Hi Everyone, I want to introduce a good friend and one of the brightest minds to come out of Nigeria. I want to use this post to celebrate her resilience and encourage those that are still scared of starting something new or following their dreams to just start. Listen to Kemi Juba and her journey to the Top…. Enjoy the read and get inspired….
Tell us a little about yourself.
My name is Oluwakemi Juba. I am an entrepreneur, co-creative director of K.Aspen, and a business development consultant. I graduated from the University of Lagos (UNILAG) with a major in Marine Science in 2014. I believe in thinking outside the box, giving back and that nothing is impossible… My primary goal is to make my dreams a reality, and said dreams tend to seem far-fetched to others, however, it helps that I have surrounded myself with like-minded people. I am passionate about design, art and nurturing relationships. I strive to make the best out of every situation I find myself in.
What inspired you into shoe making, a field in which many ladies would probably not contemplate?
As odd as it sounds, I have always been more focused on clothes and accessories in terms of my personal style with a preference for simplicity and elegance. Shoes and footwear were items that I definitely appreciated but didn’t pay much attention to in terms of designing or creating my own. I definitely didn’t know much about the footwear business before I started.
Following my graduation, I worked for a few years as a business development executive but something was missing, I wanted more. I needed to be engaged in doing something different and creative. I then focused on my interest in fashion and the creative opportunities it affords. I also realised that I was uninterested in designing clothes, and then my inspiration struck following multiple encounters with two other young ladies, who were producing their own slippers. It dawned on me that I could be as creative as I wanted to be and there was a lot of potential for made (and designed) in Nigeria leather footwear.
Once I made my decision, I threw myself wholeheartedly into learning all or as much as I could about leather footwear, types of leather, footwear production methods and all sorts of (online and offline) research. I also sought out and met with different cobblers. K.Aspen was born soon thereafter with our first sample.
What inspired the name?
The brand name; K.Aspen is inspired by my name “Kemi” and also from my science background. “Aspen” is a common name for certain tree species that are durable and pretty. Like our footwear, the brand name aims to reflect, quality, durability, local design with global appeal.
What was the challenge(s) when you started and how did you surmount it/them?
There were two main issues that K.Aspen had at the beginning. The first was finding and retaining the right cobblers that could meet our standards. We went through a number of them before finding the right ones.
The other issue was materials sourcing, in terms of finding the right colours, textures and or quantities. I learnt to use what was available in making memorable products and also to be more appreciative when presented with a wide range of choices.
What would be your message to young people aspiring to go into business?
My message to other young entrepreneurs is “know your why” as opposed to just following trends. I ventured into the leather industry because I saw a gap in the market / an opportunity in the leather industry. The initial thought of making money is great, however, recognizing the value you can add to an industry should be the core of starting any business. A brand or business is only relevant when it offers a solution (or solutions) to problems which the market needs solved, everything else will come naturally as money responds to value. Another key thing is to surround yourself with people who believe in you and more importantly, share your vision. I have a partner and close friends that literally treat K.Aspen as their own. They have been a blessing to me.
Words of Encouragement –
Be consistent. A lot of people believe the light will shine on them without being consistent. We take it for granted. Whether you are doing something innovative or not, just be there every day; through the appropriate medium (be it social media, offline etc.) just be consistent. Learn from anything and everyone around you, widen your horizons and look to see what others don’t. Through learning, your mind opens up and your creativity expands. There are multiple free resources online (videos, articles, texts).
You can learn online without even spending a dime. You have access to free text books, course modules, and business case studies in your field. Use them, learn and be consistent.
It has been a learning curve and a journey so far. It has involved a lot of research, observations, risk taking, hoping, believing and dreaming. We started from a point of cluelessness to a place bursting with creativity, which led us to exhibiting alongside amazing leather designers at the recently concluded Lagos Leather Fair, in Nigeria. It was a huge leap for us.
The journey hasn’t been smooth but the growth from that point of nothing till now has been so fulfilling.
We design and produce both male and female footwear. We recently launched our heels collection; the Grace Flair Collection; for women and the feedback so far has been amazing. The collection is for the bold and daring woman who loves colour and doesn’t want the norm.
We have three designs in the Grace Flair collection: Sunny heat, Nude heat and Blush heat.
You can see some of our pictures here (https://www.instagram.com/k.aspenng/), or reach us on +23407064738712.
K.Aspen is one of the few brands in Nigeria to start a branded heel line.
Our vision is to become a well-known brand both home and abroad, building a company that can stand the test of time whilst setting the benchmark for Nigerian fashion start-ups in terms of structure and employee satisfaction.
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