When ULO’s owner and founder Dinzi Amobi launched the bright and bold Nigerian inspired children’s wear range, her youngest daughter was just 8 weeks old. But she was determined to see success–not only to achieve a sense of connection to her motherland, Nigeria, but to inspire Australians to live a life rich in vibrant African colours, prints and playfulness. And she did! Here, Dinzi’s incredible journey around the globe from Nigeria to London then Sydney and finally her now-home town, Melbourne…
What was the inspiration behind your business?
Nigeria – the place I will forever call ‘home’. ‘ULO’ means ‘Home’ in the native language of the Igbo people in Nigeria, West Africa. Inspired by the African prints I grew up with living as a child in Lagos,Nigeria, I wanted to create a home for my daughters which was filled with similar vibrant colours, prints and fabrics, and so I set to work with ULO.
Was there a ‘lightbulb’ moment?
The light bulb moment for ULO Kids occurred 3 months after my identical twin girls arrived last year. Having completed my fourth load of laundry for the day, I stared down at the basket of fresh white cottons, bamboo-coloured linens, dusty blues and soft pinks, and realised that my kids would never experience the vibrant colours and prints that I wore as a child unless I created something for them to wear. I stayed up that night researching baby and kids clothing (in between three hourly feeds x2!) and came to the conclusion that there was a place for modern African-inspired kids clothing.
Can you tell us about your law training and Nigerian - English upbringing?
I was born in London and raised in Nigeria until the age of 8 after which my mother returned to London with my sister and I, and my father stayed behind to build his law chambers. My father would travel back and forth between London and Lagos, and so we were very much raised as Nigerians. I trained as a lawyer in London, moved to Australia after meeting my husband in London, and was mid-way through my legal training in Australia when I decided to quit and follow my passion to set up ULO. I’ve always loved to design and sew, and so I started to spend my evenings and weekends working on designs which eventually became ULO.
Tell us about the business’ early days – with two young children, designing, sewing and expanding ULO?!
Tell us about ULO’s colour, prints, playfulness and the Nigerian influence?
You live in Australia now – how did the move come about?
I moved to Australia five years ago after meeting my Aussie husband in London. He would claim I followed him here but I assure you that is not true! 🙂 We lived in Sydney for three years, got married in London, and then moved to Melbourne shortly after. I adore living in Australia, the warmth of the people and the healthy lifestyle makes it incredibly difficult for us to ever think of returning to London. That being said, I wanted to build a family home which embodied part of my African heritage, and I wanted my kids to grow up learning about their culture and identity. I guess, it’s my way of staying truly connected to my roots despite being so far away.
Can you tell us a bit about ULO’s style?
ULO Kids is a unique line of playful prints and bold colours designed using limited edition wax prints which we source directly from market vendors and local artisans in Ghana, Tanzania andNigeria. All of our designs are made in Australia.
African wax fabrics are highly symbolic and used to express the personality, desire and beliefs of the people that traditionally wore the prints. I chose three fun and unique prints – The Zebra, The Carrot and The Egg-which were bold and vibrant but also playful for kids to appreciate. ULO Kids encourages young personalities to feel bold and confident as they navigate their way through the adventures of life. And what better way to do so than in vibrant prints and colours?!
Clean lines and oversized shapes means that the prints do the talking, and each piece can be shared by siblings and loved for years to come.Our collection has no correlation with seasonal trends – we want kids to wear our prints all year round!
What else makes ULO children’s wear unique?
Our wax prints make us unique-there is no hiding for any kid who is wearing a zebra-print jumpsuit and neon-pink carrot summer hat. As a mother of 18-month twins, I appreciate how quickly kids grow and work their way through a wardrobe of clothes. I wanted to ensure that our collection was versatile and comfortable enough to grow with our customers.
Although we source our fabrics overseas, all of our collections are proudly made in Melbourne.
Tell us about the practicalities and versatility?
Each piece from the collection has been cleverly designed to ensure versatility and comfort.I wanted the designs to work well together and create a variety of outfits for kids to enjoy as they grow. For example, once a kid has outgrown the traditional A-line structure of theCarrot Dress, they can wear it as a smock top and pair it with our Carrot pants to create another outfit.
Likewise, our Zebra pants and Carrot pants have elasticated legs allowing them to be worn to the ankles or pulled up to the knee and worn as shorts. Our Zebra jumpsuit is both unisex and reversible-the zip can be worn at the front or at the back depending on the kids’ needs (nappy access etc), and the balloon-shaped design provides enough room for kids to comfortably grow and move around.
All of our wax print fabrics are machine washable and can be hung out in the sun to get rid of creases. We used zips and poppers to ensure that kids could put our clothes on quickly and we created designs which were fuss-free and simple.
Why did children love ULO?
Our collection is bursting with colour and personality. We chose playful African wax prints which kids would enjoy, and created modern, comfortable and versatile designs. We hope that every kid who wears our designs feels bold, confident and inspired to embrace their uniqueness.
Why do parents love your designs?
Parents love our designs because of our unique prints. The colours stand out from the crowd. There is no shying away when you wear an ULO outfit, and I think parents enjoy seeing how confident their kids feel in our designs. I also think that our collection is incredibly affordable – I spent a lot of time focusing on providing fair pricing so that kids would not feel excluded from enjoying our prints.
What type of occasions do these pieces suit?
All occasions. Our collection is incredibly versatile and our pieces can be worn in the park, on the beach, at a birthday party or a more formal event like a wedding. We want kids to enjoy our prints and designs all year round, and not be restricted by an occasion.
What were some of the challenges launching your business with a baby?
I launched the business eight weeks after discovering I was pregnant with twins. I quit my corporate job unaware that I was pregnant, so it was an incredible shock and pressure whenI discovered that I was going to be a business owner and a mother all in the same year.
The biggest challenge for me is trying to create balance in my life. When you are in the early stages of building a business (like myself), you feel that you should spend every waking moment working on the business-when the kids are in childcare, late at night, early in the mornings, and on the weekends. This is not sustainable. I am really trying to carve out time to workout, listen to podcasts, cook, socialise, and just be myself rather than the individual roles of being a mother, wife or business owner.
The other challenge is the undeniable juggling act. I remember driving to collect our fabrics whilst the girls napped in the back of the car. I often call my mother-in-law to help with the kids whilst I deliver stock to our stockists. I focus on the business and reply to customers and potential retailers during the day, and pack orders late at night when my brain does not have to be fully switched on. It’s a wild ride but I enjoy every minute
Tell us about your WINS!
One of my biggest wins has been surrounding myself with like-minded people and slowly building a community of amazing businesses. I share a studio with some incredible female-led businesses, and I often call on mentors and other business owners that I have met at events or on social media for advice. I learnt very early on in this process, that you can’t do it all on your own-you can’t raise a small family and run a business on your own.
You have to talk to others, seek help, learn from others, and soak up all the advice and knowledge they kindly give you.