Business owner from Nigeria hopes to inspire young Black girls

Rosie Nguyen Image
Friday, September 15, 2023
Business owner from Nigeria hopes to inspire young Black girls in business
New data reveals Black Americans make up 3.3% of business owners in Houston. One woman from Nigeria is defying the odds.

HOUSTON, Texas (KTRK) -- Data from LendingTree shows that Black Americans make up only 3.3% of business owners in Houston. One woman is defying the odds after moving to Houston from Nigeria only seven years ago.

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Toju Sunmola knew since she was seven years old that she wanted to run her own business. She said the seed was planted by her own parents, who were both entrepreneurs in Nigeria.

"My dad used to be a contractor and he would take us to paint walls. My mom was a trader and I used to help her with putting out the goods at the big shop," she shared.

But Sunmola's parents didn't want her to follow in their footsteps and instead, encouraged her to become a doctor, lawyer, or engineer. She went to school for a few years, but ended up following her own dreams instead of theirs. After moving to the U.S. seven years ago to be with her husband, she opened up her own nail salon and fashion design studio.

"One thing that attracted me to this business of nails and fashion is making something for people that makes them feel like another version of themselves, like a superhero version," said Sunmola.

The venture didn't come easy though, as she opened her business right around the time of the COVID-19 pandemic. She spoke to ABC13 about some of the challenges she faced being a Black woman in entrepreneurship and how her new community have helped keep her doors open.

"We do not have enough information, resources, or the right people to show us what to do or where to go. We're just figuring it out amongst ourselves. But I will say Black women and men have been the backbone of my business. They stood by me and I'm so grateful for them," she said.

Despite the setbacks she faced after starting her business during the COVID-19 pandemic, Sunmola managed to keep her doors open until this very day all while juggling two kids. Her husband, Seyi Sunmola-Shina believes that's because she goes the extra mile for her clients.

"When she's not feeling too well, she will still get up and make sure that she gets the job done and her clients are happy. She'll be up all night, just making sure that you know she meets the deadline. She's very dedicated and extremely hardworking," he expressed.

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Sunmola hopes this will just be the beginning of her entrepreneurial journey. She aspires to one day work on Beyonce's nails and franchise out her business in the next five to ten years.

"I want to be a role model to my kid and other people's kids that dares to do something apart from being a doctor or lawyer or an engineer or things like that," she said. "My goal is for young Black girls to see me and be like, 'I want to be a nail tech.'"

For more information, you can visit Toju's Nails and Fashion Design Studio's website. You can also find her on Facebook and Instagram.