Lionesses of Africa Feature Story
Posted on December 02 2022
Dibo Ndumbe Eyoh is the co-founder and co-creative Director of Eloli, an award-winning luxury African brand in Cameroon. Eloli means "it is beautiful" in Bafaw, a language spoken in Cameroon. This unique brand has featured in publications like Vogue and Elle and has been worn by numerous celebrities. Dibo founded the business in 2012 with her sisters Sume and Fese, and it now employs 15 full-time employees, many of whom are young women and mothers. The brand also works with various local artisans and skilled tailors. Dibo has almost 20 years of business experience working internationally for leading banks and other financial services as well as consultancy firms.
LoA spoke to Dibo Ndumbe Eyoh, one of the founding inspirational creative forces behind Eloli to find out more.
What does your company do?
Eloli designs and manufactures clothing and accessories with a strong heritage focus.
What inspired you to start your company?
Fashion is something my sisters and I grew up with. We come from a line of very stylish women. I started designing and making my own clothes in my early teens with my mother’s help and it was a dream of mine to have a fashion brand which would reflect my style and heritage.
“I started designing and making my own clothes in my early teens with my mother’s help and it was a dream of mine to have a fashion brand which would reflect my style and heritage.”
Why should anyone use your service or product?
Our designs are fresh and modern. They reference our Cameroonian heritage while seeking inspiration around the globe. They take our traditional influences and keep them relatable for all people. We use a mix of unexpected materials in a way that remains wearable. Our designs represent modern people who are proud of where they came from and excited about where they are going - past, present and future, woven together in an expression of beauty. This is represented in our brand name- Eloli which means ‘it is beautiful’ in Bafaw.
Our logo includes "Eloli" in an elegant cursive. At the end of the cursive "E” sits Eloli written in Shumom script, a system of pictographic writing developed in the 19th-century by Sultan Ibrahim Njoya for writing the Bamun language (Cameroon). The entire logo is a nod to the past and a look to the future.
We also like to introduce an element of fun. We have a full offering range and carry this theme through. Our female business wear for instance is very professional but it still carries an air of femininity as we believe that these are not mutually exclusive.
We always try to introduce a fresh perspective and improve hence the name ‘Aming’ for our last collection which means ‘going higher’ in Bafaw.
Tell us a little about your team
Eloli is headed by my sisters, Sume, Fese and I. The brand incorporates our love for vibrant colour and pattern. It provides a great creative outlet for my sisters and I who are all trained in different fields from banking and finance, law and health. Through Eloli we channel our shared passion of introducing a contemporary African aesthetic to every day design. Living in 3 different cities on three different continents we are inspired by our heritage and remain forward looking in our design.
We have a brilliant team to which we have added over the years. We still employ both tailors with whom we started the business. They have been very loyal. We try to create a good working environment and give our team opportunities to learn and grow. We try to support their personal needs and be as flexible as possible especially working around childcare issues without which many of our women would not have been able to be gainfully employed.
“Our designs represent modern people who are proud of where they came from and excited about where they are going - past, present and future, woven together in an expression of beauty.”
Share a little about your entrepreneurial journey. And do you come from an entrepreneurial background?
I grew up with an entrepreneurial mother who continues to be a massive inspiration to all of us. I spent my summers at as a teenager working at our fashion boutique and I think that impressed in me the idea of fashion not just as a creative outlet but as a business as well. I am not yet a serial entrepreneur but there a lot of avenues that I would love to explore. As we grow Eloli, I expect there to be many opportunities to develop our lifestyle brand into other areas.
What are your future plans and aspirations for your company?
We will be showing our new collection internationally from October 2021 starting with a showcase in Addis Ababa, representing Cameroon at the African Union and UNESCO sponsored Arts and Culture festival. We will also be relaunching our accessories line next year and looking at growing the brand internationally.
“Through Eloli we channel our shared passion of introducing a contemporary African aesthetic to every day design.”
What gives you the most satisfaction being an entrepreneur?
Entrepreneurship allows me to work autonomously and have more control to focus on the things I want to do. It gives me flexibility. It is risky, however the potential reward is enormous and the satisfaction of materializing my dreams is unparalleled. Running into people wearing our designs always gives me goosebumps.
What's the biggest piece of advice you can give to other women looking to start-up?
Take a leap of faith. Educate yourself as much as possible on your chosen field then just go for it. Rarely will everything be in place perfectly - if we had waited to get everything, we needed to start the business then we would probably still not have launched the brand yet. Prepare as much as possible but break your plans into small steps and start one step at a time - you may be surprised where this leads you. I have been able to learn so much from mistakes we’ve made earlier that I can apply as we continue to grow the business and take more risks. We have had so many opportunities we would have missed out on if we had waited for everything to be perfect.
Contact or follow Eloli
Why LoA loves it….
There is always something inspirational about hearing the stories of women entrepreneurs who are now living out the business and brand building dreams they had as young girls, and Dibo Ndumbe-Eyoh is doing just that. Her dream of designing uniquely stylish clothing reflecting her heritage and her own personal creative ethos is now a reality. Her growing business with its industry recognition and growing client base, is now set for new heights as it firmly sets its sights on global growth. We look forward to watching this luxury African fashion brand grow from strength to strength over the coming year. — Melanie Hawken, founder & ceo, Lionesses of Africa