How this 25-year-old entrepreneur turned her side hustle into a ‘Beyoncé-approved’ luxury brand

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A young lady poses with hand bag

A young lady poses with hand bag

When MBA student Wilglory Tanjong launched Anima Iris, her luxury handbag company, two years ago, she just wanted to “start making bags for fun.”

Now, her purses are everywhere: online with big retailers like Nordstrom and Revolve, on TV in HBO’s “Insecure” and even on Beyoncé’s Instagram. The bold, geometric bags are designed by Tanjong, 25, and hand-stitched in Dakar, Senegal.

Since launching in February 2020, Anima Iris has brought in over $700,000 in lifetime sales — with $603,819 in 2021 alone. And recently, the company has been earning around $100,000 in revenue per month.

″[Anima Iris] was a therapeutic project that was just making me happy,” Tanjong tells CNBC Make It. “I’ve always been a very fashionable person. People always ask me, ‘Where’d you get this? Where’d you get that?’ And then I realized, ‘Hey, maybe people will just buy [products] from me.’”

But Tanjong didn’t start the business for the money. Rather, it honors her personal and ancestral background.

 

Entrepreneurial roots

Growing up, Tanjong watched her parents hustle. After moving from Cameroon to Maryland when Tanjong was 2, they held a number of different jobs and owned a laundromat. Tanjong, with her older and younger sisters, would help her father flip houses in the summer.

“I really hated it at the time,” Tanjong says. “But that’s clearly where [my] motivation comes from.”

Her mother, a nurse, also ran a small cosmetology studio out of the back of their home, where Tanjong watched her “take control of her schedule and build something from nothing.”

But they faced hard times as well. Her mother was diagnosed with breast cancer when Tanjong was 8, and when she was 14, her parents divorced and Tanjong watched her family “tumble into financial hardship.”

“I’ll never forget the day when my mom told us that we were finally approved for food stamps,” Tanjong says. “Having those kinds of experiences really pushed me to be financially independent as quickly as I could be.”

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