Founding a Nigerian accessories label from a dorm room in Europe

The idea of starting a business while dealing with the rigors of lectures, assignments and exams may seem an entirely daunting task for many, more so when the plan revolves around managing a business miles away from your dorm room. That, however, has done little to deter Ene Onazi, founder of Nesity’s, an African print inspired accessories line.

Her love for jewelry, complemented by the lack of African inspired premium quality accessories, provided her with the right mix for a sound business idea. In this exclusive interview, Ene talks about the inspiration behind Nesity’s (not just the business, but the name), how she juggles school and business, and what she believes hinders small local businesses from achieving their desired growth targets.

Inspiration behind Nesity’s

African print accessories was an idea that had been budding in my mind for almost a year before I decided to do something about it. I was inspired by myself in a manner of speaking. I usually wear a lot of dark clothes, and liked to wear jewelry. But finding the right jewelry to make the ensemble pop was always a dilemma. I had a pair of Ankara earrings, which seemed to go with everything I wore at the time, it had a range of colours I could pick from and work with or vice versa. It was low quality and lacked durability. It was the only piece I had. The need to bring that universality to more of my outfits, and people in general, struck me. We need premium quality accessories, that meant something and not just gold and silver or diamonds, something truly Nigerian to resonate with each person once they connect with the piece they loved. This was where the idea stemmed from. It did not have to be jewelry, men could have their own piece to add to the, otherwise, plain ensemble giving you an edge in style.

The brand name “Nesity’s”

Nesity is a name that I was and am still called now. It is a nickname, given to me by my uncle, who I see as a second father-figure next to my dad. He always added a ‘-city’ to my name, although the spelling never occurred to me. So I mashed that up and got this. I wanted my name on it and not a name that was impersonal or had a long story behind it, because I create each piece with thought and care, and I know each one by design. It is a sense of connection for me, to all the pieces I have made, and will make in the future.

Bow tie collection sold out on the first day of business

What was behind this success was the connection and environment. It had food, drinks and music. Everyone had a good time while viewing the ties. The launch was an informal event because I wanted people’s views on each bow tie. It was supposed to be a test run and critique day, but as it turned out, people found what they loved and even went ahead to claim that their choice was the most beautiful tie of all.


Choice of fabric and competition

Accessories produced under the label Nesity’s are mostly made from Ankara. Although several fast rising brands are charting similar paths, this is not limiting. It is fashion. There are a lot of fashion designers in the business, each successful in their own right. The reason they are still successful is because every individual has his/her own sense of style that some brands fall short of achieving, while others shine. My brand is not just about style, it is about having the euphoria of having the label satisfy what it brings to the table with every piece: confidence, style and identity.


Balancing business and schooling

It has not been easy. But nothing good comes easy in life, is that not the saying? It takes more discipline than I am accustomed to, but I am getting used to it. I have my God to lean on and supportive friends and family. It also calls for a lot of time management, down to the last minute and knowing how to deal with snags quickly and effectively. I have also learnt that procrastination cannot be a word in my vocabulary. So far so good with the above mindset.

Students looking to turn their ideas into profitable businesses

I say put in the ground work first. An idea is great, making it into something physical is even better, but selling it is another ball game entirely. A lot of research has to be done. The research and homework you have done in order to start a business, shows in the business. You cannot go wrong with a lot of studying about your idea. It lets you be in the know, it lets you have control of the outcome, it empowers you to take risks, it allows you to properly predict where you intend to go to, what you want to achieve, and guess what? Your customers will see it in your work. You should also check out your competition and figure out what will make you different and what your selling point will be.

Start-up growth in Nigeria

Statistics show that while Nigeria houses over 30 million small businesses, in totality they contribute very little to GDP growth owing to their inability to sustain meaningful growth. I believe the main growth hindrance is education. Small business owners have so much talent, but lack adequate information to let them know how to form and perfectly execute their business strategies.

Needed reforms

Infrastructure. Quite simply because good roads impact good transport and good housing developments create proximity. This can increase the profit margin for businesses significantly, thus influencing growth positively. Also stable electricity reduces cost of production.

Nesity’s in the next half-decade

I see Nesity’s having a vast supply chain in several fashion stores major cities of Nigeria. I see Nesity’s having its own galleria.


Quick Fire Questions

Favourite business brand?


Favourite business leader?

My Dad.

Most Inspiring Quote?

“It’s just a phase, keep pushing.”

Most admired Nigerian Entrepreneur?

My Dad.

Top Travel Destination?

Seville, Spain.