When Dayton-based entrepreneur Russ Gottesman left his home in Oakwood for a trip to Nigeria last year, he was unaware that this would be his last chance to travel internationally for many months - nor that he would end up forming such a strong bond with fellow business owners, Damilare and Dunni Odunaro.
“I happened upon their local Nigerian store, GB Lagos, in the fall of 2019 and fell in love with their intimate and unique African jewelry and art,” Gottesman recalls. “We became fast friends and have stayed in touch on WhatsApp and Zoom ever since.”
The husband and wife duo created GB Lagos in 2017 as a contemporary lifestyle brand that focuses on afrocentric artworks, fashion accessories and garments.
Damilare has a background in Mechanical Engineering and is also a menswear fashion designer who has always had a great passion for collecting art and creating handmade pieces. Dunni has a background in International Law and Diplomacy and is a womenswear fashion designer. Born into a family of artists, her mother has 40 years of experience collecting and selling African art, and her father produces functional artworks such as home and office furniture. The pair first met at a local fashion exhibition they were both showing at and married a year later.
The talented couple noticed that there was a gap between local artisans and creatives who produce amazing pieces but do not have a place to showcase their works and travelers to Nigeria that seek authentic, quality souvenirs to take back home.
“We started GB Lagos to bridge that gap. To connect the Nigerian creative scene to the world,” Damilare said.
GB Lagos’ goal is to provide their customers with a wide selection of exotic handcrafted products while creating income opportunities for local African artisans and creatives. The Odunaros are committed to making sustainable products that improve the environment, impact lives, and support community development across Nigeria and Africa.
“Our purpose is to empower and create a stream of income for the average man or woman who has had no luck in securing a job,” Damilare said. “We equip them with adequate training on how to create beautiful handmade crafts and give them long-term financial independence.”
Gottesman quickly realized that Dunni and Damilare’s business being local to Nigeria and dependent on tourism meant that it was tremendously impacted by the pandemic. He knew he had to help his friends. “The only way to get new customers to visit and purchase their unique, once-in-a-lifetime items was to bring GB Lagos to the States,” he said.
“We jumped at the opportunity to bring handmade crafts and our local Nigerian artwork to a customer base that can no longer travel to see us in person,” Dunni stated. “Collaborating on GBLagos.com with Russ was a no-brainer. We feel like we are all family working together!”
Gottesman and the Odunaros are excited for the opportunity to demonstrate and strengthen ties between the white and black communities by working together and building a successful US-Africa partnership.
“Now that we are online, anyone in any part of the world can shop and support African art,” Dumilare said. “We create these pieces with love to preserve our heritage and craftsmanship.”
To learn more about GB Lagos, visit www.GBLagos.com