09 Jul Oreoluwa Oluwatobi-“The best things in life are on the other side of terror”
Oreoluwa Oluwatobi is a graduate of Architecture from the Federal University of Technology, Nigeria. He is also the founder of Alaga Collections, a furniture and interior design outfit located in Lagos. Oreoluwa is also a writer, culture and history enthusiast and a lover of art in all its forms. This week on Startup Founders, he shared the motivation behind his brand, Alaga Collections.
I worked as an intern architect in a construction firm in 2012, The firm often imported furniture from IKEA at cheap rates and made it into a big deal when it got to us here in Nigeria. At first, I wanted to collaborate with IKEA to so I tried making contacts but I didn’t get a response from the company. I noticed they were only in North of Africa, so I gave up on chasing and decided to create. I wrote down my idea, like all the ideas I often have, and let it sleep as a beauty in my notepad.
Last year, I had an opportunity to start something and I went back into my notepad and restocked the idea. That was how the journey to starting a furniture outfit began again. I started work on my brand in January 2017 but officially launched on June 3rd, 2017. I have over the years fallen in love with the true African story. We have been told different alternate versions of who we are and what our people have done, but now we seem to have an understanding and we are changing the narrative. We have taken the pen and we are now telling our own stories as it is. I thought of how best to infuse the Afropolitan outlook into furniture and spaces, shared ideas with my good friends and they helped get to this point we are now.
About Alaga Collections
Alaga Collections is a furniture and interior design outfit located in Lagos. We create minimalist and contemporary furniture with a deep root in the Afropolitan culture. Furniture being a subset of shelter is essential to man, and Alaga Collections has been conceived to give out these essential subsets in the most stylish and affordable ways possible.
We have been operating virtually over the past month but a physical store is in the pipeline, where people can come and feed their eyes, open their wallets and leave with a furniture. We like to believe that we reach out more to millennials because as millennials, we are the heralds of the new Africa. Millennials are the lovers of the contemporary style that is deeply rooted in culture. We are the ones that love to do it for the culture
At Alaga Collections, we do not only provide comfort and aesthetic value to customers, we also try as much as possible to make them inquisitive about what they are sitting on or what is in their space. We work in line with the adage that says “Killing two birds with one stone.”
My only motivation to get things done is “Hunger”. If you say hunger for food, you are very correct. I am a man, I want to dine and wine properly, but the hunger that eats me up the most is to feed my curiosity, to satisfy my desire to create and to feed the longings of my heart. In the grand scheme of things, my heart yearns for Africa that recognizes how great it is. I’m driven by the hunger to be!
Getting the word out
Social media has been the major tool we have used in reaching out. Also, we are using some of the nodal social proof concepts to get our customers. Most of our customers have come from social media, others through word of mouth.
We launched on Social Media on June 3rd, 2017 and it was just my banking on my friends to make magic happen. All I just had to do was work with my team to produce great visual content. I sold the story of the brand to a couple of good friends with a good number of social media followership and that was it. It did work well and is still working very well.
The brand has been self-funded so far but working on a grant which will help move the brand to the next level.
Bringing together a group of people to form a team was a problem. Integrity is very important and once people do not trust your brand, that is all. So getting people of like minds was a herculean task, but we are getting stronger and better. Also, virtual business owners dey try o! Lol, It is quite hard for customers to trust you, one of the reasons I’m pushing for a physical space soon. I’ve discovered that no matter how much we put on social media, there is not like having a firsthand experience of products.
On giving up
I ask myself the question “are you sure this would work?” every day since we’ve set out, At nights, I usually reassure myself when I go through my plans and what people are saying again. Vox populi sometimes isn’t Vox Dei, but on other times and in business as I have learnt, the people have a big say.
Our goal in the nearest future is to have at least a piece of furniture from our collection in every community in Africa. We also look to be one of the funkiest companies to work with in West Africa.
Dear Business Toddler,
I am a young entrepreneur myself and what I can tell startup enthusiasts and young entrepreneurs like me willing to start something is “The best things in life are on the other side of terror”, so please face your fears.
Founder, Alaga Collections