“I am Who I am Because I Dare To Be” – Wana Sambo

47 October 28, 2017 By Dang

My name is Wana Sambo. I’m a Nigerian, a Bayelsa state indigene born on the 17th of April in the late 1980’s. I was born into a family of 5 siblings; I’m the 4th child and 2nd girl.

I grew up in Lagos, Nigeria, went to Christland School Ikeja, Federal Govt College Odogbolu and graduated from Igbinedion University, Okada, Benin City in late 2009.

I launched the first Wana Sambo collection in December 2010, but only truly began the Wana Sambo Brands business retail operations in 2015 when the Wana Sambo flagship store was launched in Lekki, Lagos, Nigeria.

I began designing from a very young age. I remember turning my Jeans into bags, fixing and creating garments from worn out pieces I was allowed to play with/ruin while still in secondary school. However, as soon as I became “independent” in the university, I started buying fabric and teaching myself how to sew by creating looks for my friends and family. As a strong willed individual, who does not believe in “impossible”, you’ll more often than not read me saying “I taught myself this and taught myself that” and it’s 100% true.




In 2008, I taught myself how to drive. I remember asking every tailor in the neighborhood where I could buy a sewing machine and got several references, so one day, I got into a shift stick car (I wasn’t allowed to drive.lol) and drove myself to Yaba market to buy a sewing machine (by “watching people’s leg movements while driving” as my driving experience!) and at the market, I literally almost crushed a man’s leg. If you’ve been to Yaba market, you’ll know how heavy the foot traffic is. I was trying to turn into the car park, honking frantically and everyone else made way but this man, out of nowhere, walked right into me turning. I believe he was deep in thought as he walked because he didn’t notice the trafficator or me turning right, So basically, I hit him. Thankful for God’s grace, I didn’t crush his legs or do any major damage. The police intervened, we settled amicably and despite this, I still went into the market to get that sewing machine I went for. 

On my way home, while struggling with the shift stick car, through tears, I realized; I am truly passionate about designing.

In 2009, I was nominated for the dynamics award “designer of the year category”. This, for me, was the beginning of my fashion design career.

DANG: When did you start drawing and designing? 

I really started illustrating when I had my first consultation. I used a pen (and still do), imagining what the garment would look like, then I put pen to paper and that was it. Of course I came up with a lot of weird looking shapes initially, but as time passed, I got better. I have not undergone any training, even via Google/YouTube, to learn how to be illustrator. (I think I’ll do that now)




As regards designing, I’m a self-taught designer. I’m extremely grateful for my gift. As I said earlier, I began designing and creating from a young age and as a designer, I’m influenced by fabric (I see a fabric I like and several style ideas emanate). I also get style ideas when I’m praying or in my dreams or when I’m out in places. People, Color, textures, plant’s, trees, everything inspires me to create. Whenever something captures my eye and/or when God puts these thoughts in my head. I design.

I speak about God a lot because I would never be here without His grace. God has been good to me, He is awesome! 

DANG: So, you didn’t go to Fashion school?

No, I didn’t. I’d applied and gotten into ESMOD, Paris and I remember my dad giving me N4million which was for tuition and living expenses for a month (or so) but due to a family emergency, when it was time to pay my fees I didn’t. I remember calling my dad, convincing him to let me use the money to set up a business instead of fashion school, and he agreed. This was about 4 years ago. At the time, I rented an apartment on Fola Osibo (same street as my current store) for N2.5million, I sold my old car and added the rest of the N1.5m to buy a more reliable car, and I had no money left. As a business savvy individual, I knew I needed an accessible location for customers and a reliable car that was durable enough to take me to & fro the market to source fabrics and go out to network and talk to people about my brand (without breaking down), So I invested in both as necessities not wants. That apartment doubled as my showroom and home. That was my real-life fashion school.




DANG: Business Ethics?

I have certain principles that govern my decisions and actions, one of them is; I work to ensure my business generates enough income to sustain itself. I believe that a business that doesn’t generate enough income to sustain itself is not a business.

DANG: Tell me about the Wana Sambo Brand

Wana Sambo is a ready-to-wear women’s wear brand handmade in Nigeria. We are minimalist-chic with focus on “clean lines, perfect fit and finish”. The Wana Sambo Woman is Strong, Sexy and Exotic.”

