Sórósoke Downtown: THE SISTERS OF MEJI
You don’t choose your family. They are God’s gift to you, as you are to them, is the quote that comes to mind during my chat with Tiffany-Annabelle and Tosan Davis, founders of MEJI. The two equally talented and beautiful sisters turned business partners are daughters of the elegant Helen Prest Ajayi- A lawyer and one-time Miss Nigeria. Their company MEJI helps brands and businesses grow by improving their online presence. With Tosan (TED) as the Visual Director and Content Management and Tiffany-Annabelle in charge of Business Development, Client Sourcing and Relationship Management. They are perfectly paired but maintain their individuality, with one a die-hard coffee drinker and the other, a matcha latte addict. Read more about these two sisters who love and cherish each other while embodying the literal and figurative essence of MEJI.
Before I delve into what MEJI is, I’d like to know the minds behind the brand.
TED: Umm… I wouldn’t say I’m an awkward person but I’m a bit more lax and goofy than cool and composed. I love photography. Growing up, I was always particular about how things looked. Putting things together and making them beautiful is what I love to do so when I tell people I’m a visual director at MEJI- those who have known me for a while would say that makes sense. I have simplistic ideas about things, I’m not a complicated person. It doesn’t necessarily mean I don’t like talking to people, it’s that I’m more of a listener than a talker and that pretty much reflects in MEJI. I’m more of a behind-the-scenes person. I express myself more in my visuals. I love anime and I’m a huge movie buff but oddly enough, I love movies that look a certain way. Thankfully, all my hobbies align with my obsession of things being visually appealing.
Tiffany Annabelle: I am a positive person, very self-aware. That is how I describe myself. I’m a bit of a workaholic and I am trying to achieve that balance but I’ll confess I’m not there yet. I am learning to balance my me-time with my work time but it’s been a bit of a mix and I am going through a process where I’m spending more of my free time on my art. I draw and I paint and this year I’m going to start taking it more seriously. I love to read, listen to music- my favourite singer is Michael Jackson and I love Netflix. I remember thinking to myself how much of a brilliant idea Netflix was and I also love cooking.
What inspired MEJI?
TED: I used to do social media management by myself at first and I remember I had two clients but it was a lot of work for one person. So one night, Tiffany was talking to me about my experience and she said “Hey! This would make a lot of sense if I helped you in this area and that area.” That’s how we came up with the name MEJI because it means two. We work best together because we are so different and yeah, that’s how it started.
What is your role in MEJI?
TED: I’m obviously a co-founder with Tiffany but I specialise in visuals. I direct the way things look and that comes down to the colours of brands, the fonts used, the curation of the pages and I have assistants as well. Younger people who work well with me and we collaborate on ideas, essentially making sure that each and every brand we represent looks a certain way. A lot of what Tiffany does entails handling the business side of things but she also directs in terms of the ideas. I can say “I like this colour and I think we should use this font or they should probably upgrade their logo to this” and she’ll say “Cool! We are going to go for this strategy, this number of pictures and this type of text.”
This question is for both of you; How much has MEJI eaten into your personal lives?
Tiffany Annabelle: It is a lot of work balancing the responsibilities of everyday life, having staff and making sure your business is providing the service it has to. I’ve found that because it’s an online business the work sneaks up on you and you spend the whole day working. I’m not exaggerating when I say right now I sleep, eat and drink MEJI.
TED: We are young and we want to succeed as quickly as possible- there’s a bit of a hunger there and we are very passionate. The reality of our lives is we have to be working most of the time and as much as we would like to have more of a social life, we must meet a certain standard very soon. We have to! There’s a lot of interest at this point but that interest may not always be there so we always have to take all our opportunities very seriously and that typically involves us working through the week. Only recently did Tiffany come up with a system where a lot of work is done in advance which gives me perhaps a Sunday off (and that’s a big maybe). Our goal right now is to have a positive response to anyone that says “Hey! Can MEJI take us on?”
What is it like as young business owners in charge of a team?
Tiffany: They are a mini-work family. We want them to be well-rested as well as enjoying their work so we are always getting feedback from the team. TED and I have a lot of ideas and it is always helpful when members of the team point out things that don’t work out structurally for them, for clients or for the delivery of work. This way, it is not us steering the ship, they also have an important role to play.
It is important to note that the team has a great attitude to work. Everyone in each department is focused, hungry, dedicated. They are thinking people and aren’t ashamed to learn when they don’t know and we are very proud of their energy and attitude. TED and I can’t simply do this without them and we are grateful for them.
Rough days are inevitable. We all have them at some point in our lives but how do you get past those times as business owners?
TED: It’s very strange but the way I get through the rough days is my sister. She’s different from me so typically the things I struggle with are things she can help me with and vise versa. We grew up not really understanding our differences but now that we are older, it’s great to know that what I do not understand she can explain to me and I her, which is precisely what MEJI is all about.
Tiffany-Annabelle: I’d say my sister. She’s my rock and my best friend. She is someone who knows me so well and I trust her opinion on everything. If she says she has a funny feeling about someone, I start to look at the person differently. She’s such an important part of my life. If she says we can do it I believe her.
Where do you want your brand to be in 2 to 3 years from now?
TED: First off, I’d say expansion. I think there are many industries we haven’t tapped into, but I’m very sure that our team is capable. We are growing organically and exploring different avenues but one thing we can guarantee is excellent service, proper visuals, growth for any business we work with and professionalism.
Your mother is Helen Prest Ajayi. What was that like growing up TED?
TED: My mum won when she was 19 years old in 1979. She’s a very elegant woman and she always taught us to be strong, perseverant, hardworking and graceful. She didn’t model when she went into competition and won. She knew nothing about it. A lot of that had to do with her beauty and brains as well. I wouldn’t say that defines her but that’s a big part of her as well.
How come you didn’t follow in her footsteps?
TED: I wouldn’t say I’m the most graceful person (laughs) and I’m not one to be photographed to be seen in that way, it’s a lot of attention for me. I see my mum on TV and in interviews, she’s a lot braver than I am and she’s very confident, there’s no way I could have done that. I haven’t been interviewed many times in my life, maybe twice, this will be my third interview. Mum is more of a public figure, I’m a bit more insular but I’m trying to get out of that.
I’d like you ladies to walk me through your daily routine. TED
TED: First thing I do when I get out of bed is pray, then I drink coffee – I love coffee and I write in my gratitude journal. I also love food and dining out. I’d say I prefer to eat than to cook. So for breakfast, I have eggs benedict or Tiffany’s pancakes- she makes the best pancakes. After that, I go through my to-do list and that typically involves me looking at existing and potential clients. I gather my research and I talk to the general managers of the MEJI team before we start the day.
Tiffany Annabelle: I say a few words of affirmation, thank God for waking up and have a cup of Matcha latte. Sometimes I have a morning workout but that is later on in the morning and then breakfast. I always have breakfast.
What is MEJI and I’m not referring to your ‘About Us’…I’m asking what MEJI really means to you philosophically?
Tiffany Annabelle: First and foremost, I think the main thing MEJI means to me is it’s a partnership between two sisters, because if we don’t agree on anything we can’t move forward. MEJI is true to our culture because it literally means (two) in Ishekiri. It is true to our process and
it’s what we embody. There are a lot of things that we work on by ourselves but the way that MEJI has flown and grown has worked extra well because it’s a collaboration.