Two parents determined to better the world in which their children are growing up: sounds inspiring to us! Claire and Ogo founded AKWA BABY as a clothing range that not only celebrates the vibrancy of the family's Nigerian heritage, but also has sustainable practices and self-affirming design literally woven right though it!
GRASP: Your founding story is so inspiring! Right off the bat, as fellow (co-par)entrepreneurs we have to ask: what's the secret to doing the magical balancing act of home and business life?
CLAIRE: Ha! I’m not sure we have totally mastered that yet, our kids are still so small (we have three kids under the age of 5 years) so the challenge is real! We prioritise the kids and anything outside of that is dedicated to Akwa Baby. It helps that we have different skill sets so dividing and conquering is always easy.
GRASP: You've gone out of your way to have honest conversations with the kids about topics that can be tricky to navigate. How did you go about it, and what advice would you give to others raising kids in this generation?
CLAIRE: With regards to discussing race, we’ve just started conversations with them on a positive and obviously it is helpful that we all have different skin tones, so those earlier conversations (from when they were babies) were all about how beautiful and brilliant it is that we have these differences that make us unique and we made sure right off the bat that diversity was reflected in their toys, books and TV shows so the kids see themselves positively represented. Chia is now 4 years and due to start school in September, I wanted to gently discuss racism with her because I would much rather she learnt about it from me than through a negative experience where I couldn’t be there to help support her reaction, so we purchased a copy of ‘My Skin Your Skin’ by Laura Henry-Allain and have started reading it together. Chia looked at me like I was mad when I said that some people can say mean things about skin colour, it’s just not in her paradigm! She didn’t overthink it though, she loves her brown skin and she knows now how we as a family feel about racism.
I don’t feel qualified to offer advice but from the heart I’d say to just don’t make anything a taboo, lean in to the uncomfortable and learn alongside your little people.
GRASP: For adults in 'majority culture' settings, it can be even harder to bring those conversations home for kids. What advice would you give them?
CLAIRE: Don’t avoid it! Please! Start as early as possible, because babies/toddlers do see colour, so normalise this, have positive representation at home, discuss differences, uniqueness openly and don’t shut down a child if they do say something negative, explore it with them, help them to understand why they may feel like that and actually what the reality is. There is a popular mantra amongst parenting about teaching kids to ‘be kind’ but what does that look like and why is it important?
GRASP: Sustainability is really at the core of your work and knitted into every element of AKWA BABY. Presumably this has come with a cost attached - would you say it was worth it? How can other fledgling businesses go about making all areas of their business more sustainable?
CLAIRE: We are extremely new to the fashion industry, we had no knowledge of how to produce clothing before this brand, so when we started learning about the options we had we just felt very conscious that we were producing for our children and we wanted to make them proud. It does come at a premium yes, but with everyone else, including the High street, stepping up hopefully it won’t be such an expense in the future.
GRASP: Tell us about Grow to Know!
CLAIRE: Grow2Know are an amazing organisation we found out about after seeing Founder, Tayshan, on the BBC in 2021 at the Chelsea Flower Show. Ogo loves gardening and we looked him up on Instagram. Fast forward a year and we've helped the non-profit produce some t-shirts to promote their first Flower Show garden 'Hands off Mangrove
’ with sales going straight into their incredible community projects. They were started in the wake of Grenfell when Tayshan created a community garden for the residents and locals to come together to talk and heal and he’s continued his purposeful mission to provide green, beautiful spaces to those who need it most in inner city estates.
GRASP: How can we encourage kids to look after their clothes?
CLAIRE: Hmm good question, I’m not entirely sure that’s possible and we actually want them to play in mud, climb trees, be kids basically, so we designed the garments with active play in mind and for all seasons too because we want them to wear it as much as possible before passing on.
GRASP: What does the future hold for AKWA BABY?
CLAIRE: We really want to expand our selection of prints and have some exciting ideas coming into fruition. It was just Ogo and I getting it off the ground with our one main print but we’ve just started working with some interesting people to help us grow the brand and by Christmas we’ll have more to talk about!
To know more about AKWA BABY's story, check out akwababy.com.
Our Spotlight series features founders and brands that inspire us. Whether it’s empowering kids, inspiring parents, or making sustainable solutions part of everyday life, we’ve spoken to people who embody the values at the heart of GRASP. Our hope is that these founder’s stories, the products they’re making, and their ambition to make a difference in the world also inspires you.