From its inception, the Wana Sambo brand has been a ‘see now, buy now’ brand. This basically means that once we put out a collection, all looks from this collection is available for purchase in store.
The Wana Sambo Woman is always ready to buy a garment(s) once the Look-book is released and we ensure that before each garment is put out on social media, we already have at least 10 pieces per style ready to be sold in store.

Wana Sambo garments are handmade; we do not mass-produce our garments. We produce very limited quantities per style, at most 30pieces per style. The only piece ever produced in more than 30pieces per is our signature piece; the ‘Wana Sambo Bubu Dress’, which comes in a cocktail of colors. As is with every handmade garment, its value is worth its price. 

The Wana Sambo brand prides itself in handmade garments made in Africa by African’s.

DANG: Where do you see Wana Sambo going?

In 5 years, by God’s grace, we hope to expand to the rest of Africa. The only challenge is the possibility of still ensuring we stick to the “handmade” aesthetic, as I never want to stop making handmade garments.

I believe handmade garments are created with love as so much effort is put into them daily.

We hope to set up an online store and we believe this will help determine what countries respond to/love our brand the most and that decides where our next brick and mortar store will be. I feel like Africa is the future and it’s time for African fashion to take centre stage the world over.

The Wana Sambo Woman is strong, sexy and exotic, she is every woman, she is every African woman!




DANG: When you say Wana Sambo Woman is a strong woman, who is a strong woman to you? What does a strong woman embody?

Strength is “the ability to withstand great force or pressure”. As women, we are created strong. We are created to be resilient and as the body of the home, mother, child bearer, cook, cleaner, advisor, all wrapped up in one, to me, EVERY WOMAN possesses STRENGTH. We must remind ourselves, through our carriage and the clothes we wear that we are strong even if we have been deemed as the “weaker” sex. Being ‘sexy’ is in our DNA so we must embrace it and the word ‘exotic’ means “unusual and exciting” and as a woman, we are all these and more.

This is why we know; “the Wana Sambo Woman is Strong, Sexy and Exotic. She is you, She is everything you dare to be.” Read:“In 29 Years Since I Opened The Nail Studio, Giving Up Never Crossed My Mind” – The Nail Studio CEO, Mrs Tokunbo Awogboro

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47 comments on ““I am Who I am Because I Dare To Be” – Wana Sambo

  1. Titi

    Great story….Yes of course I learnt that whenever you are sure of what you want in life then go for it…Wana is a strong woman and it can only take determination to get to any level in life…..I also hope I win the lovely dress ?????? Titilayomi27@gmail.com




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  2. Omoefeuduokhai@gmail.com

    This story teaches that 1)”You can do it if you put your back into it (just like the song?) . 2) YEARN IT TO EARN IT.




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  3. Omoefeuduokhai@gmail.com

    This story teaches that
    1) You can do it If you put your back into it (Just like the song?)
    2) YEARN IT TO EARN IT




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  4. Princess Olufunmi Ehuwa

    The Wana Sambo story is very inspiring. I learnt some lessons from the post. Firstly, I learnt that the business should be able to generate income for its continued existence, if the business cannot pay for the basics the lifeline of the business is threatened. I was running a business at a point in time that I made so much loss and ended up borrowing to pay for the shop rent and I didn’t even realize that the business cannot sustain itself based on the income that was generated. I learnt the hard way but I know better. Secondly, I learnt that you distinguish yourself from other brands, the Wana Sambo brand is known for hand crafted design, having craved a niche for themselves in the industry, they maintained their objective whilst trying to break into new markets. Finally for me is the God factor, from whom inspiration is drawn from. This post is an eye opener for me and a wake up call that as a strong African Woman I exude strength. I am a Wana Sambo Woman. My email addy is princessphunmy@yahoo.com




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  5. ZeeOpara (engee_opra@yahoo.com)

    Such an inspiring and resilient woman. She had me rolling where she hit a man but still went ahead to buy what she went to Yaba for! Aint no stopping a woman determined to succeed.




