Teniola, who is one of the founders of Reola brand, works as a Corporate Finance analyst by day. She also has varied experiences in the treasury, investment banking, and strategic sectors. Teniola graduated from the University of Texas at Arlington and is currently a CFA charter holder. She has always been a fashionista from day one and had the opportunity to meddle in the fashion and beauty space during her free time on campus.
On the other hand, Ademurewa, the co-founder, is the team’s fashion enthusiast. She graduated from Lead City University in 2013 with a Bachelor’s in Computer and Information Sciences. She immediately landed a job as an investment analyst at a private investment firm, where she met with Teniola and started “Reola”, an addition to her already established businesses.
What inspired the creation of the brand?
Apart from being co-workers, we became best buds, and a few months after, we discovered our common interest in fashion, business, and social activism. However, our biggest motivation was the need for an extra source of income. Based on our individual experiences, we later concluded that it was a no-brainer to monetize our interests/passion. Therefore, we agreed to co-own a fashion business that would take Africa to the world, one handbag at a time.
What makes your brand stand out from the rest?
Based on our findings, the Nigerian handbag market has doubled in size from when we started in 2016. Hence, we introduced a Build Your Own Bag (BYOB) feature on our website in order for Reola brand to stand out. The feature accommodates all our customer’s styles and preferences since it allows them to pick and choose their preferred designs including leather, color, and chain, to create their own unique masterpiece. We are currently working on a mobile application to improve the user experience.
What variety of products does your brand offer in the market?
We design and produce a variety of female handbags, ranging from mini cross bags to large totes made with different locally- sourced fabrics such as Leather, Ankara, Velvet, and Suede.
How long have you been in business?
Reola started as a side hustle on July 2, 2016, but we officially registered the business in November of the same year. Our brand will turn 4 years in a few months.
How is the experience of being a handbag designer in Nigeria?
The experience has been very interesting since we continue to learn a lot about our current and prospective customers’ tastes and styles and how to appeal to them as a brand. We are also in a very exciting era where people are beginning to embrace their culture, and thus, as an African focused brand, it is our duty to contribute to this trend and make sure it remains relevant.
What is your long-term vision in the fashion industry?
Our long-term vision is to own a chain of handbag stores in big malls around the world. We also want to start some charity work in terms of donating school bags to less privileged children. We intend to do this by giving a small percentage of our sales back to these kids.
What are some of the challenges that you have faced in the period that you been in the industry?
As mentioned earlier, there are a lot of ‘Made in Nigeria’ handbag brands that spring up every day. Although it helps to create room for healthy competition in the market, other brands tend to steal designs and portray them as their own. We have experienced many such incidents. We create all our designs except for those that we mentioned as inspirations. Therefore, it would be nice to receive credit for our designs, rather than people taking them and making it their own. In this case, imitation is not a form of flattery.
Another challenge that we experience is the maintenance of the production of quality Reola bags. We are a brand that prefers to push affordable luxury, and thus, we have to ensure that we receive quality fabrics. However, we have had situations whereby we receive bad batches of production materials that had initially passed the approval stage. In such situations, we often have to recall the products and replace the bags or refund the customers. Nevertheless, we have been able to curb and reduce such cases from happening over the years.
What do you think Africans should do differently as a way of supporting the African designers?
Africans should believe, value, and appreciate the local designers as much as they do with international ones. Besides, they should support their businesses and not negotiate the prices. You cannot enter a high-end designer store and try to negotiate the price, lol, or can you?
What advice can you give to designers who are just beginning their journey?
A quote we live by, “Be diligent with your craft, never stop learning, be ready to take advantage of any opportunity that presents itself and everything else will fall in place”.
You can visit our website on www.shopreola.com for some of the best handmade bags in Nigeria.
Social media platforms
Instagram – @shopreola
Twitter – @shopreola