Omobolade Kolade Mayowa is the architect-turned-crocheter behind HookedByLade, a luxury crochet brand that makes colourful hand-crafted bags. In this conversation with PiggyVest, she discusses her shift from working nine-to-five to full-time crocheting. She also shares some advice for people looking to turn their passion into a business.
What’s your educational background?
I studied Architecture at the Federal University of Technology in Akure, Ondo State.
Architecture to crocheting. How did that happen?
Well, I’ve liked crocheting for a long time. It calms my nerves and brings me peace. While I’m crocheting, every noise in my head just goes away. As I’m speaking with you now, I’m crocheting.
Yes. It’s quite therapeutic. I started when I was a child, and then everything picked up again during my service year.
What year was this?
2016. I was posted to a village in Rivers State to teach. I also freelanced as a video creator and editor on Fiverr. I used to do it with my partner.
Do you still make videos?
Not as much anymore, but the skill still comes in handy. Video editing is part of my job as a creator.
That’s cool. So how did you start crocheting again?
Between looking at children and staring at my laptop, I felt like something was missing. I needed to be doing something else. Also, being in a rural area, there was no light for the most part. So I found crocheting again. And it was still as peaceful as ever.
I taught some children how to crochet, too. This gave me purpose at the time and made me fall in love with crocheting even more. We all looked forward to meeting again the next day. It was fun and at the end of my stay, I gave all the things I made during the service year to the indigenes.
What was your goal when you started crocheting again?
Initially, I didn’t have any plans to make a career out of it. It felt like leaving those children took that part of me with it. I didn’t see it as reality; it was just a fun time I had with them. When I returned home after NYSC, I got a 9 to 5, which I did for almost two years before I went back to freelancing.
It wasn’t until after I returned to freelancing that I started again, but only with a few pieces. At first, I started with wears: beanies, scarves, caps, a bag here, another bag there. I wasn’t serious about it because I couldn’t imagine going out to ask people to buy from me.
Freelancing gave me this anonymity, making moves behind my phone. With freelancing, I could sell my skill without loud marketing. But after making a couple of bags, the people around me started encouraging me to sell them. My sister even came all the way from Abeokuta to encourage me.
A strong support system is underrated.
Yeah, but I still wasn’t sure. It’s not that I was doubting myself, but crocheting just wasn’t mainstream. I couldn’t find anyone doing it as a serious career. But it quickly became serious o. To the point that, when it started taking off on IG, some people started calling me to pray that God would expand the business even further.
That was when I decided to sit down and make it into a proper business. I was still unsure, but I decided to try anyway.
How many years has it been since your decision to take crocheting seriously?
Congratulations! You’ve grown so much in three years.
Yes. Thank you!
Do you remember your first sale?
Not exactly. But my first sales were to family, friends and colleagues at my former workplace. And the support was genuine. They actually paid; I wasn’t giving them freebies or anything. All of them still have their bags to date and most of those bags were named after the owners.
My buyers are mostly Nigerian, and my bags are custom, so they just tell me the colours and styles they like and I make them.
What’s your favourite bag you’ve created?
I don’t really have a favourite, but I love playing with colours. So the ones that pop the most are my favourites.
Did the rest of your family accept you leaving architecture for crocheting?
Well, my dad wanted all of us to become architects. So once in a while, they subtly ask me about getting a master’s degree, and I’ll tell them, ‘E ma worry’. But it wasn’t like he was against it because he knows I’ve freelanced for some time. My business side is not new to them. Even my sister makes beads. So anytime we were on our phones, he knew we were working.
Even as a child, he supported my passion for crocheting. So when I went mainstream he was fine with it. I know he had his reservations, but it’s normal.
What has been the highlight of your journey?
It’s building a career in the first place. It’s crocheting na; I did not know it was possible. Then being able to inspire people; to show them that it is possible. Now, ladies, and even guys, are willing to take it seriously.
What about difficulties? What problems have you found yourself navigating these three years?
The problems are new every morning. Shipping costs, especially, have been a major problem because nobody likes to pay shipping costs that are almost as high as the cost of the products. It’s very discouraging.
But the fun of it is overcoming them. Once you solve those problems, you won’t even remember they existed.
Now you’ve successfully built a career. Do you have a plan for the next, say, five years?
Initially, I didn’t know where this was going, but I had big goals. I wanted to make dresses, teach, and do many other things. And I thought I could do everything in one month. But what I learned, and I’ll like others to understand, is that growth takes time. The time it will take you to grow might feel like slow periods, but you need to be patient.
My major goal is to teach, children especially. I want to give people the confidence to try crocheting as a full-time job. I want to have crochet firms that can scout talented graduates or interns to work for them. I want to show aspiring crocheters or crafters that crocheting can pay the bills.
We’d love to see it!
As a small business owner, would you say you’re been good with your money?
See ehn, let’s be honest. For the first two years, all the money goes back into the business. If you want your business to thrive, you have to be disciplined enough to keep reinvesting. I’m not at the stage where I can say I’m comfortable. I’ll get there, of course, but I run this business with a partner and the materials don’t come cheap.
So, yes. I reinvest most of my money back into my business. That’s where we’re at right now.
Any money mistakes?
Not really. Unless there’s a thing like over-reinvesting in your business. People tell me to take some money for myself: “You’re a big woman na, won’t you buy a car?” But it’s like watering a plant, I want it to grow so I’ll just keep putting the money back. I can buy those things later.
Do you get endorsement opportunities?
You see, this influencer thing works in two ways. You can start as a brand and build up to getting endorsements, or you can start getting endorsements and decide to build a brand. Neither is easy, by the way. Look at Rihanna with Fenty.
So, I’m doing the ‘brand first’ thing. It’s not like if I get any endorsement deals I won’t accept them. But I want to build first so people can see that other things can be built here as well. All the fame and endorsements can come later.
That’s very smart. Have you set any money goals for the coming years?
It’s not like I don’t have o. But I want to get out of the reinvesting stage first. I’m not complaining at all; at least I have enough to reinvest. I’m focusing on staying content, because if greed sets in, we will start deviating from everything the brand represents.
What was the first big purchase you made for yourself?
An iPhone. People need to know that the medium you use to communicate, when you sell online, is very important. Some might think that an iPhone is a luxury, but taking blurry pictures of your goods does not help your business. It was a lot at the time, but I was excited.
I bought a camera last year, but I still use my phone more because it’s relatable and a bit easier to use. The camera works for some shoots, and I can’t wait till I can use it more. I know once I shift to camera full-time, it’ll be obvious.
Do you have any advice for people who want to succeed in the crocheting space?
You can’t skip the process. TikTok and social media can blow you up overnight, and that’s beautiful, but behind the beautiful products is a frustrating and rough process. I know before I reach all the dreams I have in my head, it will take a lot of blood, sweat and tears.
Profit won’t come easy. Start small, with smaller tools and yarns. Love the process, not for money, but for the sake of it. Then when you’re ready to build your business, you will need guidance and support systems around you. You can’t do it alone. Most importantly, you need God.