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  6. Aphoma

    I learnt that passion and doggedness is key to creating a business/brand because without unbridled passion and love for something you will have no interest and without doggedness which is perseverance she will never have made her brand to summarize I learnt that we are all strong women but to own a brand or even create one we must be passionate about it and be ready to face all challenges
    Ekpechiafoma@gmail.com




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  7. Zee

    Such an inspiring and resilient woman. I won’t say I learnt anything new. The right term for me would be that this interview reiterated the fact that nothing can stop a woman who is determined to succeed. The part where she said she went on to buy her sewing machine even after hitting a man is a clear indication that no matter the obstacles life throws our way, we can always overcome. I was also reminded that I can be and achieve whatsoever I set my mind to achieve. If she could harness her God given talent on her own, with a lot of hardwork of course, SO CAN I.
    Email: engee_opra@yahoo.com




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  8. Aphoma

    I learnt that passion and doggedness is key to creating a business/brand because without unbridled passion and love for something you will have no interest and without doggedness which is perseverance she will never have made her brand to summarize I learnt that we are all strong women but to own a brand or even create one we must be passionate about it and be ready to face all challenges because nothing good comes easy no matter the struggles fight and persevere and don’t ever stop practising never stop being passionate about that thing you love because at the end you can be a wana sambo woman
    Ekpechiafoma@gmail.com




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  9. Love.

    Lessons learnt from Wana Sambo’s story.
    1. Follow your passion…. Stick to what you are passionate about, you will get recognized for it and be happy to do it.
    2. Always prioritize. I loved how she knew she had to get a space and a car to enable her meet clients rather than use the money for other things.
    3. Make sure your business generates money to sustain itself. A business that doesn’t generate enough income to sustain itself is a failure.
    4. It’s okay not to go to a special school at the beginning as long as you are able to continuously work on yourself
    5. As women, we are strong and can be anything we dare to be if we put our mind to it.
    6. Lastly as a future mother, I learnt that we should let our children express themselves and help nature their talents. Wana sounds like she had parents who encouraged her.
    love.akinpaul@gmail.com




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  10. Chibliss143@yahoo.com

    I learnt that it is good to know what you what in life, because when obstacles comes it will give u a reason to keep pushing forward




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  11. Dammy_O

    As a young girl who has been sheltered all her life and has been looking forward to “independence” not only physically but also financially, this woke me up big time. I just graduated and have found myself constantly thinking “so what’s next”. I always managed to talk myself out of ideas thinking I just might not be able to handle it. Truth be told I’ve read several self help articles and books but like I said, I talk my self out of anything that requires me leaving my comfort zone. What stood out to me the most in this article was the part of nothing being impossible. Another part that really shook me was the driving part, for someone like me who craves independence from my parents I find myself constantly leaning or falling back on them whenever I’mfaced with real life situations, I know how to drive but the constant fear of crashing the car or killing someone or myself has me dependent on Uber or my parents. I think this article portrays a go-getter who knows what she wants and goes for it. This being said, I’m going to take a cue from her and start driving (this may not be a big deal but for me it’s a step forward). After this I’m going to evaluate myself and push forward. Like she said, nothing is impossible.




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  12. Chibliss143@yahoo.com

    I learnt that it is good to know what you what in life, because when obstacles comes it will give u a reason to keep pushing forward. Chidinma




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  13. Dammy_O

    As a young girl who has been sheltered all her life and has been looking forward to “independence” not only physically but also financially, this woke me up big time. I just graduated and have found myself constantly thinking “so what’s next”. I always managed to talk myself out of ideas thinking I just might not be able to handle it. Truth be told I’ve read several self help articles and books but like I said, I talk my self out of anything that requires me leaving my comfort zone. What stood out to me the most in this article was the part of nothing being impossible. Another part that really shook me was the driving part, for someone like me who craves independence from my parents I find myself constantly leaning or falling back on them whenever I’mfaced with real life situations, I know how to drive but the constant fear of crashing the car or killing someone or myself has me dependent on Uber or my parents. I think this article portrays a go-getter who knows what she wants and goes for it. This being said, I’m going to take a cue from her and start driving (this may not be a big deal but for me it’s a step forward). After this I’m going to evaluate myself and push forward. Like she said, nothing is impossible. dammy.onireti@yahoo.com




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  14. Nneka

    Thanks Dang, Wana for the inspiration. I have always wanted to start up a business but not sure of how to go about it. Lesson learnt is that I can do anything I set my mind to do as long as I am determined, passionate and ready to give it my all.
    Email: Nwonyenneka@gmail.com




