By Josfyn Uba

When they say that passion drives ideas, Ezinne Kufre Ekanem is a living testament to this.  Having observed the growing demand for quality home furnishings and bedding in Lagos, she saw an opportunity to offer personalized solutions to customers and, in 2003, her passion for creating stylish and comfortable living spaces was ignited.

Her determination to close that gap gave birth to Rosemary’s Furnishings and Beddings.  For about two decades, Ezinne has redefined the art of furnishings by recognizing the importance of minimizing the ecological footprint and promoting a sustainable lifestyle. She told Daily Sun in a recent chat in her Lagos office that, for a healthier planet, Nigerians must begin to integrate sustainability and eco-friendly practices into their business operations

How do you manage to stay afloat with inflation rate?

Managing amid the current inflation rate in the country requires a strategic approach and proactive measures to ensure business stability and growth.

Firstly, we closely monitor market trends and economic indicators to anticipate inflationary pressures and their impact on our operations. This helps us make informed decisions regarding pricing, sourcing and resource allocation. And we prioritize operational efficiency and cost management. We regularly review our expenses, optimize our supply chain and negotiate favorable terms with suppliers to mitigate the impact of rising costs.

We diversify our product offerings and explore alternative sourcing options. By expanding our product range and exploring different suppliers or materials, we can adapt to changing market dynamics and mitigate risks associated with inflation. Furthermore, we maintain open communication with our customers and stakeholders. Transparency regarding pricing adjustments and market conditions fosters trust and understanding, enhancing customer relationship and loyalty. We continuously invest in innovation and value-added services. By differentiating ourselves through unique offerings, exceptional customer experience and continuous improvement, we strengthen our competitive position despite prevailing economic challenges.

How do you incorporate sustainability and environmentally-friendly practices in your business?

We are committed to integrating sustainability and environmentally-friendly practices into our business operations. We recognize the importance of minimizing our ecological footprint and contributing to a healthier planet. There are some ways we incorporate sustainability into our business. Sourcing responsibly: We prioritize sourcing materials that are eco-friendly and sustainable. This includes using organic fabrics, recycled materials and responsibly sourced wood for our furnishings. By choosing sustainable suppliers, we ensure that our products have a minimal impact on the environment.

Reducing waste: We strive to minimize waste throughout our operations. This includes optimizing packaging to reduce material usage, recycling or up-cycling leftover materials and implementing efficient inventory management to avoid overstocking. Product lifecycle: We design products with durability in mind to extend their lifecycle. By creating long-lasting and timeless pieces, we reduce the need for frequent replacements, thereby reducing overall waste.

Giving prevailing economic realities, what tips can individuals seeking to start their own bedding and furnishings business adopt?

They should begin by conducting thorough market research to understand consumer preferences, market trends and competition. Use this information to develop a detailed business plan outlining your niche, target market, product offerings and sales strategies.

Focus on differentiation: Identify what sets your bedding and furnishings business apart from competitors. Whether it’s unique designs, superior quality, sustainable practices or personalized services, focus on offering a distinct value proposition that resonates with your target audience.

Start small and scale gradually: Consider starting your business on a manageable scale and gradually expanding based on demand and profitability. This approach allows you to minimize initial investment risks while gaining valuable experience and feedback from customers.

Optimize costs and operations: Given economic challenges, prioritize cost optimization and operational efficiency. Explore options for lean manufacturing, efficient inventory management and strategic sourcing to maximize margins and minimize waste.

Embrace online platforms: Leverage the power of e-commerce and digital marketing to reach a broader audience beyond your local market. Establish a professional website, utilize social media platforms and consider selling on online marketplaces to expand your customer base.

Seek mentorship and guidance:  Consider seeking mentorship or guidance from experienced entrepreneurs or industry experts. Learning from others’ experiences and insights can provide invaluable guidance as you navigate the complexities of starting and growing a bedding and furnishings business.

Stay committed and passionate:  Finally, maintain a strong sense of commitment and passion for your business. Entrepreneurship requires perseverance and determination, especially during economic uncertainties. Let your passion drive you forward and motivate you to overcome challenges along the way.

How do you identify and source unique bedding and furnishings for your customers?

We take care in identifying and sourcing unique, high-quality bedding, and furnishings to ensure our customers receive exceptional products that align with their preferences and lifestyle. Our sourcing process begins with a deep understanding of market trends, customer preferences, and emerging design concepts. We closely monitor industry developments, attend trade shows, and collaborate with artisans and manufacturers, both locally and globally, to discover distinctive pieces.

