy. Did I really know what pharmacy entailed? No. Did I have some deep interest in it? Absolutely not. But I did not know what I wanted to do and it was what my parents suggested so I went along with it. Fast forward to halfway through my sophomore year and I found myself in my advisors office telling her that I did not want to do pharmacy anymore. I was getting excellent grades but I was so uninterested in everything that I was learning. And when my professors and peers would ask me "Why are you interested in pharmacy?", I literally would not know what to say but that it pays well. Now I know some of you are thinking that I should have just stuck with it, right? But my heart and mind wouldn't allow it.
So after I made up my mind that I did not want to pursue pharmacy, I called my parents (I had to work up A LOT of courage) and told them that I want to switch majors, and you can already imagine how that conversation went. When it came to school, my parents wanted my sisters and I to choose a well-paid medical profession, law profession or something that had to do with accounting and finance. So many questions arose when I told them that I did not want to pursue pharmacy. But the real dilemma was, what else would or could I do? And that, I did not know. At that time, I did not have a strong interest in any particular field nor did I know what I was really good at.
But I ended up switching to physical therapy for a few reasons. 1. It was another career my parents suggested to me when I was applying for school 2. A lot of the classes that I had already taken counted towards my physical therapy degree and I only had to spend one extra semester in school 3. I enjoyed exercising and physical fitness so I figured that the profession was up my alley. For physical therapy, you have to have a bachelor’s degree in something science/health related (usually kinesiology or exercise science) and then go to graduate school to receive a doctorate degree in physical therapy. So I did end up sticking with physical therapy for the remainder of my undergrad and even applied to physical therapy school. But between my sophomore and senior year, I experienced a lot of growth and changes in the way I viewed myself and the world. I gained more self-confidence and began feeling more comfortable expressing who I am. I also made new friends and it opened me up to different perspectives and opportunities. My experiences allowed me to reflect on what it is that I want to do with my life. I became very interested in business, fashion, entrepreneurship, and creating a new path for myself.
During my last year of college, I started an organization with one of my good friends, Dixie, called Saving Our Gems Foundation. The organization is based in Nigeria and Ghana and we started it because we were ready to act on our desire to do good back home. Starting that was my first real experience with developing a business plan and implementing it and I absolutely loved it. I realized that I am pretty good at organizing ideas, strategizing, and leading.
Come end of senior year, I found out that I was accepted into physical therapy school at Howard University but I did not want to go. I know some of you are probably thinking, "You got into PT school and didn’t go?!" But again, it just was NOT in me. When I got accepted, I did not tell my parents. Instead, I thought about what I could do to get away and take some time to get my life together. So I made the decision to do NYSC, which stands for National Youth Service Corps in Nigeria. For those who don't know what NYSC is, it is a yearlong service for Nigerian citizens who are recent college graduates. Theoretically, you spend your time engaging in civil duties and community service/engagement. But in reality, the program lacks a lot of structure and so you end up having a lot of time to do other things. LOL, those who have gone through it know what I mean. (Check out a pic of me pic of me completing the service year-- I'm the second one from the right):
Founder of Asa Afrique