How Nigeria’s Ewaen Sorae is building a luxury hospitality and home decor brand to rival global giants

Ewaen Sorae, CEO of E’Sorae Luxury Bedding & Homeware for Hospitality & Homes

Ewaen Sorae, CEO of E’Sorae Luxury Bedding & Homeware for Hospitality & Homes

Ewaen Sorae, just short of qualifying for British citizenship, a life-changing opportunity most Africans embrace, saw an opportunity in 2010 that he believed couldn’t wait. He took the plunge to return to his home country Nigeria.

Africa’s hospitality industry is undergoing a significant transformation. Among the trailblazers at the forefront of this revolution is Ewaen Sorae, the CEO of E’sorae Luxury, a brick-and-mortar retail business that started out focusing on luxury towels and bathrobes in Lagos, Nigeria but quickly expanded to other areas of home and lifestyle. Its products include luxury home mattresses, hospitality bedding supplies, luxury home fragrances and therapeutic pillows. It has also expanded to other cities in Nigeria.

Now starting its Africa-wide journey to Accra, Dakar, Abidjan, and other parts of Africa, E’sorae Luxury offers hundreds of African bedding sleep solutions, retail and wholesale. It has a local manufacturing capacity of up to 856 duvets supply per day for hotels and homeowners and quickly scaling up to 2,000 mattresses a day, as well as home-grown sustainable solutions in sleep science, one of Africa’s biggest wellness issues.

Sorae is redefining the standards of comfort and wellness in Africa’s hospitality sector. His vision is to build the “White Company of Africa”, a 27-year-old global leader in his industry with global sales reaching £287.2 million for the year ending 2023 and boasting over 70 store locations delivering to over 150 countries worldwide. E’sorae has served over 736 hotels and 94,000 customers in the last 14 years.

The early years: Foundations of an entrepreneurial journey

Sorae’s journey began in a family of entrepreneurs, where he was exposed to the intricacies of business from a young age. Working in various departments such as accounting, operations, and procurement in his father’s business in the civil and water engineering sector, Sorae gained a holistic understanding of how businesses operate. This early exposure ignited his passion for entrepreneurship and laid the groundwork for his future ventures.

Sorae’s role models evolved over time, starting with his parents and later including global icons like Richard Branson and Nigerian entrepreneurs such as Cosmos Maduka and Jim Ovia. Their innovative approaches and business acumen inspired Sorae to dream big and think creatively.

The rise of E’sorae: Innovation in African hospitality and homeware

The idea for E’sorae was conceived during a holiday in Nigeria in 2009. Sorae noticed the high cost of towels in the local market, and after comparing pricing and materials when he returned to his base in the UK, the idea to start a business selling towels to hotels in Nigeria began to form. He had at that time just started a business selling mobile phone accessories and later expanded to include luxury towels for hotels and homeowners. This venture marked the beginning of E’sorae, a company that would soon revolutionise the hospitality sleep industry in Africa one hotel after the other and now one home after the other.

Before founding E’sorae, Sorae worked in analysing risk and evaluating credit approvals at Providence Financial Group in the UK. This experience equipped him with the skills to evaluate risks and make informed decisions, which proved invaluable in his entrepreneurial journey. Sorae’s ability to identify market gaps and address them with innovative solutions has been a key factor in E’sorae’s success.

Sleep science and technology: The pillars of E’sorae’s success

E’sorae’s approach to innovation is deeply rooted in its commitment to sleep solutions for Africa. The company has a dedicated research and development team focused on understanding the principles of sleep and creating products that improve sleep quality. One of E’sorae’s flagship products is the E’Sorae Luxury hybrid mattress, an innovative bed that delivers unparalleled sleep experiences, seen by the team as one of the best in Africa. Their pocket spring mattress, designed to provide motion isolation and enhance blood circulation, ensures a comfortable and restful sleep experience, setting E’sorae apart from its competitors.

In addition to mattresses, E’sorae offers a range of sleep-related products, including essential oil diffusers and aromatherapy scented candles that create a conducive sleep environment. The company also provides in-house sleep doctor consultations, helping customers address their sleep issues and improve their overall wellness. This holistic approach to sleep health has made E’sorae a leader in the African hospitality sleep industry.

Expanding horizons: E’sorae’s journey across Africa

E’sorae’s growth strategy includes expanding its presence both within Nigeria and across Africa. The company is opening new one-stop bedding stores for premium bedding in key locations, such as Lekki, Benin, Port Harcourt, Abuja, and Kaduna, which will serve as regional warehouses and distribution centres. By increasing its production capacity and leveraging e-commerce for broader customer reach, E’sorae aims to reach a broader customer base and improve profitability.

E’sorae’s African-wide expansion is targeting Accra, Dakar, Abidjan, and other parts of Africa. Beyond Africa, the company is exploring opportunities in the US and the UK, leveraging trade agreements like the African Growth and Opportunity Act (AGOA) and the US-Africa Trade Relations Act to facilitate its entry into these markets.

Overcoming challenges: Building a business in Africa

Sorae’s journey has not been without challenges. Moving back to Nigeria and starting the business from scratch was a significant hurdle. However, Sorae’s resilience and ability to leverage his experience and network helped him overcome these initial struggles. By providing high-quality products and exceptional customer service, E’sorae gradually gained market acceptance and established a strong customer base.

One of the key challenges in the Nigerian market is navigating regulatory environments and economic volatility. Sorae has addressed these challenges by building strong relationships with regulators, staying compliant with local laws, and focusing on local production to mitigate economic risks. This strategic approach has enabled E’sorae to thrive in a challenging business landscape.

Social impact: Creating jobs and empowering communities

E’sorae’s impact extends beyond its commercial success. The company has created numerous jobs and contributed to the local economy by supporting local production and reducing the need for imported goods. By investing in infrastructure and community initiatives, E’sorae has positively impacted the communities it serves.

One of Sorae’s notable initiatives is the establishment of the Opesvenit Family Office, set up with his wife Iyobosa Sorae an investment specialist who serves as its CEO. With Opesvenit, they aim to create generational wealth for the family and has set up projects in retail, hospitality, education, and technology. One notable achievement is the acquisition of one of its businesses, WhiteTree Gourmet, a luxury retail grocery supermarket, by Pick n Pay, one of the largest online grocery businesses in Africa.

Iyobosa Sorae, CEO of Opesvenit Family Office and Ewaen Sorae, CEO of E’Sorae Luxury Bedding & Homeware

Iyobosa Sorae, CEO of Opesvenit Family Office and Ewaen Sorae

The family office is also providing direct impact through the establishment of the E’sorae Foundation, a non-profit organisation focused on various community initiatives.

The future of E’sorae: Vision and aspirations

Looking ahead, Sorae envisions E’sorae becoming a leading brand in the global hospitality and furniture industry. The company’s long-term vision includes expanding its product offerings, entering new markets, and maintaining its innovative edge. By continuously investing in research and development and staying ahead of industry trends, E’sorae aims to set new standards in the hospitality sleep industry.

Sorae’s personal goals include creating generational wealth and promoting transgenerational wealth in African businesses. By establishing a family office in partnership with his wife, Sorae is laying the foundation for a lasting legacy. His vision of building the “White Company of Africa” is not just about business success but also about creating opportunities and improving the quality of life for people across the continent. His story is a testament to the power of resilience, creativity, and a commitment to excellence.