Every society is broken into three main class structures- the upper, middle and lower classes- and Africa is no exception. This class stratification produces a clear distinction among people across the various classes, quantitatively and qualitatively. In a typical African upper-class society, the pattern and choice of lifestyle are sharply in contrast to those of the middle and lower classes. An exception would be for those in the upper-middle class sub-category, whose lifestyles strive to mirror the upper class.
The upper class are the harbinger of urbanisation. They have exquisite taste, which fuels an expensive and luxurious lifestyle. A lifestyle that people in other classes drool over, from the choice of housing and location to where they shop for apparel, food and furniture. That is the urban lifestyle. But Jumoke Dada’s Taeillo has come to feed the insatiable taste for urban-styled furniture among its hungry Nigerian and thirsty Kenyan customers.
Taeillo is a Lagos-based Afro-urban furniture maker and lifestyle company that uses technology and craftsmanship to meet customers’ needs. It started as a spark whilst Dada worked with a luxury furniture brand as an interior designer in Lagos in 2016. Later, it became a dream- more like a passion to make urban-styled furniture affordable to more Nigerians and dare I say, to Africa’s vibrant luxury furniture market. Taeillo finally launched in 2018.
Dada founded Taeillo due to the gaps she saw in the furniture industry while working as an interior designer with a notable furniture maker. She noticed that people only had two options when it came to acquiring a piece of furniture. Either they bought from a roadside carpenter or expensive luxury brands.
“Some of these big furniture manufacturers import raw materials from outside the country to deliver quality and luxury furniture. That was a challenge for me because I wanted to find out how we can use our resources to produce well-made furniture that is affordable,” said Jumoke Dada, Founder and CEO of Taeillo. So, Dada began to source her own raw materials locally. That has helped create more employment for people within the furniture-making value chain, demystifying the beliefs that Africa has inferior material while generating more revenue for the African market.
In Africa, luxury furniture is pretty expensive so people go for cheaper alternatives from roadside furniture makers or carpenters. More often, products from these carpenters are not as durable as those from the big furniture manufacturers who have the capacity and capital to import quality materials. For Dada to produce the kinds of furniture she had in mind, she had to put in the hard work from the start.
“I didn’t have a space at the very beginning, so, it was a rough start. Most carpenters didn’t know how to produce the design I wanted. That made me search longer for the right ones,” she recounted. “I started with one piece of furniture which was outsourced to a carpenter back then. Soon, I had a pool of different workshops I could work with.”
Taeillo has a team of young innovators who are reshaping Africa’s furniture landscape with uniquely designed urban-styled furniture. The team’s engineering approach to furniture making has sustained it in a manufacturing sub-sector where others fail. “It is still a lot of trial and error for us at Taello every day. So, when an approach doesn’t work, we quickly move to another direction till we get it right,” said Dada.
Taeillo has raised about $3 million in funding over three rounds, starting from a $365, 000 pre-seed round in 2019. Its first round was backed by Montane Capital, Co-Creation Hub (CcHub) and B-Knight. By January 2021, CcHub throw in another $150, 000 investment in form of a convertible note. Taeillo’s latest investment is a $2.5 million seed fund raised in December 2022 from Lagos-based investor, Aruwa Capital Management, to help it scale its existing operations in Kenya.
“The story of how we raised our first funding was a case of a customer turned investor. At the time, Bosun Tijani tweeted his search for a credible local furniture brand for a project he would have naturally opted for imported furnishings and some referred him to us,” she said.
Bosun Tijani is the Co-Founder and CEO of CcHub, a Lagos-based technology-oriented centre he co-founded with Femi Longe. After Dada and her team delivered on the job, his VC firm and two others raised a said capital of $365, 000 to help scale the business.
Dada was attending an important conference and had little time to spare at the time of this interview. But amid a tight schedule, we had an interesting virtual conversation. “I dreamed of becoming an astronaut as a child. I still want to be an astronaut. Don’t be surprised if you hear that I have started working with SpaceX or NASA in the future,” she giggled.