My business, Designed by Florence, infuses the vibrant colours of African prints into beautiful designs for my baby doll collection. Our dolls’ outfits are handmade by single mums in Nigeria who work with upcycled offcuts of material.
I called my dolls Ima, which in my language means love. My second range is called Tokunbo, which in my husband’s language means ‘born overseas’. My dream is to ensure that every Australian child aged four to eight owns a diversity doll.
I came to Australia as a skilled migrant from Nigeria with my husband and three boys in 1998. I was pregnant with my daughter and that threw a lot of things off balance when looking for a job in the mainstream workforce. There was a huge gap between the computer sciences I studied at home and the software Australia was using. Getting work experience in the IT industry just didn’t gel with my husband and I trying to put food on the table for four babies all under the age of six. Fast forward, I completed a masters degree with distinction in human resources management and was hoping that career would blossom when I got diagnosed with breast cancer and my journey and my lifestyle has changed since.
I was like, ‘Ok, do I want to go into another nine-to-five hard task job?’ I said no. If anything happened to me in the future, with the way cancer is, I wanted to leave a legacy of my culture. I recalled that when my daughter was born here, I couldn’t find any representation dolls for her so I thought I’d just see if this is something that the market would like. I’m not such a pro and it took me five hours to make each outfit but the response from clients was amazing. They were like, ‘Wow, we’ve been looking for something like this!’
I officially started the business in 2018 and 80-90% of my customers are non-African. The aim is to be financially independent but at the same time to meet a need in the community or even in society: any child who starts playing with diversity dolls from a young age is able to understand that the world is bigger than the world they are exposed to by their parents.
With the help of my Global Sisters coach, I now have a business that allows me to work around my needs as well as create some social enterprise. The women I work with in Nigeria are passionate and committed; one is a single mum of three and the other mum is a widow and my business provides a really good support and source of funds. I’m also looking for single mums in Australia to join us.
“I’ve met a new village of beautiful women who are so supportive and open to giving any advice, sharing their struggles, challenges and opportunities. They encouraged me to hang in there and feel that I can achieve something. It has been a beautiful journey.
My health is improving – some days I’m strong, some days I’m not so strong. This business has given me flexibility. It all creates a better lifestyle for me and I’m hoping I’ll be able to pursue it and keep working this way. I’m loving it.”