Decor Nigeria is a web platform whose interior design services satisfies both the requirements of the emotional market experience and the rational corporate requirements in terms of efficiency and functionality.
Banke Ajagunna is the CEO of Decor Nigeria. She shares her story with Anita Okoh of Africans Building Africa on her journey so far including her plans and goals for Decor Nigeria to become a player in the international space.
- Tell us about yourself and your business
My name is Banke Ajagunna, I am the founder of Decor Nigeria. Decor Nigeria is an interior, furniture, landscape, and construction design outfit in Lagos, Nigeria which specializes in residential and commercial projects. The Interior design idea came to me as a profession because it combines my numerous interests and skills into one passion. I like art and fashion and have been doodling on designs as long as I can remember. I also like to do retail a lot because of the constant inflow and outflow of funds; it gives me such a rush. If memory serves me right, I’ve always sold one thing or the other or helped people source for items and put a little markup as profit for myself. It’s in my DNA. My mother had a great role to play in this interest of mine because I definitely got my entrepreneurship streak from her. I probably always knew I would become a full-time entrepreneur at some point in my life and what better time to do it than now when I do not have any responsibilities or financial obligation
- As a new entrepreneur, what did transitioning from the corporate world mean to you and how did you go about it?
This question is quite tricky because as I mentioned earlier, even while I had a 9-5 job, I have always had something going on the side. So if I may say so myself, I have always been an entrepreneur. The only difference now is that I am all in and have to go through the motions. I think the scariest part of it all is the uncertainty of what the next day brings but my faith helps me keep it together. As an entrepreneur, you need grit and the staying power. Luckily, I have a fair share of both, so this keeps me going.
- How much did you need to start your business and how were you able to raise that capital?
What most brick and mortar businesses need money for (excluding those in production) would be an office, staff’s salary, WiFi, building an online presence etc… but with my kind of business model, I didn’t need a huge initial capital. My little savings and some help from a friend got this covered. My business is super lean right now, I hire workmen per project, I work from a co-working space which is super flexible and affordable. I actually do not have any investor in my business so far and I am glad about it as it gives me the chance to develop the business without outside pressure.
- What are some of the challenges you face in your business and how do you overcome those challenges?
The number 1 challenge I would say is the perception of clients about Interior Design. People are reluctant to hire someone to design their space because then, they’d have to pay for a professional’s service for something they may see as a luxury. Once they decide to hire a professional they may want to control the design as much as they can from their perspective.
While I love working actively with clients, what many do not see is that(at least in Nigeria, interior design) is actually an end to end project management of all the workmen, costing and managing a tight budgets, and often partly construction work. I, therefore, think investing in good interior design and space creation with a professional is an absolute must for offices and homes.
- Where do you see your business in 5 years from now and what steps are you taking today to reach that objective?
In 5 years, I see Decor Nigeria being playing in the international space. Designing beautiful furniture that would be trademarked and leaving a trail of design that everyone can recognize as ours.
- What advice would you give to other transitioning entrepreneurs looking to start a business in Nigeria or Africa?
To each his own. There is no one standard to building a successful business. For example, we got our first client a week after setting up the business and that was a sign for me that the universe was ready. You might get yours even before setting up your business or months after. The one thing I would say is a constant would be grit. You need the doggedness to be ahead of the pack as there’s a lot of competition out there.
- How is your business participating to the development of Africa?
There is a whole lot of ‘anyhowness’ in producing furniture in Nigeria. And people are used to the status-quo except you are paying top Naira which is not very often considering the ongoing recession but Decor Nigeria would change that one step at a time. We plan to design functional furniture at affordable prices and export our products to well-established markets and we can only do this if we make a little extra effort to pay attention to detail during production. Essentially, we will be taking Africa to the world!