Vivian Elebiyo-Okojie was never interested in fashion. An author, motivational speaker, book publisher, radio talk show host and marketing guru, she had her hands full running multiple businesses and taking care of a husband and two infant sons.
But when an underwater scene of an array of coral fish captured her attention on her television screen in 2010, she became captivated by the intricate designs and patterns.
“The designs really reminded me of clothing patterns, particularly African fabric designs,” says Elebiyo-Okojie.
The 30-year-old business owner became intrigued with the idea of transferring those designs onto fabrics, but it would be three years before her vision would become a reality.
Delayed, but not forgotten, her dream was reawakened last year when a friend, and now, business partner, Olakitan Akinbamiro, reminded her of the vision and encouraged her to put legs under the idea.
“I felt like the designs she wanted to create would be unique and one-of-a-kind,” said Akinbamiro.
Despite a hectic personal schedule and the pull of numerous other business commitments, the busy entrepreneur heeded her friend’s advice and began searching for the coral fish images that were the source of her inspiration.
“I tried to explain my idea to different graphic designers, but no one understood what I was trying to do,” shared Elebiyo-Okojie. After considerable search, she cleared the first hurdle to launching her business when she found the software program that enabled her to transform her design concepts into computer-generated images.
With a method of creating her designs in hand, Elebiyo-Okojie’s next challenge centered on finding the right manufacturer that could produce the fabrics.
Based on her research, the most cost effective fabric manufacturers were in China, however, the companies she contacted required minimum purchase quantities that were beyond her means leading her to search for a U.S. manufacturer.
Excited by Elebijo-Okojie’s design concepts and her decision to manufacture her fabrics in the U.S., Akinbamiro decided to partner in the venture.
“We began looking for a manufacturing company within the U.S. to make the fabrics because we didn’t want to go through China and deal with all of the copyright issues and concerns with quality control,” said Elebiyo-Okojie.
After finding a U.S. manufacturer, the next challenge the pair would face would be securing sufficient start-up capital.
“With most businesses you can have an idea, but most of the times it takes money to get the idea out there and to really make it something that people would like to buy,” said Elebiyo-Okojie.
She and her business partner applied for a $50,000 business loan through Accion, but were approved for a lesser amount.
“At the end of the day it was still effective and we were able to put in the order for our first production,” said Elebiyo-Okojie.
A graduate of Florida A&M University, the 30-year-old innovator describes her business as the first African textile company that produces African-style fabrics in the U.S. based on research she has conducted on the textiles market. Most companies that manufacture African textiles are based in Nigeria and Ghana, said Elebiyo-Okojie.
In less than a year, Elebiyo-Okojie and Akinbamiro have launched their business and created a collection of more than 1,000 fabric designs for clients to choose from.
The pair produced a custom-design fabric for their first customer, an African bride, who ordered several different fabrics for her wedding attendants.
African weddings require different groups to wear different outfits, according to Elebiyo-Okojie, a native of Nigeria. She and her business partner created several custom-designed fabrics for the late-summer wedding.
The enterprising duo place a premium on customer service and provide clients with a personal consultation to walk them through the stages of creating their original fabric designs.
“When we meet with a client, we ask their color preferences and ask them to describe the structured designs that interest them or give them inspiration. We take those preferences and turn them into about 30 designs concepts and allow them to choose their top three picks to create sample fabrics,” said Elebiyo-Okojie.
The company then sends the chosen design(s) to their manufacturer to engrave and create custom fabrics within a six-to-eight week turn-around.
All fabrics are made from 100 percent cotton and are exclusive custom-made designs not found anywhere else, said Elebiyo-Okojie.
Eleviv Textiles caters to wholesalers, designers, interior designers, wedding planners and anyone in search of exclusive, one-of-a-kind fabrics.
The business partners have already broadened their product offerings to include custom-made wallpaper designs and have made contact with several homebuilders regarding their products.
“We have a prospective customer who also wants to have us design fabrics for furniture,” said Elebiyo-Okojie.
She gives credit to God for a recent call that seemingly “came out of nowhere” and opened the door to a distribution deal with an African-based clothing distributor that will allow the company to also market their fabrics in Africa.
“I am super excited because they will be stocking up a whole store just with Eleviv Textile fabrics,” said Elebiyo-Okojie.
Looking back, she credits her father, a successful business owner who started his business at the age of 24, and her mother, school teacher, with fueling and nurturing her entrepreneurial spirit.
“I was a weird child and I kind of had this really crazy vision. I am not sure where it came from. I would go to the back of my house where they had this tree, the leaves really smelled good, especially when the sun and water and dew were on it. I would squeeze the leaves and put the liquid in a bottle to make perfume from it.
In five years, she and her business partner envision having their own textile factory and employing people, said Elebiyo-Okojie.
Her advice to other business owners who have an idea for a business or product is simple.
“Never give up, even when there are delays in making your vision come to life. It may seem like it is impossible, but always fight to make your dreams a reality and to do what you love,” said Elebiyo-Okojie.
For more information, visit http://elevivtextiles.com or call 832-328-7935.