In Conversation With Bolaji Idakoji of Khojo Kids

First, I need to ask, how are you doing mama?

I am not okay. This phrase has been floating around recently, but allow me to explain why I feel this way. I have outstanding Black men all around me. Some older, some younger, and it troubles me that I feel helpless in preventing them from encountering racism, police brutality, and racial profiling. My father, brothers, and male cousins live in Chicago, and today I came across multiple posts on Instagram reporting that some gang members are randomly attacking innocent Black men in certain parts of the city. Although I have been able to warn them, it doesn’t sit well with me that I can’t reach every black man.

In addition, I have a 4-year-old son and a 2-year-old daughter to raise, nourish, and protect. There is a lot going on, but I am learning to pause, reflect, and keep myself together to be there for my children.

Could you begin by telling us about your business?

Yes! Khojo Kids is an online children’s clothing and accessories line created by me in 2019. It is cultivated on the principles of love, individuality, and knowing your identity. I feel the current children’s clothing market is lacking in diversity and representation of the unique style of the African diaspora. As a result, I created Khojo Kids to fill that void.

Aside from seeing young girls wearing Khojo, it makes me more proud knowing that the women I hire back in Nigeria get to express themselves through the art they love to create while being fairly compensated for their work. They are able to support their families and still be present for life’s priceless moments because of the opportunity they now have.

Where are your pieces made?

All of our bow headbands and minimal dresses are made in my country of origin, Nigeria. The cotton fabric, Ankara, is very popular in West Africa for its beautiful, unique prints. Ankara is known for its versatility and tribal-like pattern. We create and hand-select custom prints and convert them into affordable, high-quality, minimal pieces for children that are timeless and can be passed down for generations.

In your website’s brand mission, you express the “lack in diversity and representation of the unique style of the African diaspora.” I really respect your honesty. Can you express the importance for parents to introduce pieces like yours to their children?

I believe it all starts with exposure. Being exposed to something different sparks curiosity. That curiosity causes you to ask questions and seek out knowledge. There is a rich cultural history behind my pieces and the fabric I use. Having that initial exposure is a powerful tool that may spark someone to learn more about my pieces and where they come from, opening up a whole new world of appreciation for different cultures, ethnicities, art, fashion, and so on.

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As a busy mother of two, what has been the biggest challenge to launching your business?

My biggest challenge is finding my balance. I will be honest, I have not mastered this and don’t think I ever will with two kids under 5, but I am learning from my mistakes. Self-care is important for me, so I create time for myself. It doesn’t have to be anything extravagant. Sometimes just sitting in my car for 20 minutes gives me the relaxation I need. I am sure all moms can relate to this. Other times it can be reading a book or taking a shower and meditating without Amani, my 2-year-old “checking up” on me. I try to make sure I stay organized and write down my business goals linked to resources that help me realistically reach them, and also ensure that I set time aside for self-care. I believe this helps me be the best mom, wife, friend, and businesswoman I can be.

As a parent, I am encouraging my family to get involved and participate in the Black Lives Matter movement by peacefully protesting, supporting black-owned businesses, and, of course, the power of it all, reading and educating ourselves. I’ve noticed women have been organizing marches, protests, and leading various responses to police brutality. Why do you think women play such a key role in today’s movement?

I believe the Black woman is the centrepiece of the family, and collectively we are a part of a larger family across the Black Diaspora. As the centre of the family, we have always held the role of nurturer, healer, and organizer, so naturally, that puts us right in the centre of today’s movement. We are fighting for the preservation of the lives of our husbands, our sons, our brothers, and our fathers. It’s our charge to protect our family and stand up against injustice and police brutality, so I see no other option but for us to continue to be front and centre for pushing the movement forward.

I also noticed that on the Khojo Kids website, you offer free printables for children!

When I became a stay-at-home mom, I was nervous and had tons of questions. I began reading more about early childhood learning activities, and from there, it opened my eyes to all types of learning methods: Montessori, learn-through-play, emergent learning, the list goes on and on. So I decided to simplify it so I didn’t get overwhelmed, and I began creating learn-and-play activities for my son, Amir. I started sharing our journey and learning activities on my Instagram and began getting great feedback from other parents who were also doing our activities in their homes. It feels rewarding seeing videos of my followers and their kids working on letter sounds, doing a sensory-play activity, or reciting sight words and making it fun.

Research has shown you can improve a child’s brainpower within the first five years by giving them the right foods, stimulating their curiosity, placing them in a great learning environment, and giving them lots of love. My goal for every family is to understand learning doesn’t have to be complicated or expensive! You can use things right in your home to help feed your child’s brain. Giving the struggles I faced, I want to provide a free resource to parents to help make their lives easier.

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Lastly, who is your Mother Muse?

My Momma! She is everything. She and my dad emigrated from Nigeria to the United States. Shortly after, they got married, and she became pregnant with me. She graduated from college and pursued a career in Nursing. She is my Mother Muse because, despite being a wife and a mother to four kids, she never lost sight of her dreams. In addition, she took care of her family back in Nigeria. One of her many goals was to have a grocery store that sells African and Caribbean foods and spices, and fresh home-cooked traditional Nigerian dishes. I remember during my high-school years, my siblings and I would get up at 5 am to unload her food products from a delivery truck, some products weighing up to 40 pounds each. We created an assembly line and a home-made slide to transfer her products to our basement. This was our workout.

Today, my mother is the proud owner of Sesi’s African and Caribbean grocery store of 20 years, located 35 minutes outside of Chicago. When I look back at how I was raised, I appreciate how she made sure we were introduced to Yoruba, my native language, and how she took my siblings and me on trips to give us an experience outside of our culture. It’s because of her that I speak my native language. It’s because of her that I am proud to wear traditional Nigerian clothing. It’s because of her that I love to pray with my children. It’s because of her that I make time for myself and my passions. I am the mother that I am because my mom equipped me with the tools to be a great mom, a great wife, and a woman of God.

Explore Khojo Kids Here

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