Q&A: L.A.-Based Entrepreneur Takes Candles To Nigeria
By Ann Brown April 7, 201
Named the The Sitota Collection, the 4-year-old company was inspired by Gayle’s adopted daughter, Sitota, who was born in Ethiopia. Gayle’s son, age 6 at the time, gave her the idea to turn her candle-making hobby into a business.
This month, the Brooklyn-born, L.A.-based entrepreneur started selling her candles in Nigeria. Davis Gayle, who works full time as vice president of publicity at Interscope Records, partnered with African luxury gift store Regalo. Regalo is located at Centro Lekki Mall, Lagos, Nigeria.
The Sitota candles are packed in Africa-inspired designs with aromas reminiscent of the bygone age of African antiquity, according to Funmi Onajide, CEO of Regalo. “The Sitota Collection is an obvious choice and we are excited to launch the line in our store,” Onajide told AFKInsider.
Sitota candles come in fragrances with names like Coco Noir, Blue Nile, Havana, and Aigyiptos.
AFKInsider: Why did you decide to venture into Africa?
Yvette Davis Gayle: It is just a natural extension for us to launch in Africa. The Sitota Collection is inspired by our daughter, Sitota, who was born in Ethiopia. My husband has been working in East, West and South Africa for the past 10 years. We look at Africa as the new frontier and a brand new market for luxury consumer products. Our goal is to build a sustainable business that will not only service the new luxury market in Africa but will also give us the opportunity to be socially active and effect change in our daughter’s home country.
AFKInsider: Why Nigeria?
YDG: My husband has been consulting for various mobile operators and advertising agencies in Nigeria since 2004. The Nigerian market is one of the fastest-growing markets in the world with great potential for consumer goods.
AFKInsider: How did you find the location?
YDG: My sales rep Cheryl Ankrah-Newton of Illuminate Africa introduced me to Regalo.
AFKInsider: What are any obstacles you’ve faced so far in selling your product in Africa?
YDG: The only obstacle is that it takes a bit longer for the products to arrive. They may linger a couple days in customs but I’m told that is normal and expected. Door-to-door takes roughly about 25-to-30 days so you just have to be prepared to factor in travel time when ordering. We are currently exploring different shipping options that may allow for faster delivery times.
AFKInsider: Will you expand into other parts of the continent?
YDG: Yes, I definitely want to expand to other parts of the country and am looking for other retail opportunities.
AFKInsider: Do you have to market your product differently for the Nigerian consumer?
YDG: No. We create luxury products that can be enjoyed by everyone. We worked tirelessly to produce a high quality product with an amazing scent. Each fragrance is inspired by our travels and so many of my family’s travel experiences have been in Africa. We just recently returned from Mozambique and I plan to go back to Cape Town in a couple of months.
AFKInsider: Will you create special products just for those markets?
YDG: As long as it makes business sense I am open to creating products that will serve the specific needs of the marketplace. Africa is a unique opportunity for the Sitota Collection as it has the fastest-growing middle class who enjoy luxury items.
AFKInsider: Do you think American businesses are now taking note of opportunities in Africa?
YDG: Yes, but slowly. America has traditionally looked at Africa through the lens of an NGO (non-governmental organization) and not as a business opportunity. With double-digit growth in most African countries, the American businessman is beginning to take notice. However, many African-American businesses are much slower to take advantage of the opportunities as they continue to be plagued with old perceptions of Africa.
AFKInsider: What has the response been to your product in Africa?
YDG: The response has been amazing. I feel truly blessed that people love the candles. Recently my line was included in a luxury product discussion at the Africa Luxury & Wealth Summit. I am truly blessed and extremely excited about taking the brand further.