How Binny Makes Vibrant West African Homeware

Shop Small is a bi-weekly highlight series Small business owners from diverse backgrounds. This series aims to go deeper than your typical product report, and dive into the inspiring stories behind some of our favorite brands. By taking a behind-the-scenes look at how their stores came to be and highlighting the products they (and shoppers!) love, we hope to shine a spotlight on these worthy marginalized business owners.


“I need a hobby.” Natalie Maniema, 36, is laughing now when she talks about making that semi-angry, heartbreaking announcement to herself a decade ago. But at the time, she was a few years into her career as a CBT therapist, and the erratic work-from-home cycle was taking its toll.

“I always wanted to know how to sew,” says the London-based entrepreneur, so she signed up for a course. “I wasn’t planning on starting a business at all.” Lucky for us, Manima’s self-described cure-all has blossomed into home decor brand Bespoke Binny — “bespoke” aims to highlight that Manima’s products are custom-made, while “Binny” is a nickname borrowed from her Ghanaian middle name Obenewa.

From vibrant lampshades (her most popular items) and patterned tablecloths to boldly patterned aprons and oven mitts, Bespoke Binny’s colorful, African-printed creations—all available in her Etsy shop—make any room instantly feel more exciting.

Here, Maniema tells us about her journey from budding innovator to business owner—and how you can include bright household items in your home.

From (fortunately) a slow build-up to a sudden boom

A few months after starting sewing lessons, Maniema moved into her first apartment—and was in awe of the decorating options she found. “Oh, those colors are really boring,” says Maniema, she thought after browsing an array of stores filled with blues, beiges, and grays.

So she decided to use some African print fabric she had at home to make pillow covers and lampshades. The reaction from friends who always visited was largely positive – followed up with “You should sell this”. Eventually, I started doing just that: “It kind of bowed to peer pressure,” she jokes. Manima opened her Etsy store in 2013 and had enough sales to motivate her to keep going. “It has grown organically since then.”

Around 2016, Maniema worked part-time at her job as a therapist to allow herself more freedom to create and fulfill orders, before going full-time with Bespoke Binny in 2019. It wasn’t until after the pandemic hit that she found herself on what she describes as a “train.” amusement parks”, especially after the Black Lives Matter movement sparked interest in black-owned businesses. “I’m finally being recognized for what I’m doing,” Maniema says when explaining her thoughts at the time, “but on the flip side, I felt terrible because of being recognized.”

That year, Maniema found her small business thriving so much that she could not afford any of her products or materials in her home. I went from getting about 30 to 40 requests a day, to “[waking] Up to 2,500 orders—it was insane—” that left her having to pay for office space, all while reaching out to family and friends to help make the product. She credits her husband with taking care of their two young daughters while the show has the ins and outs of running social media ads on Instagram .

Eventually, prosperity slowed and she found herself, “left with all this overhead that I couldn’t afford anymore,” Maniema admits. “On the one hand, you were kind of naively hoping to get people to realize that they don’t support black companies enough. But it actually didn’t stick around permanently. It’s the same degree of people [as before] Continue to support black businesses.”

“It’s like, Was it just a fad? There are still black businesses that need support long after fan fare has faded.”

Lampshade with yellow petals
Credit: Penny Knuckle
Lampshade with orange and cerise petals
Lampshade with orange and cerise petals
Credit: Penny Knuckle
African print handkerchiefs
African print handkerchiefs
Credit: Penny Knuckle
Geometric white lampshade
Geometric white lampshade
Credit: Penny Knuckle
Red geometric apron
Red geometric apron
Credit: Penny Knuckle
Engineered lime lampshade
Engineered lime lampshade

Now 40% off

Credit: Penny Knuckle

The beauty of African expression is for everyone

“In Ghana, where the Maniema family is originally from,” people wear these fabrics every day. But when they are in western countries, it is more so[for] Going to an event – to a party, a wedding, things like that. I was thinking I’d like to find a way to incorporate it into everyday life.”

Although Maniema has not visited Ghana in years, she has kept in touch by shipping prints directly from the country’s manufacturers and markets. “Sometimes you’ll go into a store and you don’t know if you want it [the fabrics] It comes from Africa, and the proof is sometimes in the candy—when you go to wash it, the colors might seep,” says Manema. Discrimination is getting harder and harder.”

And if you’re just introduced to African prints and are wondering how to incorporate them into your home, Manima makes it easy: start with what speaks to you and then find the coordination. “There are people who came across me accidentally and didn’t even know that what they were seeing was an African print. They were just attracted to the bright colors and interesting patterns. If you are a fan of interiors and love bright colors, consider buying a product that matches [your] Colors.”

Custom blue and yellow lampshade and Binny pillow cover

Penny joint

Lessons learned as an entrepreneur

asking for help.

do not worry Admit when you need a helping hand. Sick during her first pregnancy, Maniema knew she couldn’t make products on her own. She hired a manufacturer, hoping they could replicate her items—even when I ordered smaller quantities than they usually agree to.

“Maybe they felt a little sorry for this rambunctious pregnant woman,” she jokes. “I just had to be persistent and eventually found someone willing to do what I needed.”

Don’t be afraid of conflict.

“In business, there is always a problem, but there is always a solution,” says Maniema, who stresses the importance of perseverance. “Just put one foot in front of the other and try it be consistent It goes a long way to finally getting you where you want to go.”

Stay on course.

If Maniema could offer one piece of advice to aspiring business owners, especially from her perspective as a black woman: “Live in your truth. If you’re passionate about something, stick with it, and don’t get sidetracked.”

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