Ashley Ezewuiro, Creator of East Taylor Inc.
Ashley Ezewuiro, also known as Ace, is the creator of Afrocentric home decor line, EAST TAYLOR. Ace came highly recommended as a MUST FEATURE from our very own Lauren Blodgett. In addition to her beautiful pillows and canvases, we fell in love with the woman behind it all and the story she holds deep. Not only is she the daughter of immigrants, Ace treasures these roots and tells the story in each and every one of her designs. East Taylor prides itself in inclusivity by encouraging anyone to purchase her product despite the theme, yet still educates on the culture it represents. This trailblazer sees the beauty in all things and we invites you to join her.
Ashley, your parents came to America from Nigeria in the late 80’s. Can you describe your world growing up with the “American dream?”.
The concept of the American Dream wasn’t relevant in my house. Not because we didn’t believe in it, but more so because we lived in a Nigerian household. Despite being raised in the U.S, my siblings and I were still immersed in Nigerian culture and traditions. Nigerian parents are very serious about education which is what was instilled in me. Growing up, I was very serious about school and carried a “Naija no dey carry last” mindset which means, Nigerians strive to finish first. As I got older, the saying applied less to my school work and more to my plans of becoming a designer.
This life experience is a huge influence on East Taylor. Can you describe your Afrocentric home decor and accessory line and why it’s important to incorporate your roots?
East Taylor offers home decor such as pillows, curtains, and canvases. Each item is handmade and/or personally designed. Some canvases are designed with Kente cloth while the pillows and curtains are made from African Ankara fabrics. This is where the Afrocentric aspect comes in. Kente print is native to Ghana and Ankara is primarily associated with Africa because of its unique appearance. Despite the specific theme of East Taylor, the line Is for everyone.
As for why it’s important for me to incorporate my roots, it’s a way of paying homage to my parents. The actual company name, East Taylor is the name of the street that I grew up on. It’s where I learned how to sew and it’s where I decided that I’m going to use this skill to do something I love one day. Knowing my parents journey from Nigeria to the US is what inspired me to use East Taylor and incorporate Afrocentric designs. Naming the company after the street I grew up on represents my roots that have grown from the seeds they planted for me and my siblings when they moved to the U.S.
You officially went LIVE earlier this month. What was launch like? Did you wait for perfection, or do you believe in jumping right in?
The launch was exhilarating and nerve wrecking at the same time. Something that I’ve created, that is so special to me, would finally be accessible to the world. It’s amazing when a vision that starts out in your head becomes real and tangible. It’s as if people are getting a glimpse into my mind. That’s also the nerve wrecking part. At one point I doubted myself thinking ‘I know these are great designs, but what if people don’t like these prints?’ ‘What if they don’t get my vision?’. I found myself having to give myself pep talks and of course the support of my family and friends helped me squash those little voices.
I absolutely waited for my idea of perfection. I wanted to create East Taylor since April 2017. From April to December 2017, I procrastinated a lot. Throughout those months, my mom continued to encourage me more and more to really get the ball rolling so I stepped my game up in mid-January. Every day after working my day job as an accountant, I would go home and grind. I made over 30 pillow cases before I decided they were good enough to sell, worked on curtains, designed canvases, and created the website. Two and a half months later, I launched East Taylor.
You are currently an accountant, but run East Taylor and act as the seamstress all on the side. Can you explain what a “side-hustle” means to you?
To me, a "side hustle" is a way of getting extra cash on the side for doing something you love to do, but can’t make a living off of yet. The goal should be to make it your career one day. To be an accountant, run East Taylor, and be a seamstress is all of equal magnitude in my eyes. Working in the world of finance and knowing how to sew feeds into my ability to run and own a home decor business in which I create the products. I’m super hands on an it makes what I do that much more special. Having the opportunity to have gained such valuable skills is such a blessing that I don’t take for granted. For me, having the titles of accountant, business owner, and seamstress under my belt is empowering. It makes me think, what else am I capable of? That thought process is what inspired me to learn how to make a website and edit graphics. I was able to develop the site EastTaylorInc.com as well as create upcoming designs. It encourages me to push myself out of my comfort zone and get things done.
You’re 27 years young. Can you share your best and worst advice for our young readers out there hustling their way to making dreams a reality?
For all of those who want to see their dreams come to fruition, the best advice I can give is to truly understand, you don’t have to be fearless, you just have to be brave. When I was younger, I mentally explored a plethora of career paths, from actress/dancer/singer to teacher to Fashion designer. Finally, I settled on Accounting. It was a safe option with good income.
When I got to college, I decided I didn’t want to be an accountant, but I was afraid to admit it out loud because I thought I would disappoint my family so I continued with the major. Despite my fears of disappointing my loved ones, when it came to designing, I always had an overwhelming amount of support from them. I constantly told myself that I’ll figure out a way to become a designer of some sorts one day. I graduated with a degree in Accounting at Rutgers Business School in 2014 and I’ve been working in the field ever since. I’ve reflected on this journey so many times over the years and I keep coming to the same conclusion. Fear has guided me into a career that I wasn’t passionate about. But once I decided to start East Taylor, I procrastinated because I was afraid to fail. I learned if fear is holding me back from my dreams, then I should run towards it even more. Once anyone faces their fears, they’ll see how strong, powerful, and capable they are.
The worst advice I would give is to fully depend on the encouragement from others to chase your dreams. Don’t do it, people. It would literally drive your confidence in ways you won’t be able to control.
It’s great to have support and encouragement from others but you need to be your own biggest fan. Because if you’re not, the one day the crowd goes silent when you need to hear them cheer the most, you’ll probably go silent too. Always accept love and constructive criticism, but believe in yourself enough to know your more than good enough regardless of others opinions.
What is next for you, Ashley?
I’m working on diversifying what East Taylor offers. I’m designing graphics for apparel that will be geared towards people of various diasporas as well as women empowerment. These shirts will be available by June so keep a lookout!
Something else I’m looking to eventually do is start an organization that taps into the talents of the seamstresses back home in Nigeria and give them a platform to sell on a bigger scale. I want to utilize my accounting skills and business background to give them the opportunity to learn how to run a business of their own. While the details are still in the works, the goal is to allow them keep all of their earnings and guide them on how to reinvest to earn more profit. The plan for East Taylor is to become more than home décor, it’s to become an empire.
Interviewed by Emily