Q&A WITH GIRL BOSS TABARA N’DIAYE

One thing we really wanted to start doing more of this year here on Apartment Number 4 was to feature inspirational females from all walks of life, from interviews to collaborations to guest posts so they can inspire you as much as they inspire us. One such woman is Tabara N’Diaye, the entrepreneur and co-founder behind homeware brand, La Basketry. Read on to discover how this girl boss juggles a full-time career as well as launching her own brand, her tips on Instagram growth and how La Basketry is weaving a sustainable future for the craftswomen of Senegal.

Congratulations on the launch of La Basketry, which officially launched this week! Can you tell us a little bit more about the brand?

La Basketry is a homeware brand I’ve started with my sister offering handmade baskets by female artisans from Senegal in West Africa where we’re originally from. From fruit bowls and jewellery boxes to laundry baskets and toy storage, we’re on a mission to bring colour to storage and inject individuality into homes, while proudly supporting artisanship and creating sustainable jobs helping rural communities to thrive.

When did you initially think of the idea to develop La Basketry? Can you remember where you were when you decided to build the brand?

I think I’ve always wanted to do something linked to Senegal – going back there every year made me realise from a young age how privileged I’ve been with my life – I was born and raised in Paris but I’ve been living in London for 10 years now. My sister, Mamy, and I have always been inspired by Senegalese crafts and especially the beautiful baskets you find everywhere in the country. There’s a great sense of sisterhood within the weaver’s community and we have always felt humbled and touched by their hard work.

We’ve set up La Basketry as their craftsmanship is incredible but there’s not enough of a market there for what they’re producing which we can see fit in perfectly in contemporary houses on this side of the world.

I actually came up with the name ‘La Basketry’ over three years ago and was ready to start working on the brand but I ended up changing job and everything was put on hold. After turning 30 at the end of 2015 and going through a ‘midlife crisis’, I felt ready to re-visit this project.

As a family run business with your sister, how do you split tasks with running La Basketry day to day? 

From the beginning, we’ve ensured that we both have a proper role with specific tasks. Mamy is based in Paris and travels to Senegal more regularly than me, so it made sense for her to oversee the operations, liaise with the artisans and lead on design and production.

I’m based in London and I’m in charge of sales and marketing that includes the website, content creation, social media and events.  As we’re based in 2 different countries, communication is key – we’re always on What’s App or on the phone brainstorming ideas and we also organise sister weekends in either city mixing work and fun.

Your tag line ‘Generous Storage’ is perfect – can you tell us more about how you work with the women in Senegal who create these beautiful products?

Of course! All the baskets are handmade in a village called Ndiakhate, just outside of Thies – which is the city where our parents were born and most of our family still reside. Basket weaving is a tradition that has been passed down for generations and most of these women sell their goods just off busy roads in the heat or you can spot them weaving away with their children beside them at local markets.

We now have a group of ladies specifically working on La Basketry that we will soon introduce on our website and we’re also going to work with local charities profiling issues close to our heart: street children, education and supporting young women. The ‘Generous Storage’ tagline embodies the idea of offering plenty of storage but also being generous with our makers and the community.

Like many female entrepreneurs, you run your business alongside a full-time career – how do you juggle both? Describe your typical day for us.

I think there’s no secret it’s all about planning and being organised – being an events manager really helps with this. Some weeks are more difficult than others and to be fair we have just launched so ask me that question again in a few months.

I travel a lot for work so if I’m in London I work out first thing as it gives some structure to my day. I then have an hour or so to focus on La Basketry before getting to the office. I use this time to catch up on emails and social media, schedule some content etc…

From 9.30 until 7ish, I don’t really have time to look at La Basketry so when I’m back home, I will spend a couple of hours working on it – usually catching up with my sister. Although at the minute, I’m focusing on our wholesale strategy and creating a dream list of potential retailers and e-tailers.

What advice would you give other #girlbosses out there who want to start their own business?

Reach out to other businesses and other entrepreneurs. Email them, send a DM, you will be surprised at the responses you get. When I started, I reached out to the London Small Business Centre in East London, they helped me to put my business plan together and put me in touch with an accountant who looked at my numbers more closely all free of charge – it was very beneficial. I’m sure they are similar organisations in a city near you.

You already have such a great following and inspiring feed on Instagram – what tips would you give someone looking to up their Instagram game for their business?

That’s very kind! Instagram is such a valuable tool as it has become a visual representation of our brand and universe especially when you don’t have enough content. I’ve built another account to 20,000 followers in 3 years and I’ve picked up some great tips along the way. Be consistent with your posts use scheduling tools like Later are very helpful for this, use 30 hashtags tags as they allow users to discover new feeds you never know, one of them could be your brand!  And connect with people, allocate time to browse and connect with other people – I’m now taking the bus to work and spend 30 minutes doing that in the morning and same at night.

Since developing the brand, what would you say has been your biggest challenge?

Our finances. We’re funding La Basketry with our own savings – there’s a lot I would have liked to do from the beginning (photoshoot, a cool lookbook, great packaging) but I’ve learned to be patient as our cash flow is so tied at the minute.

Building a business is about lessons and learning from them. If you could go back to the beginning and start again, is there anything you’d do differently?

I would have liked to start it 3 years ago – I would be super interested to see where I would be with the brand today.

Describe your personal interior style…

A mix between contemporary and boho. I’m renting in a new build and it’s very white, clean and generic so adding colourful rugs and cushions plus some vintage pieces and items that bring together different textures is key to give my flat a homely feel. And there are baskets everywhere! Some from Cuba, others from Denmark, Morocco, I’m obsessed.

Where do you go when you need inspiration, whether it be for decorating your own home, or the brand? 

I still love blogs although I don’t read as many as I used to – Apartment Number 4 is obviously still a favourite, Design Love Fest, Oh Joy, The Cool Hunter and Design Milk are some of my regular reads. Instagram is obviously a great source of inspiration. There are brands not in the home/décor that inspires me daily with their content and branding, for example, Frank Body and The Meringue Girls. I also love visual merchandising at Anthropologie, Selfridges, when in Paris, Merci and Le Bon Marche.

Finally, how would you like to see La Basketry develop over the next year?

Sell more baskets so we can offer more job opportunities to women in rural areas of Senegal. I would like to develop the range and introduce different types of products –  Giving back is at the centre of our business so would like to develop this. I would love to organise a big ‘Basketry’ charity trip and get people to volunteer to work with one of our partnered charities.

Thank you so much Tabara for sharing the secrets behind your amazing brand, La Basketry and for inspiring a fellow #girlboss to do her thing. If you’re interested in learning more about the brand (and you should be!) head over to the website right here.

I’d love to know if starting your own business is something you’ve ever considered?

 

About the author
Victoria is the editor and founder of award-winning interior design blog Apartment Number 4. When she's not scouring Pinterest for the latest in home decor inspiration, she's out shopping trying to recreate the looks herself.

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