All Articles Tagged "African Inspired"
By day, 30-year-old Cecily Habimana is a fundraising extraordinaire at Washington D.C.’s Atlas Performing Arts Center. By night, you can find her at home carefully cutting bright, bold African fabrics and sewing together the pieces of her fashion design dreams.
Habimana is an artist; a dancer, seamstress and designer all in one. And she’s equally in love with business. She only leaves time in each day for the things she loves.
“My mom is an artist and I grew up under her making jewelry,” she says. “I started sewing when I was about 12. She showed me the basics and I ran with it. By my sophomore, junior year of high school, I started making prom dresses for friends. In college I didn’t have any other job but sewing. “
The name for her business came just as easily as her sewing skills: Simply Cecily. Her mother chose the name while Cecily was in high school, and she immediately loved it. From high school through 2011, Simply Cecily only created custom orders.
Habimana went on to earn a business degree from Howard University and obtained her MBA from George Washington University. Since dancing is also a passion, she began to study African dance in 2000 when she went to Howard. Her studies spurred a trip to Guinea in 2004.
“From there I fell in love with dance and the culture and I wanted to learn French,” she says. “If I hadn’t studied West African dance I wouldn’t be interested in the fabrics.”
Two years ago Ify Ojo decided to act on an idea which happened to come by way of her own interests. An unsuccessful internet search for invitations that showcased her Nigerian heritage jump-started the entrepreneurial venture which is now Bibi Invitations — an African inspired, customizable wedding and special occasion invitation business. With a background in mixed media and design, Ojo teamed up with longtime friend Omena Babalola, a certified accountant and University of Ibadan, Nigeria classmate Chinelo Agazie whose education in project management was a much-needed asset.
Officially launched in late June of this year, Bibi Invitations’ already earned success comes from the customer base the three established years prior. Offering couture wedding invitations catering to African-American brides and grooms-to-be, the founders —Ojo and Babalola based in Canada and Agazie in the UK — are looking to spread the vibrancy of African culture further.
Madame Noire: From a professional standpoint, what do each of you contribute to Bibi Invitations?
Ify Ojo: I’m the design person, the one that conceives the designs and executes.
Chinelo Agazie: I’m the technical person. I handle the planning and all technical aspects such as the website.
Omena Babalola: My background is in finance and accounting so I do more of the bookkeeping, tax and accounting work.
MN: What was the motivation for starting your business?
IO: One thing that I always wanted to do was create a design that would suit our nature as African-Americans and Africans. I’ve often seen wedding invitations that weren’t as vibrant and that didn’t captivate the essence of who we were. We’re all Nigerian. At a typical Nigerian wedding you’ll see an explosion of colors. I always thought that it would be nice to have a line of wedding invitations that matched the vibrancy of weddings in Africa.
MN: You can customize cards on the Bibi invitations website, but is there something that’s special about the production or materials used that distinguishes your product from others?
IO: When I thought making the invitations and what captures the essence of being African-American I said, ‘What better way to represent a culture than to use fabrics that we wear?’ Most Nigerians wear Swiss lace. When we have huge occasions and ceremonies, we wear the lace with the combination of a fabric called Aso Oke, which is a traditional woven fabric. The idea was to combine what we wear and morph that into a card. All of the cards draw inspiration from those colors and patterns.
MN: The launch was two years in the making. How much money would you say you collectively invested to do so?
OB: I would say close to $15,000.
MN: Omena, you came in with an auditing/financial background. How was it transitioning from accounting work to handling duties for a business like Bibi Invitations?
OB: I’m a certified accountant so I’ve done bookkeeping for businesses and other people when I worked in the business accounting field. There aren’t many differences with the business. Right now it’s a bit early to tell, because we’re just starting to get things up.
MN: Did you come into the wedding arena for a particular reason and were the invitations you made prior to launching for other occasions in addition to weddings?
IO: The wedding arena has always attracted me, because it’s always a time of joy. I just felt like there was a need for ethnic cards to represent Black brides, because I feel like Black brides are underrepresented in every way. Monthly, there are about 3,000 searches for African inspired wedding invitations. When I Googled African inspired invitations nothing concrete came up so I saw a gap in the market for that. I would visit blogs and chat rooms and see people complain about the lack in the wedding market.