Toyin Lawani is a well-known fashion designer, serial entrepreneur, and the owner of Tiannah’s Empire.
She was born on March 1, 1982, in Ekiti State, and graduated from the University of Lagos with a Bachelor’s degree in English Language. Her passion for fashion led her to the Oprah Benson Beauty Institute in Nigeria, the Carlton Beauty Institute in London, and the John Yim Beauty School in Korea, where she obtained her cosmetology licenses. She has since grown to become one of the most sought-after stylists in the Nigerian entertainment industry, respected for her craft as well as her business acumen.
Lawani has worked, with a plethora of international celebrities, including Tiwa Savage, Wizkid, Stephanie Okereke, Funke Akindele, Keri Hilson, Natalie Nunn, Ciara, and Emma Nyra, among many others.
Toyin has 3 kids and is married to singer/photographer, Segun Wealth.
Read our Q&A with her and be inspired!
Who is Toyin Lawani (Background, career, etc.)? Toyin Lawani is a successful serial entrepreneur. I am the CEO of Tiannahs Place Empire, which consists of over 33 businesses under one roof. I am a native of Lagos State and a University of Lagos English graduate. Because of how hard I work and hustle, most people believe I’m from the streets, but this is not the case. I come from a royal family in the state of Ekiti. My maternal grandfather, Chief Elijah Babalola, was the first minister of works in the western region, and my grandmother was the Regent of Ikoyi Ikole Ekiti. My paternal grandfather, Yisha Lawani, was the official commissioner of police in Lagos, and my father, Alh Shehu Lawani, was an aide to the formal president, Gowon.
What are three words that best describe you? Fun, Unstoppable, goal-getter.
What inspired your decision to be a full-time entrepreneur? My mother. I learned so much from her. She taught me from a very young age how to do so many things. Buy, sell and also create. Her entrepreneurial spirit inspired me, and she taught me practically everything I needed to know.
She, like my grandmother, was a business magnate, owning hotels, farms, car lots, and textiles. She was into fashion, had a skincare line, was into gold, and so much more. This shaped my reasoning and entrepreneurial spirit, for which I am grateful to my mother, the late Mrs Atinuke, and my late grandmother. May God rest their illustrious souls. She sent me abroad at a young age to train in almost every field I was interested in.
I began selling hair, skin care products, makeup, and so on, and even received professional training in these areas. My early international exposure contributed to my rapid growth and success. I then attended hair school in Korea, and for skin care, I went to the Opral Benson School in Nigeria and the Carlton Institute in the United Kingdom. I also did a few fashion internships in the UK and the US, which provided me with the necessary experience. My personal style, on the other hand, was something I quickly developed, and it served me well while I was attending university. (UNILAG, University of Lagos)
I was also juggling beauty school. I already had a shop in school when I was 16, and by the time I was 18, I had three shops in and around UNILAG. It wasn’t easy juggling two schools and these businesses, but it was in my blood from the start.
Can you tell us about the biggest obstacle you have faced so far, and how you overcame it? I wouldn’t call it an Obstacle, but being a mother and managing so many businesses can be difficult. You must be able to be present in both situations, which are often stressful. Also, one of the most pressing issues that most businesses, including mine, face is a lack of qualified employees. Handling different people with different personalities can be difficult, but one must exercise caution.
It’s international women’s month and the theme this year is “Breaking the Bias”. From your perspective, what does breaking the bias mean to you, and what is one bias you’d like to be broken? Breaking the bias, in my opinion, entails doing what the rest of the world believes is impossible. As a serial entrepreneur with multiple successful businesses, many people doubted that I could manage more than one business at a time, raise my children efficiently, and thrive as a woman, and I have proven them wrong and will continue to do so. Many people believe that women cannot be builders, sailors, pilots, engineers, and other professions, but the world has changed and women all over the world are already breaking that stereotype. Women can be whatever they want to be as long as they are qualified; they deserve to be given a chance and to be respected rather than stereotyped!
