Updated: Jan 2
Get to know City Inspired vendor ONUA
When did you start ONUA and what inspired you to start?
We started in August 2017. ONUA means sibling in Twi. My brother and I wanted to keep the Ghanaian theme going. What inspired me was the fact that myself and my brother were born in the UK. And we obviously always hear snippets of things going on back home [Ghana] or different cultural things or saying. But you never really know the full story behind it. I thought that given that we live in a society right now where there’s lots of globalization happening, the gap between somebody who is born in Europe or outside of Africa and is of African descent is getting wider and wider. And it’s becoming harder for people to understand where they come from and their culture. So we thought it would be good for us to be reminded of different things within our culture.
We started thinking about how can you remind someone of that? We thought of homeware because you’re looking at it everyday. So when you’ve got our mugs, you can’t help but look at your Ghanaian symbols or different types of symbols. You can’t help but be reminded of home.
What has been your greatest challenges since starting your business?
The greatest challenge is getting into the everyday sale once you’ve done your launch. Because when you’ve done your launch, it’s all very exciting. And you have family and friends buying but once family and friends have bought, that’s really when the hard work starts because you’re trying to sell to people who have never heard of it before.
You have to rely a lot on social media and organic growth. But at the same time you have to think about investing some sort of money into social media which can be really expensive. And I think that’s probably where we’ve felt the challenge because you don’t have £2,000 readily to give someone for a month to help you to get to the point of those people (audience) knowing about you. Sometimes that link isn’t even there - you might pay someone that amount and you might end up with one customer.
What is your greatest accomplishment?
Less than six months after we launched, we were approached by HOUZZ which is a design platform. They have millions and millions of followers on their website. So if you want to paint your house or you want someone to fix your garden, you go on HOUZZ and you can find a plumber or gardner. That’s one purpose. The second purpose is if you were redecorating your house, HOUZZ is similar Instagram but for your house or your office. Here you have lots and lots of designs that you can then feed off. We went to a trade show in Olympia called Top Drawe. That’s where we were approached by HOUZZ and found out from the representative that they wanted to work with us.
When Black Panther came out, obviously we loved it because yaay! So I sent an email to Ruth Carter who designs the costumes. Just to say thank you. I saw lots of Ghanaian materials in there and for me it was such a big deal. She responded! We asked if we could send her our mugs and she said yeah of course send them. She actually posted on her Instagram. And as a result of that we got quite a few orders from the US. So now we’re praying to be in Black Panther 2! We’re waiting for a call!
What is your favourite product?
I’m in between the lampshades and the Adinkra mugs. I would sway towards Adinkra mugs because that was how the whole business came about. In Ghana, you've got these symbols called Adinkra symbols. Growing up, the Gye Nyame symbol, is the one I knew about. I saw it everywhere and I thought oh fantastic it’s just that one. But then I found out that there are at least 60 -70 symbols. That’s how it [ONUA] all started.
I think for me, the reason why it was so important to me, was because sometimes when you think about Africa - the perception of Africa is when the slave trade began. And I'm like no no no - there was so much happening way before that. It was a hiccup, a major hiccup. Sometimes people talk about Africa and it's as if they [Africans] don’t have wisdom or all knowledge. Looking at these symbols and what they stand for, the proverbs show you how amazing and how wise they were back then. So for us, it was just really important to highlight that.
Why did you decide to join a subscription box?
I think it’s different. I’ve never heard of a subscription box that isn’t food or magazine related. And I think this is probably the first black female owned subscription box [that we’re joining]. We wanted to be part of something new and something fun. It sounds amazing that there is a group of people out there who are interested in just coming on our journey as well. It’s just to keep Africa alive in different parts of our lives so we’re just really excited.