Fashion goddess, Toyin Lawani hardly grants interviews. She prefers for her range of businesses to speak for her. They surely do. She runs 32 of such businesses and all of it has to do with Fashion, Beauty, Skincare, Food, real estate, many more. She is the CEO of Tiannah’s Empire. She is also the big boss at Elegante by tiannah styling. She is a ‘serial entrepreneur. She set Trends. She creates trends. Yesterday, this pretty babe who is a style icon and mother of 2 talked about her life. She spoke to City People Publisher SEYE KEHINDE.
Let’s talk about Tiannahs Empire. It has become very big and massive. You are into so many things. How does it make you feel each time you sit down to look at what you have been able to build?
To be honest, and let me quickly say, I am a very honest person when it comes to things like this, I am still not fulfilled because my aim is to go global and open my brand worldwide. Yes, I have worked with a lot of international celebrities. I am trying to open a lot of doors.
When I look back to when I started, I can’t say its a surprise I am here, or I am where I am. We actually get what we work for. What you work for is what you will get. If you put efforts in your business you will get success. If you don’t put efforts in it you will lose. I can say it is still a journey for me. Everybody feels that, ok, our brand is so big. But no, I am still striving to make Nigeria proud. I am still striving to open doors for us internationally, to take this brand abroad.
How did you get into business?
I am very happy now to see a lot of young people aspiring to be serial entrepreneurs, business moguls, that want to juggle many businesses. When I started 20 years ago, it was only me. I was 16 when I started. It took me a year to set up my business then. I was in UNILAG at the time. I had a Supermarket, Everybody was buying from me. I had a boutique but it was a very small store. I then went into hair. I started first with Skin business. I started with Beauty business. Most people say I have 15 businesses. No. I have 32 businesses. That is why I call my business an empire. It is easy for other people to initate you by saying they have an empire with only one line of business. Most people claim they have empires on even social media. They talk of empires that are not existing. If you have an empire, people need to see you run those businesses, day in, day out. Each time I say it, people find it unbelievable to believe that this lady (that is me) is actually running these 32 businesses and that they are actually up and running businesses. But the truth is that they are running. You can’t do it alone.
You need to involve other people. Take my salon business. I put a lady in charge that is running it. I push my clients to her. I am the model. I have various managers for all my various businesses. At the early stages, I was the one practically running my Restaurant, the Fashion, the Spa, the School, it was so very tiring for me. So, I realised that I need to get different managers to run the different businesses. I still manage some of them though. I create all my pieces by myself. I design them and I stay with the tailors. They help me bring all my ideas to life and when they can’t get the idea I will have to do it by myself, because at the end of the day it is your vision. Nobody can interprete your vision the way you will interprete it. So to be very honest, I am grateful to God that I am here today and I am praying to God that I want to be more than this. I want to be bigger than Gucci & Versace. Its a dream. When you have other businesses that you are running, like I am into Real Estate, I am running a school, it is a bit distracting. It will distract you from even following one.
I am doing all these, day in, day out, fully. It is tasking. It is stressful. But when you have passion for what you do, it is not going to be stress to you. You won’t even feel the pain. You won’t even feel tired because of the Passion. Passion is unbeatable.
Can you let us into the wide range of businesses you do?
Of course I will tell you. We have Tiannah’s Beauty Salon. We have Tiannah’s Tatoo Parlour. We have Tiannah’s Real Estate through which we sell land. We buy properties. We resell. We build houses for people. We set up businesses, hotels. We have Tiannah Consultancy which helps you set up your brand. We are fashion consultants, business consultants. If you want to expand your business ideas, I can help you set it up without even putting my name on that brand. I have done that for many, both locally and internationally. I helped a lady set up her fashion brand in London. She is so big now.
I have my empowerment programme where I train the Deaf and Dump on how to sew and how to do Make Up. How to do Gele. How to do braids, wigs. Most of them have their own outfits now. They are all doing their own thing now. They are not really under me any longer. I trained them and let them go ahead to set up their own businesses.
And I have my Master Class. I call it the Toyin Lawani Master Class where I empower a lot of people and train them for free. I train them for free, at my Tiannah Styling Fashion Academy, where we train them on Pattern Drafting, Designs, Styling, basically to be able to be their own person, to give them exposure into the market. Let them know how to feed themselves without anybody’s help.
I also have Tiannah Videography. Many don’t know I direct Music videos. I direct short movies. I am sure you have seen a lot of jobs I have done a lot like for Kola Kolagbo. I was the Creative Director at the last Big Brother. I styled the whole Big Brother people. I have directed most of the major artistes in Nigeria. I have either directed or styled their videos which was how I got into the styling business, as well.
I also have Tiannah Photo Studio. We do photoshoots for occasions. We travel. We go to locations. We go for weddings, we do pre-wedding shoots. We do creative Editorial Photoshoots. I am also the Creative Director of many magazines in Nigeria. I help them with Concepts and the packaging and presentation of their Covers for the month. I also have Elegante Kids, it is my junior line. My son and daughter are in charge of that brand. My daughter is in America now schooling. So my son is running the brand. And we have been able to get a lot of little clients because of his own swags and appearances.
