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BN Making It!: Ese Aigbogun of Allen & Fifth – Building A Brand One Tee at a Time



ese-allen-fifthBN Making It! is a brand new BN feature focused on young entrepreneurs. We are so excited to launch BN Making It! We will feature young African entrepreneurs both at home and in diaspora who are making an impact in their chosen fields. Technology, Non-Profit, Fashion, Media, PR, Music and everything else. From those who are just starting their first company to young Africans who have their companies listed on the stock market. The purpose of this feature is to promote and encourage entrepreneurship among young Africans. We aim to inspire the next generation to be enterprise builders.

Are you Making It! – Email us at [email protected]


BN Making It! kicks off with Ese Aigbogun of Allen & Fifth. Ese shares the roots and inspiration for her business as well as where she intends to take it in the future.

I was born and raised in Lagos, Nigeria and I’m currently based in New York City. I hold a BBA in International Marketing from Baruch College, City University of New York. I love music, traveling, learning new things and I enjoy blogging and lounging with friends.

I have a love affair with art (when I was 8, I represented my primary school in an art competition, I didn’t win though) and so the idea of Allen & Fifth simmered for a while. It sprung in 2005 – the Nigerian Independence day parade in NYC was around the corner and I wanted a really cool tee that told a story about me so I thought, why not make one? That idea in 2005 came to fruition in the summer of 2008 with my first collection of t-shirts that capture Nigerian experiences.

Allen & Fifth represents two distinct cultures, Lagos (Allen Avenue) and New York (Fifth Avenue), both fast paced cities with so much life and energy to tap from. My tees are designed to strike a chord of nostalgia and curiosity but more important to enlighten people about what Africa and Africans have to offer.

Signature designs include; ‘Efiko’, ‘WaZoBia’, ‘Aso Rock’, ‘Chop Knuckle’ and ‘Do You know Who I Am.’

Spring/Summer collection out right now. I am so excited about what’s coming soon; it’s amazing (if I may say so myself) so prepare to be blown away.

Can you please provide some more detail around how you got started from a business angle?

I always knew that I wanted to run my business. I knew I had great t-shirt ideas. The timing was right, the opportunity availed itself and I took the plunge.

Did it require a large start-up capital?

No, not really. I was able to research cost cutting options and this came in handy in helping reduce start-up expenses.

How did you obtain startup capital? Savings, loans, investors?

I saved! Luckily for me I have a full time job that helps finance Allen & Fifth.

Do you also have a 9-5 job or is Allen & Fifth Full Time?

Yes, I have a full time day job. I consider Allen & Fifth my full time night job. As soon as I leave work I shift to Allen & Fifth mode.

What sets Allen & Fifth apart from the truckload of Tee-Shirt designers (Nigerian & International)?
Allen & Fifth is unique in that I make use of subtle inferences that represent Nigerian experiences and pop culture on every design. Each design has a story behind it. For instance I have a Korean customer who got the Efiko and Lepa Shandi tees. She knows what they mean and she is so excited that she knows 2 Nigerian slangs. Allen & Fifth is not just about “green white green” or “naija for life”; there’s more to offer.

Has the global economic downturn affected your business so far?

It hasn’t – at least I don’t think it has. People are always going to shop in a good or bad economy especially if they really like a design and I strive for designs that people are going to really like.

What are your future plans for Allen & Fifth?

I’d love to see Allen & Fifth carried by retailers worldwide. I just want to keep growing.

Advice for other young entrepreneurs:
Brace yourselves. Starting a business isn’t a walk in the park but if you enjoy what you do, it is so worth it.

Click to visit the Allen & Fifth Site –

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  1. Mistic Style

    July 22, 2009 at 3:27 am

    Absolutely fabulous Tees… Great work babe.. Proud of you!

  2. Lady gogo

    July 22, 2009 at 4:02 am

    I love what I see here. nice designs. Rep naija!!!!

  3. Lady Leeza

    July 22, 2009 at 4:51 am

    love ur work gurlie… i own a couple myself… keep d flag flying!

  4. Bola

    July 22, 2009 at 5:23 am

    real tite tees, fab! n Ithe new BN Making It is really inspiring.
    Thanks Bella, i hope to mk this page one day!

  5. Bebe

    July 22, 2009 at 6:15 am

    Can we order custom made tees? I want a tee with my nickname on it 🙂

  6. Tomi

    July 22, 2009 at 8:25 am

    Hi Bella. Im trying to email you but the email address is not going through. Id love for my business to be featured here…Please get back to me.. [email protected]
    Thank you

  7. vic

    July 22, 2009 at 11:31 am

    Lovely designs !Hope we can get them in Lagos.Bella great job,i will make this page in the nearest future.

  8. Amazon

    July 22, 2009 at 12:37 pm

    this I truly like…not copy copy !!!

  9. Nneka

    July 22, 2009 at 2:36 pm

    I would love to order a couple of customized tops. I live in the US so Ese do let us know how we can place orders, and the costs (plus S & H). The link isn’t working.

  10. Bebe

    July 22, 2009 at 3:30 pm

    Love your tees..very catchy phrases too. I want an aje pako one.

  11. Mayo

    July 22, 2009 at 5:25 pm

    Ese baby thats what im talking about good job i’m super proud of you…..she focussed men….always paper chasing….y’all should get the coat of arms shirt very segzy…lol

  12. Oghenekome Ebelike

    July 22, 2009 at 6:42 pm

    great addition to Bella Naija. Hope to be featured soon

  13. Denny t

    July 22, 2009 at 8:35 pm

    Hey miss Ese, I am proud of you. For any one who has not gotten a couple of tees yet, i would advice you to get it now before you have to pay versace price for it. New designs out already…Let you tee speak for you…”Babalawo ain’t got nothing on me”. You must be “Naija” if you know “Ababio” and had to write pages of “I would never sleep in class again”. You def an “Aje Pako” if you have been confronted with the “Do you know who i am” line.

    It’s a story line..Get with the program

    Allenandfifth is all i rock

  14. Grags

    July 31, 2009 at 11:53 am

    Nice one Ese, when are u coming to naija again?

  15. Jessi

    August 10, 2009 at 5:03 pm

    Bella a big pat on that back for this new edition! Luvs it and good to see you’ve mentioned non-profit as an example, success in this filed needs to be appreciated a lot more. Look forward to seeing more posts like this

  16. allenandfifth

    August 20, 2009 at 3:09 am

    Thank you all! I should be in Lagos by year end God’s willing. Please help spread the word. Thanks again.

  17. JohnPaul

    October 3, 2009 at 11:19 pm

    >>>>>>>>>I was born and raised in Lagos, Nigeria and I’m currently based in New York City>>>>>>u dont sound real.negleting your home town.ESe are you not from Delta State?If u want to make real time business then identify to the end.

  18. mo

    January 25, 2010 at 4:36 pm

    what does “lepa shan* ” mean?

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