What motivates you to keep going and keep showing up, on days you do not feel 100%? My passion for the business and the need to provide for my children; when you love what you do, you won’t want to miss out. Creating is something I enjoy doing. I enjoy doing it, and no matter how stressful things become, achieving my goals gives me the motivation to keep going because I enjoy what I do. When I finish a house for one of my clients, I feel very proud of myself.
If you could go back in time, what is one piece of advice would you offer a younger Toyin? I began doing business when I was 16 years old. I’m not sure I’d do it any other way. I began small and have progressed to where I am today. I crawled, not letting the fact that I came from a wealthy family bother me. God and my parents are to be praised. The only thing I would change is maybe helping the wrong people because they end up stabbing you in the back, but I learned a lot from that and I’m still learning.
What / Who inspires you and why? My passion drives me, and everything I do is inspired by my children. They are my entire world. Their names are also part of my business, so you can imagine how important that aspect of life is to me, and I’ve been able to build their own identities for them, which is one of my greatest accomplishments.
What are the top 3 impactful things you have done/achieved in the past one year as concerns empowering or supporting women or women-owned businesses? If you are familiar with my name, Toyin Lawani, you will know that I am passionate about empowering people and making a difference. I change people’s lives, which is why they call me the “star-maker.” Every year, I organize a master class to highlight the strength of women, bringing strong women together in their various sectors, telling their stories to the up and coming in their respective fields, and essentially impacting knowledge. The most recent edition was held at Eko Hotels, and many powerful women attended, including Tiwa Savage, Helen Paul, Latasha Nwugbe, Dubke Buknor, and others. Every year, I award ten free scholarships to aspiring stylists and designers to study fashion at Tiannahstyling fashion academy. I’m very proud of how well a few of the candidates are performing right now.
I also train physically challenged candidates to be hairstylists/tailors, etc., and have assisted in getting some kids off the streets, putting a roof over their heads, and enrolling their children in school.
I can literally wake up and pick 20 businesswomen at random to promote for free on my platform; everyone needs a platform to grow, and some are extremely talented but lack exposure. I worked hard for mine, but I still like to lend a helping hand when I can.
What is your take on “women supporting women”? Women have such a penchant for hating on one another that I believe they are their own poison. Wherever there is envy, there are women; where there is jealousy, backbiting, put-down syndrome, or “hating,” there are women; we must do better. To be honest, we can all fly at the same time, which is why I created a world for myself and now rule it. I don’t have many friends, I stick to my niche, and I concentrate on my business.
What is the most important lesson life has taught you so far? Life has taught me to always be aware of my own needs. It is critical to love oneself! Someone who isn’t happy can’t make others happy, so I made sure I changed everything around me that wasn’t making me happy, and now it’s all smiles every day. When your life is beautiful, beautiful people will come to you!
When you are not working, what are you doing? I’m always working, even when I’m on vacation, and my communication groups are thriving. I’m a creative, I’m my own creative director, it’s my vision and ideas, so no matter who is hired to supervise, I get very involved, and I’m also very hands-on with everything that involves my children, so there are literally no off days. Mothers don’t get days off, so I devote my Sundays to spending quality time with my children; we go swimming or to a nice resort to relax while I sketch, but they still turn me into their lifeguard at the end of the day. When it comes to children, you have to be on your toes.
Time Travel or Teleportation? Time travel, at least I get to know the intentions and heart of humans ahead before I put myself on the line for them. (lol)
What would you like to be remembered for? MY LEGACY. This is why I work like a slave all hours of the day and night; I want aspiring entrepreneurs to know that they can achieve anything they set their minds to. Gone are the days when they said you couldn’t succeed if you had your fingers in a bunch of pies, and I’m making a difference. I want them to see how they can empower their children at a young age so they can be independent when you’re not there, and I want them to look at me or think of me and say, “Because of Toyin Lawani, I didn’t give up on my dreams.” I want them to know that hard work pays off, even if you are a single parent.
Connect with Toyin here