From lemons to peppers, beets to green beans, raw fruits and vegetables, Nigerian-American multi-faceted Entertainment Lawyer, Business Professional and Entrepreneur, Pamela Adewoyin is transforming raw fruits and vegetables into wearable accessories. As a creative, Pamela showcases her innovative flair through Lola Ade, a jewelry line that infuses West-African culture in producing beautiful fashion statement pieces. She takes us through her journey highlighting the values her business represents, why mental health should be prioritized and importantly, why she used the vehicle of RAW produce to fuel her entrepreneurial mission.
You were recently featured on CNN Africa, how was that experience?
Anytime I think of that feature, I thank God I was obedient, because everything started from an idea in my head that I then made into something tangible with my hands. When CNN Africa featured me, I was so excited, because it’s a reputable publication and it’s surreal anytime someone thinks my creations are good enough to be publicized. This is why I always encourage people to put their talent out there, because you never know what can happen!
Your business is quite unconventional, what’s the inspiration behind what you do and how did you set out on this path?
After making jewelry secretly for years, I finally decided to launch my ready to wear jewelry line- Lola Ade, in 2016. While working a full-time job as a lawyer and running my jewelry business at night, I hit a point where I was inspired by so many things around me. When you tap into your creative side, you see things differently. You are more intrigued by colors, shapes, mediums and objects. I’ve designed earrings inspired by the colourful fabric I saw in a rug during a trip to South Africa, made bangles inspired by oceans, rings inspired by roses…you pull inspiration from many sources.
One day, I was in the grocery store shopping for food. I walked down the fresh produce aisle and for some reason, I was just so intrigued by the vibrancy of the colors and textures of the fruits and vegetables. It just clicked. I could see myself making an anklet the color of the eggplant I saw, the similarities between carrots and corals suddenly became obvious to me and an idea began to brew in my mind. I thought about making jewellery out of them for months, but I kept second guessing myself. Why would I do it? People would think I’m crazy. I was convinced they wouldn’t see my vision. I taught myself how to take and edit my own pictures and did my own makeup, because I felt so vulnerable asking friends for help. I finally launched my photo series called RAW, and the day I posted the first picture, I immediately logged out of all social media in sheer panic (lol). RAW is not only a representation of the raw fruits and vegetables that I use, it’s a reflection of how I felt as someone who was finally showing the world another talent—RAW and vulnerable.
I launched Lola Ade after a church sermon about the talents people have and the window of time God gives them to use it. I ignored the call until I consistently had trouble sleeping, because I felt an overwhelming “guilt” about not putting out the talents I was sitting on. Similarly, with RAW, I couldn’t stop thinking about it, so I went for it.
Great! So tell us a bit about Pamela Adewoyin and growing up..
Pamela Adewoyin is a multi-talented business professional and entrepreneur in love with color and culture. Growing up as a first-generation Nigerian American, I always felt the presence of my heritage. My siblings and I were primarily raised by our single mother. She instilled many things in me- Yoruba culture, a hard work ethic, drive for excellence and solid foundation in God that I cherish to this day.
You were raised in both Nigeria and the United States, did the intersection of cultures and perspectives shape you in any way?
Absolutely. I was born in the US, but went back to live in Nigeria for a few years with extended family after my biological father left our family. I was in primary school, so I only remember bits and pieces from that time. Upon returning to the States, there was a period of time where I felt like an outsider. I could speak Yoruba fluently and I had an accent at the time (which I unfortunately lost), because the kids at school would tease my sister and I about being Nigerian and would call us stupid names and ask us ignorant questions about the huts they assumed we lived in.
I think I’m so passionate about my culture and heritage now, because growing up it wasn’t cool to be Nigerian, at least not where I went to school. With typical Nigerian parents, being cool is irrelevant. Good grades overrides all, and I’m glad my mom continually pushed and encouraged me to do well in school no matter what. I was and continue to be motivated by all of the things that she went through to get me and my siblings to where we are today.
Can you share some challenges you have faced on your journey?
