As we near the end of Women’s History Month, I’ve been reflecting on how my journey to entrepreneurship is so closely tied to my journey in motherhood - in fact, they began at almost the same time. I was inspired to create Ade + Ayo while pregnant with my first baby and dreaming about how I wanted to introduce him into the world. I’m Temidayo, the founder of Ade + Ayo, and here’s a bit about my journey so far.
Growing up, I always experienced a strong sense of connection, community, and pride through my Nigerian heritage. And when I became pregnant with my son, I was so excited to pass down that same sense of pride and a joyful outlook on life that is so intertwined with Nigerian culture. As I began to look for ways to incorporate African inspired pieces into my son’s nursery and everyday wardrobe, I was shocked at what I found: almost nothing.
A quick rewind: I was born in Nigeria, and moved to Canada at the age of 4, but my upbringing was still rich with Nigerian community and culture. I always found it to be something that really rooted me to my family and my sense of self. Something that brought me great pride and joy.
When I became pregnant in 2019, I began dreaming of teaching my son about Nigerian culture. As a full-time working mom, I knew it would be important to intentionally plan and curate Nigerian culture in our home – to ensure that it truly was a part of our everyday life. I couldn’t wait to decorate his nursery with an authentic African-aesthetic. But as I mentioned, I soon discovered there really weren't many options for affordable, authentic African designs for children. Any “African-inspired” nursery decor I could find either equated African design with a “safari” theme or was too expensive. I was saddened to see this, but also motivated to provide a solution. So, the dream of Ade + Ayo took root.
Initially I decided to see what I could do to create what I was looking for myself. I created onesies that had animal designs in African prints and then put them on a website to see what happened. There was enough feedback there that I realized this was indeed something many other people cared about. So the thought evolved, “maybe this is something I could do on the side of my legal job?”
However, like so many others in 2020, I was furloughed from my job, and left with a big decision: Do I find another job that I don’t have a lot of passion for? Or do I do something I’m excited about?
I chose the latter. It was terrifying, but it felt so right.
My “side hustle” quickly outgrew my hastily purchased sewing machine and bedroom/warehouse setup. I started piecing this business together, quite literally from scratch, but was ever motivated by making African culture accessible (especially for littles) no matter where you are in the world.
Fast forward to the present: we are a rapidly growing business with one goal in mind – to foster connection for children. Our products include everything from traditional Nigerian prints on apparel, crib sheets, and swaddles, to Ankara fabric toys, crocheted animals, and so much more. Every print on our website is thoughtfully detailed to ensure you have everything you need to teach children about the history behind these intricate designs. My dream for Ade + Ayo is to bring African culture to every part of the home, in a very practical everyday way.
We know our hearts and minds are shaped in part by the things that we bring into our homes, the things that we are told are beautiful and the things that are normalized for us. Right now, across the spectrum of objects a child interacts with in the home – from books and clothing to bedding and toys – the African voice is missing from the average home. Ade + Ayo closes this representation gap by providing beautifully crafted African-inspired children’s goods that are comfortable and practical for your children, while remaining modern and affordable for you.
For children born to Africans or people in the African community, we strive to foster a connection with the culture by making well-crafted items that help daily exploration and play. For all children, I believe that Ade + Ayo can encourage a connection to our global community, as well as a real value for diversity.
I see the original inspiration for the company when I see my son proudly wearing his African-inspired clothing. When parents thank us for creating tangible every-day items to talk about African culture. And when the products create space for conversations about being open to different and new things. I love that Ade + Ayo has created a space for African cultures to truly be an accessible part of everyday life, even here in America.
Going through the journeys of early motherhood and early entrepreneurship at the same has been quite challenging, to say the least. Finding balance will be a lifelong process, but I’ve noticed that each of these two parts of my life give me inspiration, strength, motivation and joy that I carry into the other. I feel fully myself in these dual roles - mama and founder.