While many are yet to embrace the #buynaijatogrowthenaira mentality, a Trinidadian woman, Joanna Boer is making millions exporting Nigeria' culture around the world. A report by Perez Tigidam for the The Nerve has revealed the spectacular progress she has made so far.
Here is what the report reveals about the fascinating life of the woman.
Joanna Boer, the 36-year-old unassumingly daring Trinidadian entrepreneur is not just content with living a life of luxury behind high, gated expat walls, she saw opportunity in this situation and has spent the last 3 years cashing out gleefully to the bank. Her company, Empire Jane turns everything from street craft, scenic photos, slangs, street lingo, buzz words and social media viral trends into custom crafted homeware and gift items. These items are produced and sold to members of the expat community across Nigeria, to locals (who are fascinated with seeing their local cultures properly packaged) and to a global travel market interested in African culture.
The streets of Lagos are one of the liveliest places on the African continent, the lingo, mannerisms and vibes of Lagos has a huge influence on Nigeria’s movie and music industry. The movie and music industry has become a huge cultural export, not only shaping life and living in Nigeria but in other African countries were it is consumed. Last year Nigeria’s music industry had an estimated total revenue of US$56 million, projected to grow to US$88 million in 2019 according to a report by PWC. Most of Nigeria’s current movie and music releases builds heavily on ideas from the street and viral internet sensations.
Joanna understands this and has her eye firmly set on the market.
Joanna is an unusual ‘Oyinbo’, who feels the pulse, heartbeat and experiences that make the everyday Lagos life interesting.Trying to compare her to the average expat I have met in different Nigerian cities, she says to me “To enjoy a country, you have to get into it”.
From the dirt filled roads of the local craft market in the Jakande-Lekki axis of Lagos to the over populated, nearly suffocating and sweat drenched Balogun market, Joanna can be seen navigating these places herself. Joanna buys the fabric herself; an opportunity to not only haggle prices but also to learn a thing or two from the local traders, or to use her own words, an opportunity to “get into it”
All of her staff and tailors are young Nigerian men who have been with her from the beginning. I noticed the tailoring, product finishing and quality was impeccable which prompted me to ask a few questions about her team.
Joanna and her team literally turned her home to her factory, her team of local tailors and assistants resume daily at her home. She says it was the best decision she had to make to get her passion off the ground due to exorbitant prices of real estate in Lagos.
One of Joanna’s highest selling product is the ‘Oga At The Top‘ branded items. Oga At The Top was a viral sensation across Nigeria in 2013. The phrase My Oga At The Top is a Nigerian term for “a boss” used to show respect to someone in a position of authority.
The phrase became popular in this Channels TV video clip from an interview with Obafaiye Shem, the Lagos State Commandant of the Nigeria Security and Civil Defence Corps on the need to know the correct website of the corp to avoid misleading job seekers. He was asked, “What is the website of the NSCDC?” in response, he said, “I cannot categorically tell you one now.” He was asked again, “Do you mean the NSCDC has multiple websites?” He responded, “We can’t have multiple websites but I cannot tell you one now, and “My Oga At The Top” say is another one and the one we are going to make use of will be made known by “My Oga At The Top”. His response immediately became a viral hit across Nigeria inspiring several parody video skits like this and this by a group of diaspora Nigerians.
Joana is expanding her retail network locally with the signing up of local shops like Terra Kulture, Quintessence and Avivar Centre all in Lagos.