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  15. Uche

    What I learnt from this post is not to ignore or neglect your talent , passion as a woman especially when you want to make something good out of it. Also to be resilient in reaching your goal , make use of your strength as a woman because women have a peculiar kind of strength especially when they set out to do something. Be versatile as an entrepreneur and be ready to take risks, try new things , learn continuously and you will surely reap the fruit of your labour. Uchesandra34@gmail.con




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  16. Masha Omotunde

    Whoa!!
    Firstly I like to say the fact that she reiterated principles and core values that will help persons succeed in their different walks of life struck me,most especially the God factor she’s a testimony to the word that says God never forsake and forgets your efforts, he prunes them for you to beat fruits
    Furthermore, I like to say the emphasis on independence,this concept is a whole lot put together it embodies sub principles, one has to learn to be resilient if you want to be effective and trust me Wana has shown us this
    Lastly without so much a do and most importantly hardwork is key and the power of this can’t be overemphasised, seemed like Wana had support and all she needed but if she hadn’t surrendered herself as a tool to be moulded or processed we all will be at loss of the effortlessly driven Wana.




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  17. Bg

    A good read. Recognizing your God given talent is key, some people spend the majority of their lives doing something they have no talent for, and everyday is a struggle. When you find something you’re good at, pursue it relentlessly, work hard and trust God to see you through. Your story reminded me that nothing is unattainable with God, talent and determination.
    I hope your brand goes international before 5 years?
    buogoh@gmail.com




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    1. priscillia mpi

      Story of perseverance, determination and strong will. Luckily we are birthday mates 17th of April I cldnt wait to read ur story. Nice one keep winning….




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  18. Adesuwa

    Wow. I learnt that ‘not knowing how’ is not an excuse. If you have the will you will go the lengths to learn.she made the fact that resources abound so real. There is google, there are people To ask, you can observe keenly (the drive to yaba, epic!), you can intern/volunteer and so many other ways. Once there is a will there is a way.

    2. As a business person your financial decisions mean a lot and should go through thorough thought process. I mean, look at the decisions she made to get an apartment in an accessible area and a good car. These may come off as extravagant at first thought but she had processed it, knew the value they would add and worked to ensure they met expectations. Respect! There are some decisions especially regarding expenses I get scared to make, but now I would always weight their value to my business. Nothing good comes cheap or easy.

    3. Above start early. Don’t wait to be perfect to start. Just start. Start. Your consistency and determination+hardwork will attract the support you need. Don’t ask for support without creating value. Create value and support will find you.

    As a budding fashion designer, writer who is still trying to get a hang of business/entrepreneurship, Wana your interview is very inspiring and spurs me to do more. Oh and yes we share similar mantra (mine is – “when you then me I can’t is when I do it”). Wana, Thank you sincerely.




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  19. Esi..spicegielesi@yahoo.co.uk

    Lessons learnt:
    1. We all have different talents and learn at different paces. Discover your talent & your learning pace, trust the process, be resilient, consistent & go with it.
    2. Impossibility should not be an option
    3. Invest in the necessities to help you grow & not wants.




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  20. Lilian

    I loved most part of the interview, however one things that stood off and kind of was uncomfortable was the fact that the whole tone of the interview comes off as a self made person.
    This is never true as there a people who in little ways (it might be the words, or the advise or even the things they do) made a great impact in your life, and helped your already focused vision.
    I checked out her IG page and I was blown away by thequality and authenticity of the outfits she had…
    YouGo Girl..okonkwo321@gmail.com




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  21. Esi..spicegirlesi@yahoo.co.uk

    Lessons learnt:
    1. We all have different talents and different paces of learning. Discover your talent and your pace of learning, trust the process and be consistent. Things will work out as they should. Your only competition should be you
    2. Impossibility should not be an option
    3. Invest in necessities that will help you grow not wants.




