Meet Lola Banjo, Founder and Creative Director of Silver & Riley. A premium and luxury lifestyle brand, specializing in travel and fashion accessories exclusively made in Italy.
Founded in 2019, Silver & Riley is making
Along with being a successful business owner, Lola works full time as
Our team had the pleasure of connecting with Lola, taking us through her journey and inspiration behind creating Silver & Riley, diving deeper into her love of philanthropy and commitment to service, and more.
Hi Lola! Thank you for taking the time to connect with our team, we are so excited to feature you and learn more about Silver & Riley! Can you first start by telling us a little bit more about yourself and how you started your entrepreneurial journey?
Thank you Tini Lux for featuring me! My name is Lola Banjo and I am the founder and creative director of Silver & Riley. Silver & Riley is a premier, luxury lifestyle brand currently featuring travel and fashion accessories namely bags and small leather goods made exclusively in Italy. My entrepreneurial journey was quite a long one, my mom was an entrepreneur, I learned a lot from her and how she operated, but my own personal journey started maybe a dozen years ago while in business school. I was learning the ropes and observing different business ideas but I gravitated towards how people moved around and how to make it easier and while on the road. I always thought that people primarily use one kind of travel bag, and I thought I could make them more stylish! So that became my mission, I wanted to make traveling in style more accessible and easier, with functional accessories. I also wanted to create access to luxury for traditionally underserved demographics that are usually left out of the luxury conversation.
Where did you get the inspiration to create Silver & Riley? How do you think your past experiences (work, life, educational) prepared you to become an entrepreneur?
My mom was one of my primary inspirations growing up, she owned a bake shop and I was able to work alongside and experience first-hand how she handled being an entrepreneur. I watched how she treated her customers, while working alongside her, and that was my first lesson in customer intimacy: she would remember tiny details about each customer, their kid’s names, birthdays, little details that make them feel special and important. Similarly, I want everyone who shops Silver & Riley to feel special, that they are a valued client, and not just someone who bought the bag, but a part of the family – it’s important to me to feel like you are part of something greater. A top priority of my brand is giving back, we contribute 5% of revenue to other women starting businesses, so when you tap into Silver & Riley, you are enabling and supporting other entrepreneurs as well. Additionally, while attending business school, I was surrounded by so many ideas and aspiring business owners so it was a great energy to be in and it contributed to my own entrepreneurial aspirations.
Can you talk more about the Silver & Riley design process? In what ways do you think that Silver & Riley products merge fashion, functionality and sustainability?
My process when designing Silver & Riley bags is very thoughtful, I have always had an eye for building things better, and my background in engineering lends me the ability to do so. I know how to take what exists today and improve it. Before I started the brand I researched so many bags out there, websites and reviews to see what aspects of bags women struggle with, what needs to be improved, and how I can add in those features in a very stylish and convenient way. I am a woman’s woman, I want to make sure that I am providing things that are often missing. Many bigger design houses may gloss over these aspects and sacrifice them for what is trendy and stylish, but I don't think we have to choose, I think style and functionality can co-exist, it just needs a bit more work and thoughtfulness.
I begin my design process by observing what is the gap in the market and how can I create it? Then, I will sketch ideas out with pen and paper, and i'll pass on those drawings to my manufacturer and they will create a paper prototype. We’ll go through several iterations of perfecting that prototype, and then we make an actual leather prototype, following several iterations, until we are at a place of perfection and then we go to launch!
We would love to hear the story behind the name Silver & Riley. Where did you draw inspiration from for the name and can you talk more about the meaning behind it?
The name was inspired by my mother, and like I mentioned before, she is one of my biggest inspirations, in life and in business. One of her many businesses was a jewelry business and she would travel to the Middle East, which is very popular for gold, so she used to trade and buy gold jewelry. I grew up with my siblings and cousins, and on special occasions my mom would dress all 7 of us alike and outfit us in gold jewelry. All us kids were so excited for our special gold adornments, but I wanted to stand out so I always asked my mom for silver jewelry. She would go out of her way to find silver pieces for me and she just started calling me her “silver baby”. I always knew I wanted to incorporate my mom into my brand in some way, and I thought this was a great universal ode to my mother.
The name Riley is a name I've always loved and hoped to name my future child one day, so this brand was about honoring my mother’s legacy but also the legacy I am creating. So I put the two names together and it was a hit.
Your commitment and passion to serving communities and others is truly amazing and so inspiring. Can you share more with us about some of the boards and committees you’re involved in as well as a snapshot into some of the work you do?
