Nolafrique was launched a few months before I entered law school. I knew that law school would take three years but I did not want to wait three years to start making an impact in the communities that were important to me, New Orleans (NOLA) and Africa ( Afrique) = Nolafrique. I wanted to build a bridge between Africa and the Diaspora while also educating people on the connections between the two cultures, especially New Orleans.
After traveling extensively within rural Africa, I knew that I wanted to help local artisans within rural Africa connect to markets. Rural villages are filled with talented seamstresses, jewelry makers, you name it. But who will buy their products? They often live more than five hours away from the thriving cities and capitols, and tourist tend to stick in tourist destinations and towns. I instantly thought about the million people I had access to and the million resources I could connect these communities to! Nolafrique was the resource that those communities and I created together.
I initially wanted Nolafrique to be a marketplace, but shipping from rural Africa would have been an issue for those communities. We agreed on me buying buy their items in bulk and putting it on Nolafrique. 80% of the locals I work with are women, who go on to use the funds to send their children to school.
We made the business plan together, and the only thing that was left was figuring out how to pay them. I signed up for an American Express card. I literally started Nolafrique with an American Express card....that I am still paying for but it was worth it! No one was going to give an unemployed full-time student a business loan, and I was not willing to be told no. I took the risk, carried the debt, paid all of the local artisans, shipped the products to America, and started pushing out the hand-made merchandise from rural villages in Africa.
Every customer that makes a purchase from Nolafrique receives an information card on the person who made the outfit and information on the culture in the given country. Majority of our products are named by the local artisans in their native languages. In these cases, I also provide information on what the names mean and why it was chosen. The goal of Nolafrique is to expose the world at large to Africa's handmade treasures while also educating the diaspora on the origin and culture of our merchandise. I essentially want people to feel confident when they wear African prints! If you know all of the information about it’s origin and history you can feel confident. When you shop with Nolafrique, you really do support local artisans in rural Africa. Nolafrique currently supports local artist and merchants in Senegal, Gambia, Ghana, and South Africa. When we say from Africa to your doorsteps, we really do mean it!
After a few months in business, I realized I wanted to do more! I wanted to help the individuals who were hand making their crafts, but I also wanted to have an impact on those communities. On every product page, you will see that I am donating one dollar from every purchase to local causes in the African communities that I am sourcing from. I am a strong advocate for social responsibility even for small minority businesses like my own.
I put a lot of thought into the planning of Nolafrique and a lot of people told me that it would not be possible, but look! I am a 24 year old African American muslim woman, a full-time law student, and a entrepreneur who is making a difference in Africa’s villages and New Orleans at the same time. The Nolafrique tribe made this possible and I am happy to share our work with you.