Boutique offers West African accessories and designs
When Angela Lamb-Oyinga picked up a gift from her Nigerian sister-in-law, Tinu Oyinga, she took home more than a box of accessories.
Angela, when traveling to Nigeria to visit family, always loved the country’s jewelry and clothing. She found herself traveling back-and-forth to share the accessories with her friends.
“[Tinu] said, I think we could sell them. You’re always bringing [accessories] back-and-forth. And so that’s how we started.”
TiAngy Designs was founded in 2016, by the two women as a way to bring the cultural wear of Nigeria to the United States, as well as a way to fill a viable market for West African accessories.
Showcased prominently on her website are photos of Black women wearing beautifully crafted handbags, skirts and head wraps all adorned with traditional West African decorations and colors.
In her initial stages of starting up her online business, Angela began selling jewelry items at expos and schools as a way to get the name out there. Once she began picking up steam, she graduated to presenting her merchandise at fashion shows.
In the past two years, Angela’s work has been featured in the NEON fashion show in Minneapolis as well as the Shades of Beauty Expo in downtown St. Paul.
In order to really nail down the cultural wear of Nigeria, Angela gets a great deal of help from Tinu who keeps her updated on the latest fashion trends.
“When I first started out I was getting small bags that maybe my little nieces or young ladies would like. And then [Tinu] told me that people were asking for computer bags or Viper bags.” Angela said.
Another popular selling point for TiAngy Designs is their jewelry which is not heavy, items that are easy for people to wear around their necks.
But starting the small business had its bumps in the road. The first of which came early on as the two young entrepreneurs struggled to get their products into the country.
Starting out, the business model for the two was simple: Tinu would mail Angela accessories from Nigeria, who would pick them up from the airport and then sell them in the United States.
However, that all changed once the TSA caught wind that they were starting a business. In order to continue with the model, they needed a broker to arrange the transactions. Eventually, Angela and Tinu were able to get a good broker to help them get their products into the United States.
To Angela, the hardest part of running TiAngy Designs was learning all the nuts and bolts a small business.
She had to find her way around how to make business labels, communicating with airlines, being on top of what products are entering the country, and studying customer analytics. The learning curve to running TiAngy Designs, Angela says, was the “most difficult part.”
So to take the stress of running a small business off her shoulders sometimes Angela will ask the help of her children to model for her.
“I have my nieces and daughter-in-law wearing some of the jewelry and clothes and people say ‘Oh I can wear that!’”