AYAIYA SPEAKING CHRONICLES
When You’re the Embodiment of “The Little Brand That Could”
Ahem. Let me introduce myself. My name is Jamés Etim and I’m the black, immigrant, female owner of a small online clothing boutique called Ayaiya. I’m just a little Naija American girl trying to live her beautiful dream, which is why I named the business “Ayaiya”. “Ayaiya” means “beautiful” in the language we speak, Annang.
I started designing clothes in my imagination as a child in the 1980s, but never acted on that desire. Instead, I worked for many other businesses, making sure that someone else’s dreams came true and were successful. I never felt I was smart enough to start a business, run a business, be a success in my own business. My journey has been a long meandering one, but extremely long story short, I finally got up enough courage to start my business in late 2016.
Since then, we’ve had some success, but kept running into one roadblock after another. Shady event planners, funding issues, full-time jobs that took over my life and afforded little time to water my dream, endless searches for our perfect producers, etc., etc., etc.! Chai! The road has been long-oh! (Said in my favorite Nigerian accent)!
Many of those roadblocks were absolutely devastating. Through it all, my family and I tried to keep the faith and trust that we were going to come out of these tough times far better than we went in! Some of my repeat and custom-order customers became good friends and encouraged me to keep going, keep pressing forward, because they believed in my brand! That fueled me! I started drawing out my designs (they looked far better than my first drawings that looked like a child drew them – I was in my 30s when I drew the first ones), sourcing the right prints that would make my designs pop, and finally the right producers fell into my lap (thank you, Lord)!
Even with this new-found energy, stubborn roadblocks continued to rear their ugly heads! This time it was another shady producer, money woes, and corona, corona, corona! The whole world shut down because of corona, which meant NOTHING was getting done for my business aside from what I could control from my home, which wasn’t much at that time. After the shutdown, we’ve been able to move forward producing my products with a team from our home state in Nigeria and things are looking up. We’ll just keep blazing forward until the next roadblock that appears, and we’ll bulldoze right through that also! Nothing is stopping me! I was created for this!
So, in the present, this journey may get tough at times, but one thing is for sure – this ride we’re all on will be interesting! Thank you for taking this ride with me! Welcome aboard and eh-heh!
PS – there will be plenty of references on this site using my native language! Hope you’re ready!