When Toronto-based Boluwatife Ogunniyi, 19, couldn’t find hair accessories that worked with her coils, she got down to business. Here, the teen entrepreneur shares her story in her own words.
I was born in a very densely populated area in Lagos, Nigeria, called Makoko. Growing up [there], I saw firsthand what it was like to struggle to make ends meet. When my dad got a working visa, we moved to Jamaica, and then to Canada. We lived in Parry Sound for a while, which is a tiny, [predominantly] white town. I remember kids wanting to touch my hair to see what it felt like.
When I was in grade four, I googled, “how to make your hair straight,” because you know how the main character in movies walks with their hair blowing into the wind? My hair does not do that. If you don’t see people that look like you, obviously you don’t think that you’re worthy. I remember seeing Lupita Nyong’o on a billboard with her textured, short hair and dark skin like mine, [and] thinking it was the most beautiful thing I had ever seen. It really taught me that you have to create your own definition of beauty.
I have thick hair that’s usually hard to deal with, and [I began] to notice the lack of representation in the hair accessories on the market. So [two years ago], around age 17, I started making things for myself that had more stretch to them. I had a vision to create a space where women of
all races could find pieces to make them feel beautiful, [but] I didn’t have the means to do so.