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  22. Sheba

    A very thoughtful and poignant piece. Some of the key things that I think were of major significance to me in this article are:

    -Embrace ones inherent sexiness. It is one of the many working parts that encompasses being a woman. Bask in it!
    -As women, sometimes we are unaware of how much strength we have, we need to recognize this and own it.
    -Being sexy and strong are not mutually exclusive, one can be both! We should relish one being both!
    -Be resourceful with what you have at your disposal.
    -Trust your gut, believe in yourself, be your biggest fan, work hard
    -Refrain from having ‘i can’t’ moments or thoughts. Use what you may deem as an obstacle as a learning assignment, and focus on finding a solution instead of wallowing in that moment. Wana was unable to drive, but she realized knowing how to drive was necessary for her market runs, and increases efficiency. She didn’t let her inability to drive stop her, she became self taught. She learned how to drive, same goes with her passion for designing….she was self-taught.
    Sustainability is key when running a business for the long haul. Always think of the bottomline, and realise along with designing clothes, you are running a business.
    Creating a viable brand that has consistent traction means quality is paramount, and in Wana’s case, creating a brand that truly represents her and she believes in is key. You can tell she is really about the stuff she makes.
    -Understanding your customers and creating pieces that they want, as well as pieces that will help them aspire for what they want (juxatoposition of strong and sexy). The epitome of a Wana Sambo.
    -Have a full grasp of the market. Nigerian women who are into fashion and have disposable income prefer to have pieces they can’t find on everybody else. There is something special about feeling like you are wearing one of a kind. That is the beauty of Wana’s pieces, she adheres to a certain amount of pieces for each design (i believe 30) and has consistently maintained this, along with the quality which is clear from the finishing.
    Email: bamigboy@gmail.com




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  23. Thomas kiebo

    I learnt to be fearless not to let doubts or uncertainties crush our dream. We may not fully understand how things would work out but we want to trust in our strength to make things work and rely on God most importantly. Kiebismilez@yahoo.com




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  24. amara

    lovely interview by the way; i learnt to go for what i want and be resilient. I see a strong African woman in Wana Sambo. God bless you darling. I love the dress, and I hope I am blessed with it.




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  25. Numero Unoma

    I think we need to invent a new term to replace it…working on it, will let DANG and WS know soon as I have. You know why? Because for me “self-taught” immediately makes me so much more curious about a person than say Harvard, or Central St Martins, or PhD. I’ll tell you why. First because it tells you that they haven’t been standardized or institutionalised. And so, without the benefit of a comfort zone or compass, they go into overdrive on the steep learning curve that reveals their true essence and talent, grows their strengths, eliminates their weaknesses, and hones their business acumen. Otherwise they wouldn’t be sitting pretty, telling their story. Of course, the other thing the self-taught person’s story is evidence of…is courage…and most of all passion. I commend you both, DANG and WS. Now can I please have my bubu. In midnight blue, lol. Gracias!




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  26. Faith

    What I learnt.
    1. Your passion can also become your profit. Turning your passion into profit
    2. Nothing is impossible if you dare to believe.
    3. No matter how many times you fail, keep persisting because you will break through.
    4. Your strong-will will make a way for you.
    5. Embrace your strength and everything that makes you a woman

    Faithaladesuru@gmail.com




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  27. Morayo

    One thing I learnt is following your passion. Just because she was determined to follow her passion, she’s now successful in her field.
    Another thing is being hardworking and dedicated. Also, she didn’t just wait for opportunities to fall into her laps. She learnt things herself and kept doing them. This is really an inspiration to me because I’m a final year student who has still not discovered her passion and would like to do something tangible. This is surely a wake up call for me. Thanks ma’am
    morayoyunus@gmail.com




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  28. Anonymous

    I come here a lot to get motivated and learn but this particular interview was so dear to me as you were interviewing one of my many mentors from a distance. I am an aspiring fashion designer currently still in a fashion school here in Nigeria, when I first started learning to sew I was disheartened as on reading about some top designers in Nigeria I realised most of them went to notable fashion schools abroad and this made me think since I am not opportuned to go abroad I may never be as good as them, but reading this just made me realise that as the bible says a man’s gift makes way for him as is the case of Wana. I started learning to sew years ago but I have always been too scared to cut materials on my own cause I didn’t want to make mistakes or fail but now I feel ready to take that bold step as I would never be able to achieve if I don’t ‘dare’. Wana intends to go back to learn how to illustrate despite the height she has attained already, this simply means learning never actually stops, so therefore I will never stop learning……. Wana God bless you big, sending you love from a distance. At dairyofanaijagirl,thanks for this. Pls interview more fashion designers. God bless you plenty.
    Jessicafortune81@gmail.
    Would love to win the dress but even if I don’t, I am not the same person i was before now, so it’s still a win win for me




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  29. Rollie

    My greatest lesson is to start doing my dream, enough of writing them and planning, start, and practice will soon make perfect




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