Having lived in the United Kingdom for a while, Kehinde Abiola, Chief Executive Officer, Ejide Beads, a prominent beads maker and beauty consultant came back to Nigeria six years ago with a mindset to do exploit with beads. Tucked away in a corner somewhere around Iyana-Ipaja, Lagos State, this self-thought beads jeweller, from her little corner, found her passion and is today doing scintillating beads necklaces of various kinds and standards, which have attracted international audience. She recalled how it all started in this interview with Mary Ekah
What informed your business name, Ejide Beads?
Ejide is coined from the vernacular name for twins. The Igbos call it Ejima while the Yorubas call it Ejire. So there is this woman that was so fond of me when I was still a child. She is from Ife. She loved calling me Ejire or Ejiola each time she sees me. I so much loved the name and when I grew up and decided to establish a business, I just coined the business name, Ejide from these names.
Why did you go into beads making?
I was actually in the UK and that was when I started having my kids, I wasn’t really doing anything serious apart from some minor jobs. I wasn’t satisfied with that. I wanted something that would give me time to be with my kids and also enable me earn a living. It wasn’t easy with kids and work. So I wanted something that will give me time, satisfaction and then incomes. I have always been creative. I wanted an avenue to explore my creativity and skills. I wasn’t really fulfilled; I just wanted something I could lay my hands on, something skilful that will bring out the creativity in me. So I decided to start learning craft in beads making from a small jewellery shop in Manchester. But I still wasn’t satisfied with the knowledge I got there and so I made up my mind to come back to Nigeria to acquire more knowledge on beads making and design. I didn’t acquire my knowledge on this at a particular place but went to various places and went on learning the skills on my own. Education is a continuous process and if you fail to update yourself, you would be outdated. So I keep learning in the job every day and I am still leaning. I have been into it fully for like six years now. I started at home and by the grace of God, right now I have a workshop/showroom suited in Iyana-Ipaja, Lagos and that is where I operate from.
How has beads making business been generally in Nigeria?
There has been great innovation in beads making and the fashion industry in general. Beads accessory has gone beyond what it was at the beginning. It has gone global and then people keep improving on it as the days go by through re-innovation and great creativity. In fact, the beads accessory has gone viral at the moment. It is the in-thing right now.
Are you satisfied with what you are doing today and also financially?
I am very much satisfied. Well, not really in terms of monetary satisfaction but just being happy with what I am doing. I have no regrets that I am a beads maker. It gives me time to be a caring and good mother to my children while I also make a living.
What inspires the kind of artistic beads you make?
I’m usually with my drawing pads and pencil at all times. I may just get inspiration while I’m sitting down during one of those quite moments and then I will quickly sketch what comes to my mind and that’s where the inspirations come most times. And other time, inspirations come just from my imaginations. I also get inspired for new designs from the infusion of the works that I have done before; I turn them around and get something more fantastic.
Who are your target audience?
My target audience cuts across people from all walks of life. Most of my clients are abroad and I also have a lot of clients in Nigeria too.
But how exactly do your international clients reach you while you are hidden in a corner here in Iyana-Ipaja?
That’s an interesting question. It’s a global world and then I have my mobile phone, so my clients reach me through my Facebook page: Kenny Abiola Ejide Beads, where they place order for what they want me to make for them while some others come directly to my workshop/showroom at Iyana-Ipaja here and most time, they come to me through referrals, like someone I have designed beads for before and they saw it and loved my job and then ask to be directed to me. I also have customers that do resell in UK, Canada and America. They buy from me in whole sales and then retail the products in their various destinations.
How affordable are you?
I would not say I’m cheap but I’m also not too expensive. I cut in between but if you are reselling, I will give you at cheaper rate than someone who is using it directly. That means you have to buy in bulk to get my discount. However the price of every bead I design is determined by the kind of beads I use because beads vary and then the time I spend on making a design also determine the amount I sell them. There are some designs that the materials are not too expensive but the effort and time put into the work are tedious and much. But all in all, you can get something very nice for as low as #2,000 to #60,000 and above.
How do you get your materials?
I get most of my materials in Nigeria but a few are imported. But then most of the materials we use are purely made in Nigeria. I love doing bold jobs and the accessories for most of such jobs are very scarce and expensive too.
Do you also train people?
Yes, I do have apprentices from time to time. They come, learn and within few months they are gone and can be on their own, then another set comes and on and on it goes that way. In all, I have trained close to 20 people so for.
What does it take to be a good beads maker?
First, you have to have passion for beads making. When you are passionate about what you do, you would go places. And then try to update yourself as often as possible. I’m so passionate about beads making, it is in me, I love it and that is why I’m able to do fantastic designs like the ones I have here. In fact, beads making gives me satisfaction. I keep learning on the job every day and then I keep myself busy doing one thing or the other each day. So it is either I’m on a group chat learning something new or I’m training some people or I am in the market buying materials for my designs or even selling by products. Be passionate about what you do and then you would go places.
What vision do you have for your beads making business?
My vision for Ejide Beads is that in the next two years, I want to take over the international market and believe that with hard work, I can get there. In the next two years, I want to have a training school, where I can encourage young talented people to live their dreams. I want to have a school where I can have at least 30 people at once, encouraging them to learn a skill and be on their own. They do not have to wait for the white collar jobs because the jobs are not even there.
What informed the choice of your location?
This is where I have found myself and I love it here because it is a quiet place that gives me the ambience to concentrate on my work. Above all, I believe that with time I would move to somewhere more elaborate and better.