Jumoke Dada is the founder and chief executive officer of Taeillo, a start-up brand that produces urban furniture using African-inspired pieces.
In 2013, while still an architecture undergraduate at the University of Lagos, she had the opportunity to intern at an architecture and planning company. There, she conducted site inspections with consultants and contractors for a large project: the rebuilding of the Central Bank of Nigeria.
The following year, she bagged a first-class degree and went on to work as an interior design intern for a furniture company until 2015.
Despite working on top projects during her time with these companies, Dada had some reservations. To begin with, she felt the architectural work she did was only experienced by a few people in the country. Also, the furniture company she interned at was importing raw materials.
These experiences led her to start a furniture brand she didn’t intend to.
In 2016, the solo founder started Taeillo and began experimenting with local textiles like ankara — a colourful cotton fabric with vibrant tribal patterns and motifs — and aso oke — a hand-woven cloth. To her, it was a good market entry in an age-long and competitive business.
For a long time, Nigerians have had few options for furniture purchases. They’ve had to buy from local furniture makers whose reputation for disappointing clients causes them to either visit expensive furniture stores or ship from global furniture retailers like IKEA.
To buttress this point, Nigerian Furniture Makers said last year that the country spends more than $8billion per year on furniture importation. Taeillo’s plan was to introduce products that looked different and affordable but could rival imported ones.
“We needed to bring something different coming from a cultural and tech standpoint. For me, it’s like we’re trying to solve a problem for this 1% of the market that wants to buy contemporary pieces like the ones they see in Europe and the US,” she adds. Primarily using an eCommerce model via its site and social commerce via social media platforms, the startup built a formidable presence with a few customers and officially launched in 2018.
It began to make furniture exclusively for businesses and one of its main customers came that year when Facebook partnered with the Co-creation Hub (CcHub) to launch the NGHub. Taeillo had established such a loyal user base that when Bosun Tijani, CEO of CcHub, put the word out for recommendations on a local and affordable furniture outfit to help with NGHub furniture, Taeillo was the most referred brand and thus, got the deal. Since then, Taeillo has been able to secure other clients like CcHub, Danfo Bistros & Dives, Lost in Lagos, BellaNaija Style, Softcom among others.
In May, Taeillo pivoted to a direct-to-consumer (D2C) model. Now, their consumers include individuals who previously couldn’t afford to buy their premium furniture, as well as new and existing businesses, government, and organisational bodies.
This has proven to be a sound business decision for the startup. For instance, the company has a product called Alausa. Alausa, mostly a “business-specific” product, goes for ₦300k ($638.30) and in a good month, five pieces are sold. In four months, that’s 20 pieces: a total of ₦6 million ($12,765.95).
Amakishitable, on the other hand, is an “individual-specific” product that sells for ₦30k ($63.83). And according to Dada, the product sold up to 450 pieces in four months. In other words, that’s ₦7.5 million ($15,957.50) more of what Alausa made during that time.
Also, in terms of the number of furniture sold, which is one of the company’s main KPIs, this period has been essential in its staggering growth. The last three months have seen Taeillo ship over 1,000 pieces of furniture, accounting for 35% of the startup’s total volume since launch.