We also have Elegante By Tiannah Styling, it was created after Tiannah Styling. Tiannah Styling is a styling outfit. It is where I can take a paper and use it to style anybody or take Versace, Gucci, and use it to style anybody. With Tiannah Styling I might not even be the one that made the clothes, but I can style anybody. You can even bring your clothe I will style you. But at Elegante By Tiannah Styling, I wanted people to know that it was still me. Elegante is the name of our design brand and I still wanted them to know that haaa! it is still me, that its Tiannahs own. Because I started Tiannah Styling first, I now put Elegante By Tiannah Styling. So, it caters for my female clients. But Elegante By Tiannah Styling (Men) is for men. Its my male line. We do Agbada, Suits, all kinds of creative costumes. I am a Designer you can’t put in a box. When you mention the names of most designers in Nigeria they will tell you, oh yes, she does wedding gowns very well. If you mention, this person they will say oh yes, she does boubous, oh she does suits. I am someone that when my clients have a costume that is difficult to design, they will say oh, go to Tiannah. She will do it for you. I am a very creative person. I do stage. I do creative costumes. I can build an ark just because I want to bring some thing out. I can do anything creative. I am all over the place. I do Couture as well, Bespoke, Ready to wear, I do everything. The sad part is that many people erroneously believe that Tiannah is expensive. But what they don’t know is that I have things of N5,000 and N10,000. But the thing is that they want to take things of N1.5 million at N5,000. Its not possible.
We also have Tiannah Homes & Furnishing Limited which is where we help people to buy land and sell land, build houses, do decor, for people. We have Amaladot.com1. It is my food arm. Amaladot.com1 is not only about amala. We do offer Ofada, Pounded yam. We do outdoor catering. We do Chinese. We all kinds of food like Moin moin. We do Igbo soup. All the celebrities hang out at my place. They eat there.
We have Tiannahs Barbing Salon. The barbing salon is for the male, female & kids. Then, we have Tiannahs Spa. It caters to skin, facials, body polish, microdemabration, weight loss. Then we have Tiannahs Glow Products. It is a skin line that my mum started before she passed on. She started it about 25 years ago. When she died, I took on the product. The product and the brand have been there for years now. I have the clients I took over from my mum. I have my clients, I have rebranded the brand. I have taken it to high heavens. Its all about production. People talk about Bleaching and they often say Tiannah is bleaching. What they don’t realise is there is a difference between Toning and Bleaching. When you decide to Tone your skin, you can actually decide to tone your skin with edible stuff. Ordinary Curry, Tumeric, Tomatoes, Honey, Egg yoke, pigeon egg, fresh milk from cow, all of these actually lighten your skin.
Everything I do is Organic. We even do Baby products. Once you buy it for them, you will just see your babie glowing. We have a factory where we do all of these. We have a lot of products that can treat many skin challenges like Wrinkles. We have a cream that will take 10 years off your age. I have been able to cure Acne, blemishes. My skincare line Tinnah Glow products is one of the strongest arms of my businesses.
A lot of skincare challenges that a lot of people can’t cure, I have been able to cure it. We have Tiannahs Make Up Studio. We do Make Up for celebrities, artistic make ups, all kinds of Make Up. Basically, I want you to step into Tiannahs Place empire and you would not take my money outside. If you come now and say you are doing wedding I am the one that will do your food catering, decor and everything. We now have Tiannahs Event Limited. We set it up like 3 days ago. What happened is that I have been doing these event helping people, but I have never turned it into a business. Two days ago, I told my staff: open a page for my event company and let me start taking credit for all my ideas and for all my job and everything that I have been doing.
We have Tenor Biscuits, which is for my son. It was an idea he had by himself. He wanted to make biscuits and sell. I supported him. Tenor Biscuits is doing so well now. It is in a few supermarkets and the product is doing so well. I have so many more businesses. We also have Elegante Vintage, we cater for only vintage pieces. We have Elegante Boutique, which sells all kinds of designs, shoes, bags. We use most of them for styling. We don’t only create our pieces we also have a boutique.
So, you can see I have my hands in a lot of pies and it is not easy, Oh, I almost forgot to tell you about Lingerie By Tianniah. I started my Lingerie line recently and there was a lot of buzz about it. Many were like: You a boss, why would you be wearing this lingarie by yourself, in public. And I am like Hello. A boss is not a boss by doing big girl and Gapasoke (meaning by being arrogant). A boss is showing people that yes I am a boss and I can promote my brand you are your brand. How you promote your brand is how people will receive the message. As a boss you have to promote your brand, with your heart, with your soul, and everything you are. People will see your dedication and they would want to patronise you. Nigerians are the ones that take things too serious. If you wear bikini they judge you. When you wear lingerie they judge you. At the end of the day when you are selling Lingerie, what do you wear to promote the Lingerie? It is Lingerie. You don’t expect me to wear Aso-Oke. If I wear bikini at a pool, they will start complaining, taking my pictures and complaining. What do you wear in a swimming pool? Is it bullet proof. I don’t understand. Its crazy. They really have to stop that mentality.
We also have Tiannah Fabrics. We sell fabrics, all kinds of fabrics. We source fabrics for people to sew our designs I import most of my fabrics.