Uyi Omorogbe‘s TikTok video series, “Annoying My African Parents,” hit a spot that only first-generation kids and I can understand. The laughter I let out when first seeing one of his videos in 2020 was one of understanding and nostalgia. Omorogbe started his TikTok series to bring awareness to his then socially conscious clothing brand NASO. He was a Pre-Med student playing soccer; of course, this was every African parent’s dream. Then he decided to change his major to Economics and start a business, much to the dismay of his parents. You only get about four options when you’re a first-generation American kid: doctor, lawyer, engineer, or disgrace to the family. Although Omorogbe chose the latter, I can confidently say it’s the best decision he’s ever made.
Naturally, like most first-gen kids, we tend to know the most remarkable ways to pivot when needed. That’s precisely what Omorogbe did when COVID thwarted his plans to start selling his clothing at Banana Republic. “I just had to figure out a way to build an audience online because I didn’t have money for Facebook ads or paid acquisition,” he tells ESSENCE. “So, I got on TikTok and started making those videos with my dad because I had a Nigerian brand, and I knew if I could accumulate a Nigerian audience, maybe they would be interested in my brand.” Since then, he pivoted even more and realized that there was a way to make the shopping experience better than ever before. “I would say that ultimately NASO is all about bringing experience and commerce together.”
NASO is now a commerce tech company changing the way we shop and experience online. “The whole reason why NASO even exists is to bring people closer to the brands that they love.” While ideating the concept of his tech company he began to do the research with global and smaller brands to see what could make his company stand apart from others. “I started to have more and more conversations with designers and was hearing about their pain points as a designer. And it was through those conversations with them that I was hearing sort of the same pain points pop up. So, we were trying to figure ways to solve those things for them; it was really organic.”
NASO combines the two ways we shop, functionally online and experientially in person. Digitally we’ve never gotten this blend between the two. One thing that Omorogbe loves is storytelling, something that designers do as well. This app marries each of these things together to create a relationship between the shopper and the designer. He releases shoppable films with limited “seating” that gives you an interactive exclusive experience when hitting add to cart.
Omorogbe’s goal for NASO today and in the future is to empower. “I want to build a vehicle, a profitable business that’s viable,” says Omorogbe. “That’s actually a really good business, but is a vehicle of empowerment. We’re generating revenue, but we’re going back and actually building communities and making real tangible change instead of just making money.” When he first started NASO as a clothing brand, through the sales of his clothing, he was able to raise $45,000 to go towards building a school in Nigeria.
Suppose there’s one thing that stuck with him from college. In that case, it’s something his professor said that has stuck with him even now through his growth and creative journey. “I’m not here to teach you guys, step by step, how to build a house; that’s not my goal. My goal in this class is to, like, empty out a toolbox and teach you how to use every single one of these tools front and back so that you can go out and build whatever you want.” Now, world-building, literally and figuratively, is what he’s best at.
Omorogbe’s biggest piece of advice for anyone who is first-generation and wants to break away from the same expectation is to “believe in yourself, even if other people don’t believe in you, and do what you love — because honestly, life is way too short.” The rigid ideas of success in place for you are not the only ways to succeed. Even in the fashion tech world, once you realize that other Black people do this, it’s easier to dive head-first into the new venture. “I feel like one of my biggest goals is to, like, have a little bit more representation in this space. There’s no one asking, ‘What’s your favorite Black-owned technology company?’ You don’t have one, right? And that’s the issue.”
Omorogbe has now collaborated with another Ghanian designer Spencer Badu, to launch NASO and Badu’s 2-in-1 bags. Within this premium shopping experience, shoppers can watch a short film, see how others have styled the pieces, and shop and support a brand that has built meaning around its designs.
The shoppable film will be live on Friday, June 23rd at 5PM EST. You still have time to get a ticket for seating.