Time, time, time, and lack of it. I have a lot going on at the moment, but I push through because I want people to see that it is okay to be a corporate professional with a thriving creative side. I love entertainment law, and creating is therapeutic for me, so I enjoy both. I do a lot of DIYs for myself, and I started recording them for Youtube, because making things makes me happy. Find what makes you happy, and do more of that.
And as a female entrepreneur? any peculiar challenges?
I can only speak from my experience, but I think being a female entrepreneur, especially a black one, is an interesting experience. There are plenty of statistics that detail the challenges that we face. I have days where I allow imposter syndrome and other negative thoughts about challenges weigh me down. All I can do is focus on what my goals and plans are, create great products, and continue to market and rely on my network for opportunities.
The biggest challenge for me is balance. It is hard to balance a full-time career, side business, creative projects, relationships with loved ones, mental health and everything else that comes with adulting, but I continue to push on.
What new innovation have you introduced to your business?
One of the many additions that I am proud of on www.LolaAde.com are my TribeStix. They are one of a kind dainty bar necklaces that represent countries and other organizations and “Tribes”. I wanted a way to wear my Nigerian pride close to my heart, so I designed these myself from scratch.
What will you say is responsible for your success so far?
God, first and foremost. Second, my mother’s prayers. There is nothing like a praying mother. Lastly, hard work and customer referrals induced by great customer service.
What values do you want your business to represent and how are you ensuring this?
Lola Ade roughly translates to “wealthy crown”. I am all about empowerment and encouraging women to hold their “Wealthy crowns” up. With RAW, I am all about transparency and promoting courage through creativity.
And the values and principles that have helped you so far are?
Integrity, faith and transparency.
What’s your five-year plan for your business?
I’ll spare you the boring details, but for Lola Ade, I love doing special events and pop-ups and seeing customers face-to-face, so I look forward to more of that. For RAW, I would love to start showcasing brands and products that use or are made out of natural/raw ingredients.
What do upcoming female entrepreneurs need to do to be successful in this path?
One of my favorite social media posts of recent said something like “Don’t let social media fool you into thinking that entrepreneurship is easy.” You need to understand the difference between a business and an expensive hobby. There can be so many stages to launching a product, especially one that is handmade like mine. I design pieces, source materials, create samples, make the piece, hire models, shoot pictures myself or sometimes, hire photographers, edit pictures, pack and ship orders…
It can be a lot, especially if you don’t have a large team. Even with a team, you need to understand all aspects of your business. Always remember “why” you started something when things get tough, and don’t forget to keep an eye on your mental health.
You emphasize quite a bit on mental wellness. Why is it important to prioritize mental health?
Mental health is so important, and I didn’t realize it until I had my first official “burn out”. You can love something and have periods where you lack the physical or mental energy to work on it. Nigerians have such a great work ethic and we push and go, but we can work ourselves to the ground. We recharge our phones and computers, but don’t focus on regularly recharging our mind, body and spirit. We need to remove the stigma from the words Mental Health. It doesn’t mean you are crazy. You need to rest, you need peace, you need to reset. Mental health is more than just candles, massages and scented oils, it can be much needed sleep and rest. Take mental breaks and give God time to speak to you during your rest period. Otherwise, you can be going nowhere fast.
3 book recommendations?
Breaking Up with Busy: Real-Life Solutions for Overscheduled Women by Yvonne Tally
I’m Judging You by Luvvie Ajayi
Becoming by Michelle Obama
What is your advice to young women who look up to you?
I’m humbled by the thought that anyone looks up to me. My word of advice is to get comfortable with being uncomfortable. With many things you will aspire to do, people will project their fears on you and tell you that you shouldn’t do something in your heart. Stop telling people your dreams. Show them (and you) that you can do it. Pray, trust God, keep your mouth shut, and do it anyway (within reason of course lol).
The LLA Lady Boss Series is a weekly interview series that highlights the achievements and entrepreneurial journeys of African female entrepreneurs. The idea is to showcase the Leading Ladies who are transforming Africa and the African narrative through enterprise and business.
It is an off-shoot of Leading Ladies Africa, a non-profit that promotes leadership, inclusion and diversity for women of African descent.
If you know any kick-ass women of African Descent doing phenomenal things in enterprise, email firstname.lastname@example.org, and she could possibly be featured.