Here at Black & Abroad, we work to ensure that our mission concedes simple brand recognition.
Often along the way, we encounter other like-minded individuals that have successfully mastered the space beyond their anticipated approach to empower the diaspora.
These are the influencers, visionaries, and tastemakers that have managed to successfully employ their own blueprints to create a better world for us tomorrow.
Over the next few weeks, we will present to you a hand-picked line-up of black-owned & operated brands that deserve your consideration.
That deserve your support.
That deserve your attention.
Welcome to the Black & Abroad Conversation Series.
A good pair of ‘back-up’ flats can go a long way—literally. But finding a pair from a black-owned company that meets the mark with comfort, innovation, and sustainable design can be even more of a challenge. Couple that with an unapologetic drive toward economic empowerment for the people of Africa, and you’ll have owned a pair of Thando’s foldable flats. Founded in 2014 by Taffi & Jibolu Ayodele, the start-up began as a medium to support African women in the fabric trade. After considerable success however, the husband & wife duo decided to expand this initiative to include underserved African artists. Based out of both New Jersey and Lagos, Nigeria, the international company provides shipping to both the U.S. & Nigeria. We recently caught up with the founders to find out a bit more about their company. Check out our interview below.
Tell us a bit about yourselves and how you started Thando's.
Taffi: In 2012, I lived and worked in Johannesburg, South Africa for 2 months. Little did I know that the $10 rollable flats I kept with me as a backup to high heels would lead to JG and I designing Africa's first brand of foldable ballerina flats with a purpose.
Jibolu (JG): Having grown up in Nigeria, I witnessed first hand, the vast number of women struggling to sell fabric in the market. With Thando's, Taffi and I saw a unique opportunity to include them in our production process; thereby supporting the local Nigerian economy.
Where are you based out of?
Thando's:Thando’s is primarily based in Lagos, Nigeria but we have a small office and warehouse in New Jersey.
What are some ways that your movement has helped to directly impact the lives of others?
Thando's: Nigeria is known for it's Ankara fabric which is made of vibrant colors and motifs. However, most of this fabric is sourced outside of Nigeria. Thus, a major part of our mission is to provide a platform for Nigerian and African Artists at large to design indigenous prints and earn royalties from shoe sales. In addition, all of our footwear is designed, developed and prototyped in Africa.
How does your product differ from the others?
Thando's: We are the first brand of foldable flats in Africa. Our design is also superior to our global competitors. We have a double rubber sole and a gel foam insole for maximum comfort and support. We offer a quality shoe at an affordable price. Our shoes are also machine washable.
What are some the obstacles you might’ve faced in the quest to carry out your mission, and how did you overcome?
Thando's: One of the obstacles that we faced early on in our journey was finding a factory that could make our shoe at the quality level that we desired at an affordable price point. This took us over 2 years, but as they say, good things take time. We’re glad to have found a factory that not only meets our expectations, but more importantly, believes in our mission.
Another obstacle we faced was getting the word out to African Artists; that Thando’s can provide an opportunity for them to earn a decent living. This is still taking some effort, but we are currently working with one of the leading African Artists organizations in Nigeria to amplify our message.
How can one support/contribute to your movement?
Thando's: People can support us in a number of ways. Firstly, they can help decide on our future collections by voting on the different designs that we are contemplating to use. Secondly, they can simply share our story with friends and family. We’re actively recruiting members of #teamthandos so the more the merrier. Lastly, they can purchase our products not only because they are cool, but they would also be helping out African Artists and the communities that they come from.