I was inspired to start using tyres to make bespoke furniture last year – Olabanke Banjo

Olabanke Banjo is a writer, Digital strategist and all round creative. A graduate of Foreign Languages (French) from the prestigious Obafemi Awolowo University in Ile-Ife Osun State, Olabanke always stood out as an artistic child with an unmitigated interest in literature and fine arts. Born in the 90s to a family of 3 children, Olabanke developed an interest in the Arts at the early age of 9.

At the age of 10, she was selected out of over 400 students in her primary school to participate in the International Children’s Day of Broadcasting organized by UNICEF, where she reported on street hawking
and child exploitation.

However, Olabanke took her passion for all things art-related in 2016 to another level while living with her elder sister in Lagos. During her stay , she developed an idea to recycle/upcycle tyres into artsy and ultra-modern furniture after a pile of about 20 tyres were about to be disposed by her sister’s neighbours.

Today, Olabanke has set up a creative outfit, Cyrus45 Factory, which focuses on not only recycling but also producing bespoke and ultra-modern furniture and products for the art savvy Nigerian. She also works as a Digital strategist and content writer at an Advertising agency in Lagos. Banke shares her inspiring story in this exclusive interview.

Childhood Influence
I have always been inclined to arts and crafts from my early years. As a child, my mother nurtured my flair and talent for the arts by buying me paint brushes whenever she travelled and enrolling me in Art clubs to encourage me in building my skills. I can recall having a number of sketch pads when I was just 9 which contained drawings of Beyonce, rock band Green Day and Disney characters. My childhood fostered my creativity and love for the arts to a large extent.

My interest in Arts
My interest in arts is actually not limited to just furniture making from recycled items. I also perform on stage from time to time, I draw/doodle and I also dance. I like to say art and creativity were planted in my DNA right from conception, it is a God-given talent. When I try to explore other fields; I find myself always being drawn to the Arts. It is and will always remain one of my first loves.I was selected out of over 400 students to participate in a Unicef programme at the age 10…

At the time, I was very nervous and surprised that I was even chosen, But looking back, the experience helped tremendously in boosting my self-confidence and opening up my creativity. I am indeed grateful and glad that I auditioned and was selected.

Inspiration
I became inspired to start using tyres to make bespoke furniture sometime last year. I have always been a lover of the arts and have dabbled in several art-related handiwork like bead making, bag making and greeting cards making to mention a few. However, last year May, while living with my elder sister in Lagos, I came across a pile of about 20 used tyres in her compound. Her neighbours intended to dispose of them because they had been lying fallow for almost 2 years. But being a lover of revamping old items, I asked them to give me the tyres. The initial idea that popped in my head was to make a coffee table, so I did the necessary research on recycling and reusing of old tyres. Then I made a coffee table for myself and when I saw the response from people, I came to a conclusion that this could be a way to reduce environmental pollution while also being a profitable business venture.

Challenges
Production is really the main challenge for now, especially being a startup. There are a lot of equipment and resources Cyrus45 needs for seamless production. But I believe God is more than able. I will not run it with my blood but by His Grace.

Other project and activities
I am working on launching a new collection of furniture soon, most likely in November. I am also working towards having a mini art exhibition next year. But my long term plan is to change the general perception of Made in Nigeria products by creating more functional and avant-garde furniture and art designs. I look forward to being named one of the game-changers in the creative industry.

Greatest reward
My greatest reward is knowing that I am fulfilling purpose through what I do and also impacting my society positively.

Nigerians appreciate people with creative mind enough… I think there is growing appreciation and interest in people with creative and unconventional ideas. Appreciation of the Arts or creativity has not been a thriving idea in our culture but with the influence of the western world, we are gradually beginning to not only
accept the idea but also own it.

How I felt when my story went viral…
My first reaction was overwhelming surprise. It was a mixed feeling of excitement, joy, shock and anxiety because as much as I wanted exposure, I didn’t expect that immense level of reception and interest from Nigerians. Frankly, the Lagos State MSME Exclusive fair opened a huge door for me, giving Nigerians a glimpse of the uniqueness of my products.

Do Nigerians utilise social media positively enough?
I will say Nigerians can try to utilise social media more positively. There are a good number of men and women who are leveraging on social media as a means of making positive impact and empowering people. However, we can’t shut our eyes to the fact that many spend more time using social media as a tool for cyber-bulling, trolling and endorsing negative ideologies.

Who or what inspires me to be better
God inspires me to be the best I can, He created me for a specific purpose and I am driven by my resolve to fulfil that purpose. I also believe that it is my responsibility to leave the world better than I met it, for the sake of the next generation. I am also inspired by great, resilient women such as Jumoke Adenowo of AD Consulting and Ibukun Awosika, First Bank of Nigeria Chairman and CEO of the Chair Centre

I am a Woman of Rubies
Being an inspiration and motivation to young African women to be the best they can be, using my gifts to contribute towards impacting my society positively and being a role model to every woman who has been told by the society that she is not able.

Final word for your young women who are still trying to find their voice in the creative industry
Do not let fear of striking out keep you from exploring your talents and creativity. I once read a woman should be two things, who and what she wants to be. Keep your focus on God and you will surely stand out.

Finally, be you, be o!



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