How TikTok helped fuel sales at West African-inspired jewellery business

Two sisters who founded a business making West African-inspired jewellery have seen sales rocket after embracing TikTok during lockdown.

Taiwo Adegbulu, co-founder of Omolola Jewellery.
Taiwo Adegbulu, co-founder of Omolola Jewellery.

Taiwo Adegbulu, who started Leeds-based Omolola Jewellery with her sister Ope in 2018, said sales hit six figures for the first time in 2020, a growth of 1,035 per cent compared to the year before, after joining the social media platform.

Omolola Jewellery, which designs and makes necklaces, earrings, bracelets and rings, was born of the desire to pay homage to West African artistry and cultures, creating the opportunity for the pair to connect with their Nigerian heritage.

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The brand’s primary routes to market are its website and independent store concessions as well as student fairs. In September it joined TikTok after seeing the success other small businesses were having and, since then, sales have flown.

Since launching last year, the popular short-form video app has evolved into an e-commerce platform for some of the world’s biggest brands.

However, it is now trying to attract small-and -medium-sized businesses in a bid to compete with bigger rivals like Facebook.

It recently announced a partnership in the UK, helping Shopify merchants create and run ad campaigns directly geared towards the 100 million strong TikTok community in Europe.

“TikTok has helped a lot to grow the awareness of our brand online, which has been helpful during the pandemic when people can’t go into physical shops,” Taiwo Adegbulu told The Yorkshire Post. “After three months of making videos we were able to reach 1.8m TikTok users, which was amazing.”

She added: “It’s had a huge impact on our business, which has been a bit scary at times. We went from having 50 orders a week to having sometimes hundreds of orders in a day. But it was amazing at the same time because that was the growth we wanted.”

Omolola Jewellery, which employs five people, uses TikTok Ads Manager to reach more potential customers and Miss Adegbulu said the TikTok team had helped the business with strategic advice and support. “That’s been one of the main avenues in getting traffic to our website, creating awareness of our brand and also getting people to convert and make purchases,” she said.

Creating content that works on the platform has been a process of trial and error but Miss Adegbulu has found that behind-the-scenes glimpses work particularly well.

“Compared to other platforms, TikTok prefers more natural content. I know that I could do a video of me packing an order and that would get more views than posting photos from a photo shoot,” she said. “You also get more engagement because I think people can identify easily with the organic content.”

Support from other TikTok users has also helped the business to grow. One of its customers made a video of herself unwrapping a piece of Omolola jewellery, saying ‘TikTok made me buy this’. “We had loads of customers and purchases from that one video,” said Miss Adegbulu. “It showed us the opportunities that TikTok could provide for us.”

Omolola Jewellery has attracted celebrity fans, including Stacey Solomon, radio DJ Julie Adenuga, and a number of rappers. The business has featured in Vogue and Cosmopolitan.

“I never believe these things at first. I always think it’s a scam when I get a message to say we’ve been featured or someone likes our stuff,” Miss Adegbulu said. “It’s random but amazing.”

Looking ahead, Miss Adegbulu is keen to grow the business further and employ more young women of colour in the brand, particularly those from underprivileged backgrounds and those who have experienced mental health issues, who are keen to forge a career in the fashion industry. “I have bi-polar disorder and I found that making jewellery is a therapeutic outlet for me,” she said. “If you’re from a certain background you can struggle to find roles so we want to create an environment that is flexible and supportive.”

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James Mitchinson