When sourcing products, we prioritize several key criteria: We partner with suppliers and manufacturers for their craftsmanship and commitment to quality. Each item undergoes thorough inspection to meet our standards. We emphasize materials that offer comfort, durability, and sustainability. From premium fabrics to eco-friendly materials, we aim to provide options that prioritize both aesthetics and environmental responsibility. We also seek out products that showcase innovative design elements, blending contemporary trends with timeless appeal. This ensures our offerings remain fresh and inspiring to our customers. We curate our collections to include exclusive pieces that set us apart from mass-market offerings. This allows us to provide customers with items that add a distinctive touch to their homes.

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Our sourcing strategy is guided by a commitment to offering a diverse range of products that cater to various tastes and preferences. By maintaining strong relationships with our suppliers and staying attuned to market demands, we continuously refine our selection to deliver exceptional value and satisfaction to our customers.

What challenges do you face as an entrepreneur in this industry and how do you overcome them?

As an entrepreneur in the bedding and furnishings industry, I encounter various challenges that require strategic solutions and resilience to overcome effectively.

One significant challenge is staying ahead of rapidly evolving market trends and consumer preferences. The home decor industry is highly dynamic, with new styles and innovations constantly emerging. To address this, we invest in market research, closely monitor industry trends and maintain open channels of communication with our customers to understand their evolving needs. This proactive approach enables us to adapt our product offerings and stay relevant in a competitive landscape.

Another common challenge is managing inventory and supply chain logistics. We also try to balance our inventory levels to meet demand, while avoiding overstock or shortages requires careful planning.

We optimize our supply chain by working closely with reliable suppliers and implementing efficient inventory management systems. This helps us streamline operations and ensure timely product availability for our customers. Additionally, navigating economic fluctuations and external factors can pose challenges. Volatile market conditions or unexpected events can impact consumer spending and business operations. To mitigate risks, we maintain financial prudence, diversify our product range, and explore strategic partnerships that enhance our resilience.

Lastly, building brand awareness and fostering customer loyalty in a competitive market can be demanding. We address this challenge by focusing on delivering exceptional customer experiences, leveraging digital marketing strategies, and fostering community engagement through social media and local events. Building strong relationships with our customers fosters trust and loyalty, which is essential for sustained growth.

Overcoming these challenges requires a combination of adaptability, strategic planning, and a customer-centric approach which we employ.

How do you stay ahead of the latest trends to ensure you are providing the most stylish and sought-after products?

Staying ahead of the latest trends is essential for providing stylish and sought-after products to our customers. Here’s how I effectively stay updated and ahead of the curve: Regularly conduct market research to understand current trends, emerging styles, and consumer preferences. Follow industry publications, attend trade shows, and study influential designers to stay informed about what’s popular in the market. Stay active on social media platforms like Instagram, Pinterest, and design-focused websites such as Houzz and Dwell. These platforms showcase the latest trends in home decor and provide insights into what resonates with consumers. Engage with other Industry Experts: Connect with interior designers, decorators, and industry experts who have their finger on the pulse of design trends. Collaborate with them or seek their advice to gain valuable insights into upcoming trends.

Stay Creative and Open-Minded: Keep an open mind and stay creative in my approach to product development. I encourage brainstorming sessions with my team to generate new ideas and concepts that reflect contemporary design trends.

Can you share any success stories or significant milestones that your business has achieved since its inception?

Since the inception of Rosemary’s-The Soft Furnishing Company, we have celebrated several significant milestones and success stories that highlight our journey and growth in the industry. One of our proudest achievements is our expansion to other locations outside Lagos. It was an opportunity to test the effectiveness of the system we had built and serve other clientele too. This accomplishment underscored our commitment to excellence and fueled our motivation to continue innovating and serving our customers.

Another notable success story is moving from Whole Sale to Retailing through Super Stores for wider reach demonstrating our ability to adapt and thrive in a competitive market. We are thrilled to have won several industry awards such as the most creative business for 3 consecutive years that further validated our dedication to quality and design.

Each milestone and success story represents a collective effort by our team and the trust and support of our customers. Each success strengthened our brand presence and customer base. We are thankful.

What sets your products apart from competitors in the market?

What distinguishes our products from competitors in the market is our unwavering commitment to quality, design innovation, and customer-centric approach plus the CAN- DO spirit we bring to everything we do.

Firstly, we prioritize quality above all else. Each product in our range undergoes rigorous quality checks to ensure durability, comfort, and longevity. We source materials from trusted suppliers, focusing on sustainability and craftsmanship.

Secondly, our emphasis on design innovation sets us apart. We continuously explore trends and consumer preferences to create collections that are not only aesthetically pleasing but also functional and adaptable to various lifestyles. Our designs reflect a blend of contemporary elegance and practicality, catering to diverse tastes.

Lastly, our customer-centric approach is integral to our business ethos. We prioritize customer satisfaction by offering personalized services, including customization options and expert advice on selecting the right pieces for every space.