Originally posted on mainstreetlaunch.org.
Ade Dream is a labor of love for husband-and-wife team Pierre and Jenn Davis. They started the business in 2014, a year after their first child, Pierce, was born. Pierre’s sister made some baby accessories for the new parents using traditional African fabric from Pierre’s home country, The Gambia. Jenn constantly received compliments and requests for one whenever she was out with her unique diaper bags and backpack. With Jenn’s background in fashion buying and product development, she identified the opportunity to start selling African print accessories. The business grew organically from there.
Beyond the immediate demand for their products, the accessories Jenn and Pierre design have a special meaning. “The fabrics that we use are part of our culture and our history, and we wanted our son to experience that,” Pierre says. Jenn and Pierre source fabrics directly from Senegal, and use high-quality materials to add an extra touch of luxuriousness to their beautiful designs. These materials include as genuine leather and bogolan (mudcloth).
Pronounced ‘ah-DAY’ dream, the business name sounds like the West African pidgin phrase meaning, “I am dreaming.” The name Ade Dream comes from their son Pierce’s middle name, Adebayo. This name was given to him by one of Pierre’s beloved uncles. The name is also a reference to Pierre and Jenn’s firm beliefs. “With education, every child can dream to become whatever they want.”
Business with a purpose
Pierre feels especially grateful for the opportunities he’s had in life. He credits these to the education he was able to pursue. “Coming from an African household, there was always a focus on school, a constant focus on excellence and being the best person you can be,” Pierre reflects. Growing up, he saw that not all of his classmates were fortunate enough to be able to pay for school. In The Gambia, education is not free, but a degree is still a requirement for most jobs.
When Pierre visited his hometown in The Gambia as an adult, he came with a Computer Science degree from Kentucky State University. He witnessed children crying because their families could no longer afford to pay for school. Pierre felt compelled to do something. “I saw parents having to choose between buying food or paying for education, and no one should have to make that decision,” he reflects. So, he began sponsoring students at his former high school, N’dows High School, to help them complete their studies.
Jenn and Pierre saw an opportunity to expand their education fund to impact more students. By creating the Give Back Program, Ade Dream has incorporated their social mission into the very fabric of their brand. By using a portion of proceeds from each purchase, Ade Dream funds the educational expenses for a group of gifted students. The students are selected from N’dows High School each year.
Making it sustainable
As demand for Ade Dream grew, Jenn and Pierre realized they needed to figure out how to scale their business. They needed to sustain their operations as well as their Give Back Program. Jenn and Pierre heard about Main Street Launch‘s Entrepreneurs-In-Residence (EIR) program from their friends, Ron and Rhonda of Chef Ron’s Pastries. The siblings are EIR alums. The Oakland African American Chamber of Commerce referred Ade Dream to the program. The genuine enthusiasm and support from the EIR team instantly impressed the duo.
We were drawn to Main Street because the organization cares about supporting minority businesses from the ground up. We’ve lacked the help we need to grow and scale since we’ve been self-funding our business since we started.
So far, the program has exceeded their expectations. “This program opened our eyes to new possibilities. “The power of connections within the program was great and there were several things we didn’t know about running a business going in,” Pierre says. One of their revenue streams is from pop-up events., They have already seen growth in this part of their business just from the connections they were able to make through the EIR program.
Moreover, Jenn and Pierre feel they have grown both personally and professionally from the high-quality relationships that they have cultivated through the program.
The fact that Main Street Launch has experts in various fields who are dedicated to helping us is tremendous. Access to all this information and this plethora of support is amazing. And giving us a stipend on top of all that is great as well.
Going forward, Pierre and Jenn hope to continue growing the business to be able to support young people right here in Oakland as well as students in The Gambia.