I have known Lajipe Faleyimu since our secondary school days when we were shipped off to an island by our respective schools for over a week long boot camp training. We had been on the same team, and even then she had possessed a strong character and knew exactly what she wanted.
So it was no surprise years later when I witnessed the start of her enterprise which began with her Afrocentric accessories line which she aptly named Todun Designs, coined from the Yoruba language which means something sweet.
Two years ago, while I was in Canada, I attended a fashion show where she showcased her collection, and I fell in love all over again with the concept and got to see her work her magic in her home studio.
Several years later, she now also has an events company, a consulting service and a catering service all running under the same umbrella of her company- Team Todun.
Who in their early twenties can claim to have started four business which are growing strong by the day? I’m greatly inspired by her drive and tenacity to achieve her dreams.
Without further ado, I’ll let you hear from the wonderful entrepreneur. A YAMI, she truly is!
S: Hello Lajipe, please can you introduce yourself to the readers and tell us what you do and what you’re working on at the moment.
L: My name is Omolajipe Faleyimu, and I’m 24 years old. I have a BA in Economics and a Diploma in Human Resource Management; and I’m currently taking the Immigration Consultant Diploma.
In addition to this, I work full time as a training coordinator for an airline and I run my own business called Team Todun which is a group of companies (if I can call it that) with diverse products and services birthed from my passion.
Todun Designs was my first formal company and is an accessory line of scarves, bow-ties, tote bags and waist beads.
Consult Todun was next and offers consulting services for students who want to school in Canada. We offer a full package including airport pick-up, settlement, mentorship and other service after arrival in Canada.
Todun’s Kitchen came next. I initially had a catering business while I was at University, 11oh7 (my apartment number then), but I closed it down in my last year in order to focus on graduating with a diploma in HR. However, it’s fully running again.
On the other hand, event planning is my first love, and Todun Events is currently in the works. My first official event was The African Crafts and Business(ACB) Trade Show. This idea came about while I was making the rounds at farmers markets to sell my accessories. I saw that the African market was not well represented at these events and decided to create an avenue for African entrepreneurs and business owners to showcase themselves to the Calgary market. Our first event was on the 8th of November, 2014 and it was awesome!
Also, I undertook a Winter Care Package Drive which is an initiative that had been on my mind for a while, but I lacked the funds and time. However, with the birth of the ACB Trade show, I decided to kill two birds with one stone (lol) by putting in profits from the trade show to the drive and also taking donations. Our first delivery was on the 15th of November, 2014, and we were able to donate 150 bags to the Mustard Seed in Calgary.
S: Wow, I’m really impressed! Have you always wanted to be an entrepreneur?
L: I am not sure when exactly I picked up entrepreneurship, but I come from a family of entrepreneurs. My mum and her siblings are all entrepreneurs. My mum even rubs off her entrepreneurship on my dad who is a medical doctor. (lol)
When I was quite young, I don’t remember the age exactly but it was before high school, my Grandpa would give me money when he was going out. I would buy sweets (candy) and biscuit (cookies) from the kiosk nearby and set up a table in my Grandpa’s compound and sell to my uncles and workers there…lol
Even in High school, I would sell jewellery and tracksuits to my mates (I ended up getting in trouble for this). And in University, I had my catering business, and ran a home nail studio for a couple months and did hair as well.
So yes, I believe I always wanted to be an entrepreneur.
S: You officially started off with your handmade accessories designs, what influenced you to start making your own accessories line?
L: While in school, I would occasionally hand sew a bow or brooch to add to my dresses and I asked my mum for a sewing machine as a grad present and the idea just took off on its own from there. (fun fact: I hate sewing clothes but I love making accessories).
S: When you first started, did you see it as a hobby or did you think you could make a business out of it?
L: It started as a hobby and something to take my mind off the job search frustration and I posted pictures online and it somehow turned into a business.
S: How did your other business ventures come about? Were they businesses you had always wanted to run or did you see a gap in the market and decide to take the plunge?
L: For Catering, as the student community in Hamilton grew, I saw a gap in the market for home cooked Nigerian meals and decided to give it a try, and it went pretty good. However, I put a pause on that in my last year of University, but when I moved to Calgary, people who knew me were asking about my food so I decided to reopen. The consulting however, is something I have wanted to do since I came here(Canada) 8 years ago, so I’m pretty excited about it!
S: Can you also tell us a bit more about your events company and what services you cater to?
L: Todun Events is very new and as of right now, we are more into planning Team Todun Events and Initiatives, but we’re looking to provide our services to others soon.
S: You must be very busy running all these businesses, do you still have a ‘day job’ or you’re now completely your own boss? Also, do you do all this on your own or have a team.
L: I am currently working full time but I hope to eventually be ‘Todun’ full time.
I don’t have a fixed team yet (I am recruiting ☺) but I have very supportive people who support my goals and help me whenever they can.
S: When you decided to become an entrepreneur, how did your family react? Were they supportive from the get go or preferred for you to get the 9-5 ‘dream job’.
L: Every Parent wants their child to succeed and my parents have been very supportive of my businesses, but will always remind me to take my job seriously as well (its what pays the bills). My mum is an entrepreneur herself so she is very encouraging, she would stay up with me all night and help with turning or even ironing materials. Also with catering, she would help with cooking as well. My dad has also been very supportive and will usually text me with ideas or tips ☺
S: How do you manage your time?! Or even have time to relax and enjoy the social side of life?
L: Sticky Notes…lol. That’s my secret to time management. I think that a work/life balance is super important, so I always find time to relax and hang out with my family and friends. Cooking relaxes me and I love inviting my friends over when I cook.
S: What has been the most challenging thing you’ve had to deal with and how did you deal with it?
L: There have been a lot of challenges but my most recent one and possible most educative one was finding sponsors/funds for the winter care package. I got a lot of rejection emails and there were many days I woke up ready to quit but God kept me going.
S: What do you enjoy most about being an entrepreneur?
L: Everything! I love thinking up new ways of providing a service or good to others around me.
S: What do you envision for Team Todun in the next 5 years? What should we expect from you?
L: In 5 years, I hope to have at least opened my first restaurant and to start making plans for my school. There are a lot of expansion plans in the work and I am very excited and can’t wait to see them become reality.
S: Four business is a lot already but I have to ask, do you see yourself branching into any other fields or that’s it?
L: Definitely, but I don’t know what yet. I’m a serial entrepreneur ☺
S: I believe a YAMI to be someone who is fiercely and fearlessly following their passions to reach their goals, and I believe you embody that objective, and you’re truly an inspiration to young individuals. If you were to give advice to a young person who’s contemplating becoming an entrepreneur, what would it be?
L: I am a strong believer in going for what you want, the worst that could happen is you get a ‘no’, but you learn from that experience and keep on going.
I say this because honestly, being an entrepreneur comes with a lot of rejection and low moments, but seeing your hard work pay off in even the smallest way will be worth it in the end.
Phew! What a lady! Was that beyond inspirational or what? We truly wish you the best Lajipe, and hope to see more of your work. We’re cheering you on to the top!
Connect with Lajipe by following her links and if you live in Canada, you just might be interested in her job vacancy, so peep that out on her main website.
I’d love to leave you with this little wisdom from Karl Marx, the great Sociologist and Philosopher. He described four main ways in which man is alienated in the domain of work due to society’s structure. He enthused that man is alienated from the object he produces, from the process of production, from himself, and from the community of his fellows.
However, I believe that in this regard, the young creatives that are featured in the YAMI series, by steering their own directives in life and work, surpass this alienation of men.
Photo Credit: Team Todun