As I made the journey to the airport, I was in a somber mood. I couldn’t believe that my dreams had slipped away. I was hurt, disappointed and scared; scared of what awaited me once I landed back in Cameroon. When I was in London, it was like I was on holiday from some of my family's troubles, but I couldn’t be any longer. Suddenly I felt guilty, I had an escape but Michele never got that experience. During that flight, I felt my whole life flash before my eyes, like a movie montage, from beginning to end. I pondered how every experience landed me to that exact moment of 8 excruciating hours in the air, in emotional purgatory. I had a layover in Morocco and reality really hit me like a ton of bricks then. I was back on home soil so to speak and it wouldn’t be long until I was back in Cameroon. Entering that second flight felt like I was entering hell because I knew what awaited me once I got home.
Just like I had expected, home was no warm welcome, in fact it was like I was experiencing a mini culture shock! I vomited because I was no longer used to the water, the roof was falling and our electricity was cut the following week. I realised that there was no longer a question of what I WANTED to do in life, my only thought was about what I HAD to do in order for my family and I to survive.
Then Michele posed the question, “What if we sell African print clothing?”. We knew it was possible. There were many talented tailors and seamstresses and the local economy would definitely benefit from a new business. Looking back, it was kind of symbolic; the thing that cost me a job in London (my pride of my heritage and love of African clothing) now offered us a great source of revenue. What previously had killed our dreams was now resurrecting them.
We got to work and started posting on Facebook in order to build a community before our first launch. We started gaining recognition in the lead up to our launch and although we had a long way to go, it felt good that we were doing something not only for ourselves, but something that would empower and benefit our community. In the early years, Michele and I did everything ourselves with limited resources but had it not been for those experiences, we wouldn’t be as clued up about running a business as we are now!
I tried to buy the domain for our website but the name had already been taken. We asked our mum if she could think of anything and she said Grass-fields because where we come from in Cameroon it means fertile. One day, I had an idea to pay a popular Facebook group for marketing. We had always done our marketing organically but I just had a gut feeling it would pay off. And it did! The picture ended up going viral and we went from selling 20-30k worth of product to selling over 100k. Our source of survival was now becoming a successful business.
Watching the brand take off has always been surreal for us, it was born out of survival. We have grown with the industry and most importantly with you guys, the customers. As your styles have changed, we have tried to keep up so you always have beautiful African print clothing for any occasion. A big portion of our success is also owed to the African fashion industry evolving; now we can make a range of shapes, use different techniques and so on.
The Grass-fields journey has been a long one, but we are grateful for every achievement, every hiccup and every learning curve. We are only going to get better and better so make sure you’re staying along for the ride!