Oluwadara Mercy Ojoodide creates stationery that spurs creativity and expressions, and help people lead productive lives.
Speaking on how she started, she says, “In my fourth year of university, I was looking for a journal to dedicate to my bible study. I wanted something cute, with a bible verse on the cover, and with bible quotes on the individual pages. I went from store to store looking for something that would fit the picture I had in my head, but I couldn’t find anything that matched. All the options I found were rather boring and plain.
“I was frustrated and annoyed especially when I checked online and found out that stationery like this was only made abroad. I wondered why we didn’t have any Nigerian made ones and that’s when I got the idea to start making my own line of stationery. I finally launched the brand a year after with my younger brother and a close friend and it’s been an amazing journey so far.”
Oluwadara struggled with getting her product to gain recognition when she started. “One of the challenges I faced was wrong conceptions about the product and the problems it solved, it took some time for people to understand the product and the value it was offering. It’s also a reason why I’m always talking about the benefits and all the amazing ways you can use stationery.
“Another challenge is funding. Creating the best quality products requires a lot of money, which means we need a lot of resources. Funds are needed to buy machines and materials for creating the products and ensuring that they meet the standards we are committed to offering.
“Lastly, breaking into the market was also a challenge. Being a start-up, with no prior experience and limited resources, we had to educate the market on the product and also build credibility.”
She gets inspiration from everything around her, “a funny comment my mum says or a really nice shirt a friend is wearing. I’ve always been a creative person. As a child, I was always drawing and doing DIY projects.”
Building her first set of journals was the project that made her believe in herself. “I hadn’t done it before and had no prior experience in printing or binding. I went to the market, sat down with printers and binders asking questions and understanding the processes. All I had was passion and pictures in my head of the kind of stationery I was trying to achieve. Memories of how I was able to bring those ideas to life are a constant reminder that I can do anything I put my heart to.”
Now, she is open to funding, grants and learning opportunities. “The kind of stationery brand I’m working on requires a lot of materials, machines and man power which are capital intensive and so require adequate funds. I love to attend conferences and workshops that would help me improve my skills and learn new ones.
“A mentor that would give me the benefit of his/her experience and show me the ropes in building a sustainable business would also be a great opportunity. I would also love to partner with other artists and illustrators in designing stationery.”
On what she thinks about youth empowerment, she opines, “Youth empowerment is necessary and having organizations committed to empowering youths will help young people develop their skills and reach their potentials.
“The Nigerian youth can be empowered by mentorship, internships and access to start-up funds. Today, there’s a lot of information everywhere and you can learn different skills, take courses on your own but we still need the perspective of people who have gone before us and have experience in various fields.”
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