Beautiful Funke Soyibo is the CEO of HNK Interiors, makers of ethnic furnishing materials in Nigeria. The mother of one, who started her furniture business from Opebi, Ikeja, Lagos State, has finally moved to her permanent showroom on Admiralty Way, Lekki, Phase I, Lagos. In this interview with ENCOMIUM Weekly, she revealed to us what it entails to be a professional in the business, among other sundry issues.
What is HNK Interior all about?
HNK Interior is a design company specializing in the design of homes, offices and anything that has to do with interior designing and management, including schools and the rest. And that is what we are meant for.
Everybody seems to be into interior now. What makes you different in this industry?
My concept, I try to create a niche for myself and I try to do things that are different from what others are doing. And that is why we are doing this launch. You know it’s a regular thing for you to go to homes you see leather sofa, upholstery and all that, but you want something different, something African. Something that can be known to us and to us alone.
As an expert in this business, what do you think is the one element that makes a home? Or the elements that separate a house from a home?
The most important thing is the setting. A home has to look nice. It has to be somewhere you always look forward to, and aside that, it has to be very comfortable. So, for me, it’s a two way thing. But really, a home has to be comfortable and attractive.
What made you decide this is the business you want to do, and how long have you been into this particular one?
We have been into it or about six to eight years now, but we didn’t start out as a big name. I just go into the market and get fabrics to turn around and bring something good out of nothing, and I used to do it for people at no cost really. This was long before I got married, and when I got married I did my home and people would come in and say, this is nice, where did you get that?
Somebody who needed to do a home make-over, I volunteered to do it for her at no cost. And later another sister of mine and some ladies came to me to do same for them and I began to see it as being interesting and that was it.
Doing this kind of business in this part of the world is also hectic, how have you been able to overcome all the normal problems that people have over the years?
In any kind of business, I believe that what keeps you going, is what keeps the ball rolling. If you believe that this is my dream, and you actually want to achieve this, no matter what challenges you face, it will only make you a proper person and make you strong. So, challenges are there no doubt but if you know where you are going, that will keep you going.
How of the things you do here at HNK are made in Nigeria, or is this combination of different things you put together?
Basically, what I do is that, I try to cut across the different craft of people that you have in Nigeria. But there are people that will tell you that no matter how nice this product looks, I don’t want it. I only want it to be imported and there are people that actually want me to make something for them that ok, let me produce what is made locally in Nigeria. So, you must be able to cut across the different classes of people. But let me tell you the quality of what we produce is even better than some imported goods of this kind.
Have you had any formal training, at least, to fine tune your general knowledge and love for making furniture?
Yes, I did. I took a course with a school of interior and décor, an online course.
So apart from that, what were you trained basically for before?
I studied Sociology at the University of Ibadan.
From sociology to interior and furniture making, how have you been able to put all these things together?
Like I said, it’s the dream that keeps you going. My mom told me that when I was much younger, that I said when I grow up I will have a big house and put people together. You know then as a young chap, I will be thinking big, but sincerely, I never knew I would become an interior designer.
All I know then was that I liked colours even in my Home Economics class, it was obvious and I like to bring something out of nothing.
You have a small showroom on Awolowo Road, Ikoyi. Now, this is massive one in Lekki, where are you going and what are we expecting for the future?
The sky is not the limit. It’s a whole lot and you will get to know more about it later.
So would you like to talk about this tithing that’s coming up soon, the arrival of the furniture, how did the concept come about?
Basically, what we are trying to do is to promote our culture. We found out that when you go to another county, people want to promote and exhibit what they have. They are proud of what comes out of them. But in Nigeria, people don’t really appreciate what is ours. I don’t know, maybe there hasn’t been anybody who has shown keen interest, or who has supported the creativity in our culture. For me I saw somebody and felt wow for the fabric she was putting on. And I imagined how beautiful it will look on a piece of furniture so that was how the idea came about really, and I started moving out little things like throw pillows, floor pillows and it looked so nice. So I had a deal with some people to do the furniture of a whole hotel and at the end they were like, this is something that we have all been looking out to, it has not been done anywhere in Nigeria. So basically for a lay man who is trying to have his furnishing fabrics, the sofas are the Ankara, the tye and die, and the rest. What we are trying to do is that the Ankara that you know will be used for the furniture, but the difference s that we are going to add our professional touch to it and by the time you look at blinds that are made with Ankara fabrics, you will have to look again before you can imagine how Ankara was used to come about such designs.
- ABIOLA ALOBA and SUNDAY ADEBAYO
This story was first published in ENCOMIUM Weekly on Tuesday, June 11, 2013