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I rejected employment to create jobs with African textile—Bukky Bello

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Bukky Bello is a young female entrepreneur, founder of Bellafricana, a business focused in promoting local content through producing Gift Items, corporate promotional items, souvenirs, interior decoration and office and casual wears in African textile. She is very committed and self-driven to make an impact in job creation and building local talents for economic drive and growth. Excerpts:

Tell us what Bellafricana is all about?
Bellafricana promotes the beauty of Africa through the creativity of handmade African imprint products for Gift Items, corporate promotional items, souvenirs, interior decoration and office and casual wears.

Bellafricana uses exceptional African materials such as Ankara, Aso-oke, Adire and many more. We believe that if African Textile can be used for other products such as corporate gift items and incentives aside from the normal clothing, then we stand a chance to create more jobs and build more local talents.

We have clients and have supplied companies both in Nigeria and the United Kingdom, some of these items to include Notepads, iPad cases, Pen Pots, Chequebook holders, shopping bags and many more all made in African textile.

Studied Biochemistry in the University of Westminster and now you are into  the business of creativity, using local contents to decorate and design a lot of things. How did you arrive at Bellafricana?
Bellafricana came as a result of my passion. Ever since I was young, I have always had passion for creativity. Whenever my parents asked me what I really wanted to do, I have always replied, interior decoration, because I love aesthetics and beautifying things. I love to combine colours and I am always curious as to how things came about.

Coming back to Nigeria from the UK made me realise how much I have missed African textile, so I fell greatly in love with African textile again, seeing a large population every weekend elegantly dressed in African textile. But out of my curiosity, I felt there was something missing; that African textile could be used asides for the popular purpose of ceremonial dress popularly tagged Aso-Ebi.

So I put my brain to work and did some market research and soon realised I was right, we can use it for so many things from gift items to interior decoration. Then through a sense of urgency, I started to experiment my creative ideas and that was how everything started.

Africa has so many textiles (Nigerian textiles, the Aso-oke, Adire. Ghanaian textiles, Kente, Akosombo and many more from different African countries), and their potentials are being limited to clothing but I felt more propelled knowing that these textiles can create more jobs and build local talents if used for other things such as gift items, interior decoration and many more.

In summary, I can say that I started Bellafricana out of passion, drive and commitment to make a difference and be innovative while creating what my market target wants as well as creating more jobs and local talents in these areas of creative expertise.

How did you come about the name Bellafricana?
Bellafricana, which means “Beautiful Africa”. Bella came as a result of my childhood name where my father used to call me ‘Bella’ meaning ‘beautiful’ in Italian and Africana means ‘African’ in Latin. So I thought of joining the two together, ‘Bellafricana’.

Considering your area of discipline in the university, would you say it has helped you in establishing a creative business using African Textiles to do so many things?
Yes and No! Yes because my course taught me to be constructive, creative and deep in my thinking, and No because I wasn’t taught design with local African textile. I must say that  the truth remains that no matter what anybody studied in the university, you have to think of what you take out of the university.

Some people think of the first class, second class, but it goes beyond all the classes one came out with. You also gain skills like presentation skills, organisation skills, problem solving skills and many more that all adds up to your success.

I would not say my studying biochemistry has gone to waste as I have been advised to pursue for jobs in the pharmaceutical company because there is money in Biochemistry. But I tell them that I can’t do something I don’t love as there is a difference between you wanting money and you loving what you are doing to bring in money.

Having a sound educational background has definitely made me who I am today; it has improved my skills and attributes in a lot of ways. These are the things put together helping me today to make Bellafricana a success, and my mentors, Mrs Abimbola Okoya, Mrs Bola Adeniyi-Taiwo, Mr. Dokun Ogunba and others.

Before you ventured into Bellafricana’s creativity after graduation in the university, did you have opportunity to work?
Yes! But I turned them down to follow my passion. Actually when I moved back to Nigeria, I started NYSC almost immediately. I was posted to Akure which was challenging for me but because I also have an NGO called PUSH Relief Project which serves as a back-bone for smaller charities within Africa, so I decided to remain in Akure and see what can be done.

I concluded my Youth service (NYSC) last year October, after which I was offered two well paid jobs. There I was excited about the job offers, whilst I was thinking of what I could do to create jobs for people.


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