I love to work on brands I’m passionate about and recently, I added a striking start up to my Client base. It’s owned by an incredibly gifted 50-something mother who after decades of a successful corporate career came back to her first love, Floral Artistry and Art. I also love to tell inspiring stories, this is one of them. Enjoy.
Tell us about yourself and how you started and what you do…
My name is Layo Ajayi and I’m the Creative Director for Pink Tulip. Over the last thirty years, I’ve been a marketer, marketing various products and I also see myself as an intrapreneur i.e an entrepreneur within an organization so I’ve always had this entrepreneurial spirit.
I’ve been marketing IT products for Fortune 500 companies where I rose to become Country Manager of one of them in Nigeria as well as the Marketing Director of another Fortune 500 Company. Over the years I’ve had the opportunity to mentor and work with a lot of younger people, helping them to develop their careers and work at what they want to achieve.
Pink Tulip actually has always been a part of me i.e being a floral artist, I had always been interested in it. In the 1990s, I travelled out of the country just like every other person did, going to look for the golden fleece and all that and within a short period of time I knew I wanted to come back home, I said what would I do when I came back home and the first thing that came to me was Floral Artistry and ever since then I had always done things for friends and families; they want to have their weddings or birthdays, I was always doing it but I was doing it as an amateur. It was really part of me and when I felt I had had enough of the corporate world and I wanted to start doing something that I really love doing, I automatically went back to being a Floral Artist.
I also love landscaping and the realization of the importance of beauty around you, about your environment and the impact that it has in the lives of people is something that is insurmountable.
I’ll give a short history, in 2012 I fell ill it was really really bad, I was flown out of the country and for one year I was in bed, without anybody realizing what was really wrong with me. Although they were trying their best to keep me alive. My son came home from school and sat beside me, he was showing me a lot of things about Ted talk and what he had learnt and things like that and I came across a professor who was talking about himself also being sick and how plants had healed him and that got me interested, wow how could plants heal you?! and I found out that having plants or indoor plants or having plants around you actually can help improve your wellbeing by giving you cleaner air, opens the mind, reduces noise, and when your body is calm and happy, the body begins to heal itself and within a short period of time of my experimenting, I got better and was able to get back to work after over a year of being very very critically ill.
And then I said ok I would spend a lot of my time trying to tell people that why are we not putting indoor plants in our homes and ever since I’ve been doing that. I’ve been involved in landscaping but really really involved in indoor plants and that got me to creating flower pots as well so I keep on putting my hands in so many things and iIlove nature so I try to bring out by doing things with my hands and then I started creating wired trees, beaded trees, and I started selling them to friends, families, going to exhibitions, and I decided, well for the rest of my life I would like to spend time doing this, not only doing this, creating employment for people, ensuring the younger folks who have gotten this feeling of hopelessness that there are things you can do with your hands.
It’s unfortunate that when we were in school in Nigeria, our parents did not take art classes or drama classes or sewing classes seriously and even the 6-3-3 system that was created then by the minister Fafunwa we never really followed it in Nigeria that’s why today we don’t have so many people doing things with their hands and those that are doing it with their hands we don’t look at them as people who are making a difference. You have to be in the corporate world , you have to work in a bank or advertising agency or a lawyer or doctor but the realization today is when you have handy work, you always have a job. Today, I have a lot of young guys who are learning how to decorate with bottles, floral artistry, making Ankara flowers for traditional weddings, I see their eyes light up when they learn something new, there are some things they don’t want to to do, there are somethings they do want to do.
I think I just like it, I like it and another thing that really hurts me the most is we are not employing our own youths but we are keeping other countries’ youth employed, I don’t think that is right so I look to the day where I’ll be able to raise the funds to have a factory that produces flowers for our weddings, our homes and all that. Its cloth, it’s not a very difficult industry to get my hangs involved with. I mean the first bridal bouquet I ever did from cloth was in 1993 for somebody who wanted turquoise flowers and there were no turquoise flowers we hadn’t even had artificial flowers at that time and I built it and then there was no internet to learn and all that so I had always known I had things to do with my hands.
What are the challenges, especially with starting at this age in a saturated market, what do you think will stand you out?
Pink Tulip is a challenge, business is a challenge and as an adult it’s scary especially when you go into the decoration world where most of the people there are young enough and almost young enough to be your kid and you don’t want to go up against them, that’s not it but to show them the way. So, you’re going into a field or a terrain you said that its saturated, I won’t say its saturated, the cliché is saturated and the ever so rich big mighty things is not saturated but that is not what decoration is all about to me, decoration to me is a little bit more than that and Pink Tulip wants to fill in the gap of I don’t have so much money but I want a fantastic decoration at my reception for my wedding, for my birthday, what do I do? What we do is we look around us and look at the things that we have in Nigeria for example I use bottles I use beads I use paper, I use tissue paper, cement, pop, anything I can find., PVC pipes to build things that would be affordable for people. I’m also interested in doing a lot for homes, you talk about candle holders, center pieces, gift items that can be Decor, Wall Arts, Mirror Wall Art, I lay my hands on things like that as well.
So what makes me, Pink Tulip different? It is that we are not content in just putting what we buy in the market on the table, we want to add more, so we do bespoke products that can even be customized or personalized to people’s requirement, we enjoy things like that. We enjoy turning things that are just lame into things that are beautiful and its using all the things that we can find around us in any type of industry that we can and we use and we make that, so that makes us a bit different. For example, Manzanita branches is one of the products that are one of our forefront products. Now manzanita branches are originally grown in America, now Americans don’t export such agricultural products but they are used immensely for Décor over there and therefore you now have those people in China who started manufacturing artificial manzanita trees and by the time its gets to Nigeria its quite pricey, and another thing is everything looks alike unlike an original manzanita branch that when you walk into a hall that has been decorated, every branch is different, has its own character so we came up in Pink Tulip, and said let’s make ours and then we put different materials together and today we are building it for table decors for walkways for where the brides and the grooms sit down, we build wish trees; this is a tree that you put out and you hang wishes upon it to the bride and the groom or the person doing his birthday or even if it’s an office environment for congratulations or an anniversary and we build all this from scratch with materials that we get in Nigeria.
What word of encouragement do you have for those coming into it?
Take the bull by the horn cause one day you will want to do it and I would want to advise people now, no matter what you’re doing always put aside time for that love of what you’re doing. Whatever it is, so if you’re working in the bank today and you’re already 49/50 or you know you’re not going to continue as much or there’s the possibility that you want to go away, you should have started doing something earlier but let me tell you the truth it’s never too late.
I’ve launched Pink Tulip now but I had started buying things since 2014 so I have loads of things that I had kept on buying, I was travelling to different countries I saw something and there were somethings that I bought that I didn’t really know why I was buying them but I knew what I wanted to do to create beautiful things for people. When you go to parties let’s take the weddings for example, you have this beautiful walk way, you have this beautiful dance floor, you have the stage you have the head table but when you look at the table where the guests are, it’s so cliché, but the truth of the matter is, we help you celebrate every guest. So, there are things we put on the table as center-pieces, speak! They open conversation amongst two people who are sitting together and really don’t know each other but found themselves sitting beside themselves in a party. Our center piece makes them talk, gives them a feeling of being celebrated and feel a part of it not to feel as if the celebrant is over there and we are over here, no. We pull both the celebrant and the people that come – the guests, together.
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