In Conversation: Olatokunbo Morin Muhammed
You know how we get so fussy about picking out cards for our loved ones on their birthdays or when they are celebrating grand occasions. You walk round and round in the shops, yet come out with nothing. That has been my experience on a few occasions. Giving anyone a card is a very personal thing for me. The card has to look right, feel right and have the right words. I never give anyone a card with words I don’t mean. Instead, I will get a plain card and scribble a few lines. I believe it’s the same with us as individuals when looking for the right invitation cards to send out. I have been given invitation cards to wedding that just blew me away, and so I collect invitation cards.
When I saw the work of Olatokunbo Morin Muhammed, it had and still has the WOW! factor. I fell in love with her work and just had to get her to agree to an interview for my website. She gladly agreed to give me a Valentine’s Day special. Olatokunbo is on a mission to put an end to your search for that perfect set of invitation cards. She is the CEO of Ijorere, a company that specialises in making cards for all occasions and I dare say with style. Olatokunbo fuses her African heritage and that of the different people she meets into her designs. In her own words, Olatokunbo Morin Muhammed explains the passion behind Ijorere.
Belinda: How long have you been running Ijorere?
Tokunbo: Ijorere officially went live online in September of 2008 but the business started in April 2008.
Belinda: What’s the story behind the beautiful website and designs that we see and fall in love with?
Tokunbo: The website was designed to visually entice; my logo was derived or inspired by the peacock, this bird describes everything I wish to convey about Ijorere; an exhibitionist of vibrant colours, exotic, luxurious & BOLD. Ijorere tells the story of the celebrant’s or people’s culture & their style. It gives their guest insight on the quality of their event and it gives the inviter an opportunity to present a keepsake to their guests.
Belinda: What has been the hardest part of starting and running your own business?
Tokunbo: I’d have to say for me it’s being business-minded. I’ve made a lot of business mistakes and it has taken extra time for me to learn to manage my business. I am definitely not cut out to be business-minded; I was born for Art & Design and here I am running a business! I am learning and perfecting my skills on how to run a design business successfully.
Belinda: You also work as an architect, how challenging is it to manage both aspects of you work life and business life?
Tokunbo: It’s not so much of a challenge, rather much sacrifice of my time away from my loved ones. I am very passionate about my design business and I’ve always wanted to be an Architect and so I am. I feel as though all of the sacrifice will pay off in the end and that’s what keeps me going.
Belinda: Where does the inspiration for the different lines/designs you have going come from?
Tokunbo: I get inspired by the different and interesting people I’ve come across in my path, in my life. I have friends from all kinds of ethnicity and it’s not intentional what brings us together is common interest or similarities. Everybody as a tradition or culture and it’s intriguing to me. I try to express that when designing my invitations, invitations that clearly express a place or culture.
Belinda: Where do you source you material for making your products?
Tokunbo: Sustainability is a very important subject for me. I especially look for materials and papers that are eco-friendly or sustainable. Within my own house-hold, I am always mindful of products & building material that are hazardous not only in my house but to the earth.
Belinda: Why fuse your African heritage into the product line?
Belinda: I am African and very proud of my heritage, I wanted to share how I view my culture’s art with the world. I also noticed a lack creative African invitation designs especially in the wedding industry. It was like a great epiphany, I was like Ah Ha!! This is IT! This is what is missing, what I need to do!
Belinda: What were you hoping to achieve with that move and not the plain cards we see?
Tokunbo: I’m just trying to be original, more than just creative but innovative, I also wanted to re-introduce the art of inviting a guest properly and more formally.
Belinda: How many weddings do you cover in a year?
Tokunbo: Last year I covered 4 weddings. Although most of my clients are bridal, Ijorere does more than just weddings. I created unique graduation cards for a client last year November. This year I have 8 brides, 1 birthday party and we’re just in the month of February! 🙂
Belinda: What has the response to the designs and creations been like?
Tokunbo: Staggering! I honestly didn’t figure in my mind how people would or wouldn’t react, I just wanted to create beautiful designs that were pleasing to my eyes. I have gotten so many personal emails from people all over the world! They tug me forward with encouragements, support and excitement of something brand new and never seen before.
Belinda: What’s the biggest compliment you have received to date?
Tokunbo: I received an invitation to be part of the David Tutera series. (David Tutera is like the Oprah of all weddings, he has a show on the WE channel called David Tutera’s My Fair Wedding). A client of theirs discovered me on Facebook and told the DT team that she wanted me to do her invitations, They didn’t know who the heck I was but went ahead to check out my website, next thing you know I received a call from DT. I’m on their radar right now all thanks to one very beautiful bride! This is the greatest compliment.
