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Aderonke Abiona is the Founder and Creative Director at Bambiano. She has a B.Eng. in Computer Engineering from the University of Lagos, Nigeria and an MSc. in Wireless Communication Systems from Brunel University, West London. Over the past 7 years, she has worked in Telecommunications and Childcare/Educational Sectors within Nigeria and UK. She is married to an amazing man and they are blessed with two children who rock their world.
Tell us about your business
Bambiano is Nigeria’s Pioneer Teething Jewellery brand. It is a fun new line of Modern, Practical and Safe products inspired by children. We launched the brand in 2013 and our first set of products included a range of soft, non-toxic Silicone Jewellery intended for mothers and caregivers to wear while holding or nursing a teething baby. Our accessories are made from 100% food grade silicone, same material as many pacifiers and the necklaces come with a breakaway clasp to prevent chocking. As a stylish mum, you now have the option of functional and style-forward jewellery specially designed as a chewing aid for your baby.
From having an idea to starting your business, share your journey with us
The idea behind Bambiano dropped in my heart in 2013 whilst at an event with my family. My 4 month old baby tugged, gnawed and attempted to chew on the layered pearls I wore. I feared the beads would fall apart, have unwanted chemicals and he would swallow a piece so I took it off. At that moment I thought to myself “I need to find something that will serve the dual purpose of being fashionable yet safe for my baby to touch and chew”. I mentioned the idea to my husband and he encouraged me to explore it.
On my way home, I began my research on my mobile phone. I discovered it was non-existent in Nigeria hence there were no sources for a case study. When I got home, I brought out all my accessories and used them as inspiration for a line of soft, non- toxic, attractive, trendy and most importantly safe Jewellery.
A lot of multitasking went into starting up the business. I was juggling a 9-5 job, school runs, being a wife and mother. Work at Bambiano began after my kids were tucked in bed. Most times I found myself up at 2am and leaving for work at 6am. While the products were being manufactured, I began work on other aspects of the business such as website design, branding, packaging, quality testing, social media and logistics. Within 2 months the products were available. I organised a photo shoot and invited a few friends to bring their babies and daughters. Soon after, the website was products were launched. I was on a roll!
Why do you love what you do? There are so many other businesses you could have explored, why this?
Oh! I love what I do because the idea came to me naturally. I didn’t have to sit down trying to come up with a business idea. When the idea for Bambiano came, it clicked! I also love the fact that I can merge my passion for technology and childcare under one umbrella and turn it to cash.
At what point did you know beyond all doubt that this is going to work?
I knew beyond all doubt that Bambiano will work because I have tested and tried it. I have used the necklaces with my teething baby, watched him use the toys as he grew and admired my daughter use the junior accessories. The compliments we receive confirm that success is within our horizon. I have also sent free samples to random mums and bloggers for feedback. The responses have been positive and encouraging. The testimonials we receive on our web-store from customers also convince me that we are on track.
How did you raise the capital to start your business, especially with the high cost of running businesses in Nigeria?
Initial capital was raised by me and my business partner who is also my husband. A lot of bootstrapping and sacrifice was done to kick off the business. As co-preneurs, we share expenses, office space, technology and admin costs between Bambiano and his sock brand N&G Socks. We also outsource services we cannot adequately handle and eliminate unnecessary costs.
How soon did you start making profits?
7 months after the product launch.
Brilliant ideas don’t always mean great sales, how has it been marketing your services?
We invested in a state of the art e-commerce Web-store, quality pictures and employed the use of Social Media to create publicity using platforms such as Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and Blogs
We also maintain a constant presence at Exhibitions, Expos and Fairs. This gives us the opportunity to showcase our products, interact with potential customers and meet with fellow business owners.
Most importantly, at the heart of our business is the Customer. In ensuring that our customers remain happy and satisfied, we created an avenue for customers to request for customized designs.
As a small business owner you can’t do everything, what has been your experience hiring staff and building your team.
Bambiano is made up of a small team. Initially, I and my partner wore all the hats. As the business grew, we re-organised the roles. Right now, I supervise all roles end to end, set the strategic direction, handle the product design, customer service, procurement and all IT related roles while my partner manages the branding, sale and marketing. We hired two ladies to handle the customised orders while other roles such as web development, accounting and logistics are outsourced to professionals. I also have a support group made up of fellow entrepreneurs and mentors who provide advice and support to ensure we are on track. We all work as a team to enable our customers have the best user experience.
Your greatest skill/strength that has particularly been of help in starting and running your business?
It will be my Project Management/IT Skills
Did you have to get a formal training or qualification to be able to do this?
No, I didn’t get any formal training or qualification specifically for Bambiano. However, the training and qualifications I have obtained over the years in Telecoms and Childcare home and abroad paved way for a smooth transition into starting Bambiano.
You have been running your business for some time now, what did you know now that you wished you had known before you started?
I wish I knew that there was access to funding for businesses in Nigeria
Any life experience that has particularly prepared you directly or indirectly for what you do now?
Growing up with industrious parents, greatly imparted on me. My dad, an Electrical Engineer is a perfectionist and very big on Time Management. My mum on the other hand is a great multitasker. She raised 4 children, worked day (sometimes night) as a pharmacist and juggled a few businesses.
Not forgetting my brief first-hand experience with Tara Fela-Durotoye as a sales rep for House of Tara. At HOT, I learnt the effect of infusing passion and hard work into a business.
Change can bring out a part of us we never knew existed, what new things have you discovered about yourself in the course of starting and running your business?
Starting a business in Nigeria is a huge risk; I didn’t discover how brave I am until I launched Bambiano. My business has also brought out the critic in me. I am my own biggest critic. With great eyes for details, I am constantly ensuring that there are no loopholes in Bambiano products.
The greatest challenge you have ever had to overcome to get to where you are now?
The challenges I have faced in this line of business range from Conceptualisation and Design to Production, Funding, Branding and then Marketing. The greatest has been Conceptualisation and Design.
Designing Bambiano products was a huge challenge because I had to put a lot of things into consideration such as material, cost of production, safety, durability and functionality. Getting a reputable manufacturer to produce the beads to specification was also quite tasking as I had to monitor each step of production, inspect and ensure that quality was not compromised. At a particular point in the production process, I got so frustrated that I almost gave up the venture. At my breaking point, I received encouragement from the sales manager at the Manufacturing Company who said to me “Ade, the road to success is paved with setbacks”. I held on to that quote and that’s what has kept me going till date. I embrace challenges and use them as stepping stones.
The greatest business advice you have ever received and by who?
Amongst many, the greatest is what Jesus Christ said to Simon the Fisherman. He said “Launch out into the deep and let down your nets for a catch!” Luke 5:4-9 KJV. The biblical instruction resonates in my head whenever I’m about to doubt myself or the ability of my business to exceed potential. The deep is where you will find a whole lot of fishes. You won’t find them near the shore in shallow waters. But to launch out into the deep is to move away from the comfort of the shoreline.
Wise King Solomon also said “Using a dull ax requires great strength, so sharpen the blade. That’s the value of wisdom; it helps you succeed” Ecclesiastes 10:10 NLT
In essence, a combination of Preparation, Strategy, Wisdom, Hard work and Faith are my success mantras.
What do you think are the most essential skills for women entrepreneurs especially in Nigeria?
In my opinion, the most essential skills for her are Creativity, Leadership, Interpersonal, Time Management, Negotiation and Accounting skills as the major essence of running a business is to generate profit.
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