Guinean-American of Fulani descent, Haby Barry is the founder of Fulaba.com, an exclusive retailer for high-end, high-quality Fulani earrings. Barry arrived at her company name, “Fulaba” by combining the word ‘Fulani’ and the word beautiful in the Fulani language, ‘nolaba.’ In this interview with the AWP Network, she talks about her business challenges and her plans to become a global brand.
What inspired you to start this business?
I am Fulani and a first generation American whose parents are from Guinea. I often wore and got compliments on a pair of brass Fulani earrings that I purchased in Harlem. This is what inspired me to start, I felt that I could get a better quality version of these earrings and present to the world a beautiful story about my culture. It had been my dream to bring to the global market authentic high-end, high-quality Fulani earrings, so I got in touch with my aunt in Conakry, Guinea who helped me to identify and locate local jewelry makers who could make these unique pieces by hand.
Who is your target market?
Women ages 25 years and up, who appreciate made in Africa jewelry.
How have you financed your business?
Bootstrapping; I have completely self-financed my business.
What is your competitive edge?
At Fulaba, we take quality seriously and use gold or silver in all of our pieces. Each jewelry is handcrafted and made in solid fine silver or plated in gold. We are authentic and take pride in preserving traditions. We also enjoy sharing the meaning behind our timeless handmade jewelry.
What is the long-term plan for your business?
I want my company to have a global presence and be recognized as the leading jewelry line for high culture in Africa, I know this is not an impossible dream. I also want to make an economic impact in Guinea, celebrate the natural beauty of women and empower them.
What challenges do you face?
Limited resources. There is so much to do but with a small team and not many resources it takes longer to build traction. My company could use the help of brand ambassadors, volunteers, and interns. Email us at info (at) fulaba.com if you or someone you know has interest. We also have opportunities listed here: www.fulaba.com/join-our-team/
What key things have you learned since starting this idea?
- Make Mistakes. Mistakes provide huge lessons. There are things that I felt were not correct or were not done to my liking but turned out really well in the marketplace.
- Find Your Tribe. Having a community of like-minded entrepreneurs propels you in major ways, it is not enough to work alone or by yourself.
- Money Matters. You will always need more money than you think.
- Know Your Worth. Try getting the attention of someone influential even if you do not have a mutual connection.
- Ignite Your Passion. It is important to get out there and talk to people about your business as it will reignite your passion and revitalize your energy to keep going.
What five (5) things do startup entrepreneurs need to know?
- Start small. You do not need to have a full product line or service offering, start small and build from there.
- Find a network of like-minded entrepreneurs. Entrepreneurship is a journey and you will need all the support that you can get.
- Pitch your business as much as you can and you will attract people who can guide and open doors for you.
- The work does not get easier but it does get more rewarding.
- Be patient with yourself and your business…it takes time for things to manifest and grow but you have to keep at it!
What advice do you have for youths looking to start an idea but say ‘there is no money’?
Be passionate about what it is that you want to start because there may not be money for a while and you have to be willing to put in your own money or convince relatives to put in money or both. It takes money to move things and if your thinking is in the right place, the money to get you started will come but if you are looking for a huge payoff right away then most likely, you’ll be out of luck.
How do you think African youths can continue to support each other?
Young people in Africa can support one another by joining networks and groups focused on development and growth in Africa.
How many jobs have you created so far?
We are a small team and continue to contract with several people including two (2) jewelry makers in Conakry, Guinea who employ additional folks to help fulfill orders.
How has technology enhanced your business?
Our business could not exist without technology. It is integral to how we operate, from simple communications to our e-commerce platform. Social media and advertising on social platforms has also helped to build brand awareness and drive traffic to our site.
How can we support and improve innovation in Africa?
Stop and think about what it is that you do for a living or what it is that you are studying in school and how those skills can be used to develop Africa. Stop and think about who you know, people you can connect with and with whom you can together fill the gaps that exist on the continent. I think it starts there.