Made-in-Nigeria furniture company catering to aspirational millennials

Jumoke Dada

Taeillo, a Nigerian furniture manufacturer based in Lagos, was founded in 2018 by Jumoke Dada. The company sources raw materials locally and produces a variety of furniture items, including sofas, beds, chairs and tables. Taeillo distributes its products through its e-commerce platform, catering to both individual and corporate customers. Jeanette Clark interviewed Dada to learn more about the company’s early days, its growth, challenges and manufacturing in Nigeria.

In 2018, Jumoke Dada, a trained architect, quit her job at a Nigerian interior decorator. She became frustrated with the reliance on imported furniture and decided to take matters into her own hands. Dada travelled throughout Nigeria to gather inspiration for her goal of creating Nigerian-made furniture.

She started by designing one item and posting her design on Facebook. “A customer liked it and paid a deposit to have it made. I made 17,000 Nigerian naira profit (US$37), which was used to make the next piece. It grew from there.”

Today the company operates out of a 1,200m2 factory outside of Lagos, employs just under 100 people, and has a 500m2 production facility in Nairobi, Kenya. The factory has four different divisions: woodwork, welding, upholstery and spraying.

Almost all of the materials used to manufacture the furniture and accessories come from Nigeria; only some of the fabrics are currently imported. In the beginning, Dada focused on local, vibrantly coloured Ankara fabrics but the company has since incorporated more neutral colours to appeal to a wider audience.

Covid creates opportunity

In its first two years, Taeillo saw slow but steady growth. The company received seed funding of US$165,000 from a venture capital firm run by one of its first customers, which allowed it to set up a factory. The competition from established brands with showrooms and established retail footprints proved to be a challenge. Then the pandemic hit. With some guidance from its investors, the company pivoted from a B2B model to a direct-to-customer sales model and built an interactive digital platform that displayed its products in a virtual format.

Covid-19 lockdowns and mobility limitations led to an increase in remote work among Lagos residents. To meet this new demand, Taeillo introduced the Amakisi, a sturdy worktable with a lacquered wooden top and oak legs, and marketed it through digital and social media channels. The product was a hit, with thousands sold within six months, according to Dada.

Taeillo has seen significant growth in sales since the pandemic, now shipping 800-900 units of furniture each month, primarily to other cities in Nigeria. It has also opened an office and production facility in Nairobi, and with $2.5 million in funding raised in 2022 from Nigerian investor Aruwa Capital Management, it hopes to be present in Côte d’Ivoire by the end of 2023.

“The goal is to be in all major African cities,” says Dada. “Kenya will become the hub for East Africa, Nigeria for West Africa and Côte d’Ivoire for Francophone Africa.”

Taeillo’s Amakisi worktable saw strong sales during the pandemic.

Overcoming challenges

Dada says the company faces the same obstacles as most manufacturing businesses in Africa, which include a shortage of secure power supply and a lack of skilled talent. Out of necessity, Taeillo must also control the entire supply from beginning to end. Where furniture manufacturers in Europe and Asia can source components from other factories and often only assemble the final product before shipment, Taeillo has to produce every single part needed to construct the items it makes.

The company also has to train its staff continuously. As demand keeps growing, Dada is facing the reality that Taeillo might have to start its own artisanal training facility to ensure that it has the right skills for the future. “We want to create a Taeillo talent pipeline,” she says.

Target market

Dada describes the company’s standard client as an “aspirational millennial who has travelled outside of Africa”.

“They might have seen what it is like to live in a flat in London and want to replicate that lifestyle,” she says.

Through its e-commerce platform, the company has sold to individuals, but also corporates, hotels and Airbnb hosts.

Larger factory required

According to Dada, the company has had to move to bigger premises roughly every 12 months since inception due to growing demand. This has informed the decision to rent facilities, rather than buy property to set up a permanent factory.

In the near future, the company is moving into yet another facility in Lagos, double the size of its current factory.

“As we expand to other geographies, we will set up a production facility in that country. Africa is just too fragmented and logistics too tricky to try and ship everything from one central factory,” says Dada. Inside the borders of Nigeria, Taeillo has partnered with a third-party logistics company to do the deliveries.

“We make to order at the moment and our lead times can be up to six weeks, but I want to shorten this. Ideally, if we get the right processes in place, we want to get this down to between seven and 10 days.”

Tapping Africa’s middle class

Dada is upbeat about the future. She says the growing middle class in Africa is creating a market that Taeillo is only beginning to tap into.

“We are seeing young people earning good livelihoods, whether due to the tech boom or other growing industries. They have more disposable income than previous generations and they want to spend some money on quality furniture and lifestyle items.”

Taeillo founder Jumoke Dada’s contact information

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