I absolutely believe that a life cannot be complete and purposeful without some kind of serviceable element that you truly believe in and want to commit to. Service has always been part of my life, and when I was first creating my brand I knew I wanted to incorporate giving back into the business model. This is something I grew up with and something I will pass along to my kids and grandkids, -willing. I believe being a citizen of the world is not just taking – but being sure to give back in whatever ways you can, big or small. Silver & Riley’s Buy1Give5 program is led by my mother’s example. I remember my mom saw a woman who was selling goods in the market without shade, in the heat and sun. This didn’t sit well with my mom, so she helped her get an awning for her store. To this day, the woman says how much that small gesture changed her life. I watched my mom do so many selfless acts of kindness that it became ingrained in me to give back, too. I knew Silver & Riley’s give-back initiative needed to be sustainable, and I didn’t want to wait until we made it big – I wanted to program to grow with the company. So I decided to make a pledge to give 5% of the revenue to other women on their own entrepreneurial journeys, giving consistently every year since our launch.
Outside of the brand I also sit on three different boards - one teaches kids technology, coding skills, etc., to make sure they are digitally equipped for the future. Another focuses on building clean water wells in sub-saharan Africa. Lastly, I'm on the board of a non-profit that is all about creating equitable and inclusive corporate environments. Personally, I run food drives, namely The Campaign Against Hunger in my old Brooklyn neighborhood. I'll raise $10,000 among friends and family and we’ll do a quarterly food drive to help people have access to food. Of course, this money could also go to soup kitchens, but this way, we’re creating a personal experience to help elevate the dignity of those people who are without a home, and food.
Being the founder of Silver & Riley, currently working as the Vice President of GTM Strategy at Salesforce and on top of your philanthropic passions - how do you successfully manage your time without feeling burnout or fatigue?
It’s inevitable that you're going to experience burnout and fatigue, I struggle with this. Striving to get to a state of equilibrium may not always be possible. I’ve found that when you are feeling burnt out, it’s so important to remind yourself of the why – remind yourself of your purpose. This always helps me feel mentally energized and helps me to re-center. I think that trying to have a balanced life is a myth because if you are working toward pursuing goals and you’re someone who's ambitious, you’re always going to raise the bar, aim higher and have a full plate. Just make sure you're contributing to your purpose and you feel good about what you’re doing, and as long as you feel fulfilled, the work shouldn’t leave you feeling drained and exhausted.
It's also so important to give yourself breaks. Selfcare is not just an online trend, it’s real. Do whatever it takes to take care of yourself physically, mentally, emotionally. I had some scares last year – my stress became so severe that I was binge eating and I had to work with a doctor. There are times as entrepreneurs when we forget to take care of ourselves. Find what works for you. At the height of the pandemic I ran five miles every day. That worked for me. Treat yourself every now and again. I recently treated myself to a massage chair, and do my best to go for weekly massages at a spa. See a therapist, do daily affirmations. It’s all about the physical, mental, emotional, spiritual wellness of you. Find people that will hold you accountable to that as well.
Since creating Silver & Riley what would you say has been your biggest accomplishment thus far? In what ways would you like to see the company expand within the next 5 years?
My biggest accomplishment since creating Silver & Riley by far has to be the feeling I get when people are enjoying my products. I love reading messages from customers that say how amazing they feel when they are wearing Silver & Riley bags; the compliments they get; and how easy moving around in their daily life has become from them. That by far is my greatest validation provides me with such feelings of accomplishment. I read every note and they mean so much to me. Of course, to be featured in publications and acknowledged by peers and a greater audience is also a wonderful feeling. But it’s the positive feedback from customers that is the most fulfilling and is what keeps me going in times of stress and even heartache.
In 5 years I pray to continue doing this on a larger scale. I’ve always said I am building a company that will transcend generations, so this is something that I'm going to be doing for the long run. In 5 years I know Silver & Riley will be a household name.
Is there a piece of advice that has resonated with you along your entrepreneurial journey? What is one thing you wish you could tell your younger self?
I'm not sure where I heard this, but a piece of advice that’s stuck with me is that you’ll never know until you start. Entrepreneurs will try to perfect things right away and that will hold them back from just starting. You have to start first and be okay with the reality that you are going to make mistakes in hindsight. Do your best to avoid the thought in the back of your mind that says “mistakes equal failure”. You’ve actually succeeded when you make mistakes. I say to go out there and make as many mistakes as possible because you’ll be learning and improving from each setback. Let go of the idea of perfection. Don’t get caught waiting forever because then it might never happen. Time doesn’t wait – it never waits with us; it never waits for us. So just start and learn as you go.
Shop Silver & Riley online and save 15% with code TINILUX. Make sure you stay tuned on all things Silver & Riley, the New Yorker is set to drop on 3/15.