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Inspirational Female Founder Spotlight: Eva Sonaike

Eva Sonaike is an Interiors company specialising in luxury home textiles and soft furnishings with a vibrant, yet elegant West-African aesthetic.  The company’s ethos ‘Bringing Colour to Life’ is reflected in its signature collections of cushions, rugs, fabrics, wallpaper, tableware and furnishings using textiles designed by Eva Sonaike in her North London studio.

Can you tell us a little about your background and the company?

My entrepreneurial journey began when I spotted a niche for luxury African-inspired textiles and décor that weren’t readily available in the market. Despite an intense search in London, France, and Italy for the perfect pieces for my home, I found nothing that truly resonated with my vision. This led me to launch an exclusive capsule collection of cushions. Within the first season, a leading London department store reached out with an interest in stocking my range. Soon after, another top store followed. This confirmed that my business concept had commercial potential. Before this venture, I worked as a TV journalist and later transitioned to fashion journalism, which helped me with my understanding of visual aesthetics and the luxury market.

How did the idea for the company come about?

The idea was born out of personal need. The market offerings in the UK, France, Italy, Germany, and across Africa fell short for me in terms of the exact colours, unique patterns, and, most importantly, the quality I desired. Initially, the collection was intended for friends, family and myself, without the slightest believe that it would ever evolve into a global brand.

How did you achieve awareness?

My background in journalism proved invaluable, particularly in crafting compelling stories that resonated with the press and buyers. In the pre-social media era, I relied heavily on regular press coverage and participating in trade shows to generate buzz and generate word-of-mouth recommendations and exposure. Now, as a global brand, we employ a strategic approach to social media, ensuring continuous engagement with our B2B and B2C clients, which is crucial for maintaining visibility within our industry.

How have you been able to gain funding and grow?

The company is completely self-funded. We’ve grown organically from a small solo venture to our current structure. It remains a small-scale business with just three employees, and we make half of our products to order, which significantly aids in managing cash flow. Our growth can be attributed to the substantial time and effort we’ve invested in gaining exposure through various channels, including the press, trade shows, and both organic and paid social media marketing.

What are the key successes?

Our creative aesthetic is our hallmark, setting us apart from others. A robust digital and strategic presence has been instrumental in attracting the right clientele. Another key element is my insatiable passion for interior design, colour, and African artistry — a passion that infuses my work and is evident in every design. This love for what I create has been a catalyst for the company’s growth.

What were/are the challenges, and how have you overcome them?

Challenges have been plentiful since our inception in 2009 and full-time operation since 2011. We’ve navigated financial crises, grappled with cash flow difficulties, and adapted to the dynamic digital landscape. The key to overcoming these hurdles has been resilience. Every challenge has been a learning curve, strengthening my business acumen.

What are your plans for the future?

Looking ahead, we aim to further scale the business, increase revenue, expand our product range, and extend our reach into new international markets. Collaborations with other international brands are also on the horizon, which we believe will amplify our exposure and introduce our exquisite African-inspired luxury textiles to a broader audience.

What advice would you offer to aspiring entrepreneurs?

Passion for your niche and an understanding of the market are crucial. It’s also important not to overthink. Sometimes, the most valuable lessons are learned hands-on, in the throes of building your business. So my advice is simple: Just start, and learn as you grow.

Can you share your top tips for entrepreneurial success?

My top tips would be: Nurture a genuine passion for your field, remain open to continuous learning, and recognize when it’s time to delegate tasks to others. These principles have been pivotal in my journey.

Who are the five people who inspire you the most and why?

I draw inspiration from visual artists and designers like Nicky Okundaye, a Nigerian textile artist who runs West Africa’s largest contemporary art gallery. UK-based artist Yinka Shonibare also inspires me with his vibrant fabric-based art installations.

Oprah Winfrey’s spiritual and pragmatic approach to life challenges and business growth has been incredibly motivating.

In interior design, Kit Kemp, the proprietor of Firmdale Hotels, exemplifies how creativity and commercial success can coexist beautifully.

What are your favourite inspirational /motivational quotes?

What you celebrate expands

God will answer how he wants and it will be better than how you wanted it!

Sometimes you just have to throw on a crown and remind them how they are dealing with!

You get in your life what you have the courage to ask for.

What are your Instagram, Facebook and LinkedIn social handles and also website links so our readers can connect with you?