Belinda: How do you go about pricing your products and what do you take into account?
Tokunbo: What I have noticed is that when brides go looking for wedding invitation, what seems inexpensive actually isn’t. Whey are looking to purchase a for example a $8.00 Invitation, the price shown is just for the Invitation, not the RSVP or Information card, envelopes provided are the plain white envelopes. What my business offers is a package of all the pieces that should come with your invitation…all 5 pieces, which is why I call them wedding suites. You are getting what you expect to get, no hidden agendas. Ijorere wedding suites starts at $10.00 and up.
Belinda: I saw the deposit on your website and wondered how people would first react to that, were you nervous when you were setting that bar or were you so darn confident in your product that you knew people would come to you and say, I want this?
Tokunbo: Yes I am confident that people will want my products and so they are willing to pay for it. My pieces take a lot of hand work to do, they are true labours of love and labour is expensive here in the states. My specialty papers are ‘Green’ which also increases the price. I’ve discovered that when a client loves what they see they will cross great lengths to get what they want. I’ve looked around, I am confident, there is no other! I used to be scare someone will steal my ideas, I know I can’t keep people from ‘looking’ and trying to re-create my design, but here’s the key word…”trying” this doesn’t mean it will be ‘just like’ or ‘same quality’ or ‘continuously innovative’ as Ijorere.
Belinda: What makes Ijorere designs different to what is already out there in the market?
Tokunbo: We celebrate culture, tradition and uniqueness, Ijorere sets a new standard for ‘The Invitation’ thus why the Ijorere’s title is simple and straight to the point. IJORERE The Invitation…there is no other.
Belinda: You have promised 7 special colours for Valentine’s Day, do you want to tell us more about them and what each one of them stands for?
Tokunbo: The 7 ‘Must Haves’ for the Valentine’s Day Bride, is about 7 HOT tips for those extra romantic brides that want to get the 411 of how to jazz up their Ijorere in 7 Hot ways.
Belinda: What’s your favourite colour when designing?
Tokunbo: My favourite colour is purple; however when designing, I love using contrasting colours like and/or muted colours and adding a POP colour like orange, yellow, red etc
Belinda: What must a design have for you to know that you have succeeded with it and so, it can go out to the public?
Tokunbo: I go with my intuition, if it feels right, it is Right!
Belinda: You have colours that evoke the senses, how do you go about picking the colours?
Tokunbo: The colours are actually provided by the client, I just make it work! However, when I am making samples, yes, one must understand how to put colours together. How I do that is purely intuitive to what looks right in my eye.
Belinda: What kind of emotions and feelings do you want your cards and product line to evoke in people?
Tokunbo: I wish to evoke an element of surprise; people don’t get invitations like this in the mail! I want people to be excited to come to the inviter’s event…when they get an Ijorere invitation, they will be more inclined to come, which is exactly why they were invited.
Belinda: What gives you the greatest satisfaction about this business?
Tokunbo: I gain great satisfaction in doing what I was born to do, to create something artistic, I enjoy and delight in the happiness my clients feel when they get calls from their guest(s) about how stunning their invitations look.
Belinda: How does it feel to be your own boss?
Tokunbo: It’s a little weird for me actually, I don’t feel like a boss, I just feel like I have a creative business I am running and feel grateful, blessed to have a great team making my ideas come to life.
Belinda: Ijorere, the name has a symbolic meaning, for those of us, reading this for the first time, tell us why that meaning appealed to you and convinced you, this was the name for your business?
Tokunbo: Ijorere is 2 words made 1, it’s a Yoruba-Nigerian word for A Grand Day, and It sums up everything any event should be ‘a day that is Grand’. I realized it would be hard to pronounce for most non-Yoruba’s but the meaning was perfect and I believed that with time people will ‘get it’ I-JO-RE-RE pronounced E-Jaw-Ray-Ray.
Belinda: Where do you see yourself taking this business in the next five years?
Tokunbo: I wish to evolve and explore deeper territories beyond stationery design. I would like to open up a space used for any kind of celebration. I’ll like to get into interior designing and still Architecture. I want Ijorere to be a one stop venue for stationery and events combine.
Visit the Ijorere blog for more information about the Valentine’s Day specials: Ijorere Blog
For inquires, visit: Ijorere
Images by: Olatokunbo Morin Muhammed
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