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Travel, self-belief and being Femi 'IDENTITY' Oguns' sister

BEAUTY AND THE BRAINS: Kemi of Gazelle London

STILL IN what you might call start-up territory, spirited philosophy graduate and millenial media professional turned stationary entrepreneur Kemi Ogunsanwo is making moves Paperchase would be proud of.

The 27 year-old is full of radiant smiles and mixes a genuine 'love and light' persona with a level of disclosure that brings a realness to her conversation with The Voice about success, silencing self-doubt and monetising her travel bug.


REGAL: Kemi Ogunsanwo with one of her creations (photo credit: Agenda at Visual Marvely™)

The Gazelle London brand - a collection of journals, notebooks and organisers bound in colourful African-inspired materials that all come packaged with touching handwritten notes and intermittent quotes - began after Ogunsanwo put off the idea in favour of a more 'stable' career route. After studying English Literature & Philosophy at the University of East Anglia, then completing a postgraduate degree in Publishing at University College London, Ogunsanwo worked in media and marketing for three and a half years. Her stint in these fields stood her in good stead for what was around the corner after a sudden serious illness halted a holiday to Hong Kong.

"Gazelle London would not have existed had it not been for various events in my life", she shares.


STEPPING UP: From left- Kemi Ogunsanwo and a Gazelle London model (photo credit: Agenda at Visual Marvely™)

"Between 2014 to 2016 I spent a considerable of time staring at hospital walls and speaking to doctors. It was a draining couple of years, but a particularly scary incident led to a different perspective on life.

"Having gone from one good job to the next, I was tired of being confined to societal expectations of how I should live my life. And it wasn't benefiting my health either! I decided to be more fearless than I had ever been before. I left a great job to get better, and to focus on manifesting my own dreams instead of someone else's."


THE GIRL WITH ALL THE GIFTS: Kemi Ogunsanwo

Coming from a supportive Nigerian family, the ambitious north Londoner was in good company - her older brother is Femi Oguns, founder of the famed Identity School of Acting, which continues to produce and champion a new generation of actors including Star Wars' John Boyega, contemporary Roots star Malachi Kirby and A United Kingdom talent Zackary Momoh to name a few.

Speaking about her dynamic brother and his reputation for turning everything he touches to gold, Ogunsanwo reveals he is a kind but 'hardball' business advisor, friend and confidante. Challenging her ideas on how to grow Gazelle London with probing questions and expressing high expectations for his youngest sibling, the high-flyer is always on-hand to critique with love.


CLOSE TO YOUR CHEST: A Gazelle London journal (photo credit: Agenda at Visual Marvely™)

The youngest of four siblings, Ogunsanwo explains how her early years influenced her current creations:

"My passion for journals began at the age of seven, after I discovered a faux leather journal down the side of the bunk bed I shared with my older sister. The journal was void of any of the juicy titbits I'd hoped to collect about her, but it became a prize possession for me. A place to gain clarity in times of confusion, to lament my frustrations and store my hopes and dreams for the future. I've been journaling ever since."


HIGH-STREET BOUND: Kemi Ogunsano, centre, with HSBC bank staff at an in-branch Gazelle London pop-up

Occasional, controlled bouts of anxiety, natural for any creative business owner who has left their job, are quelled by her Christian faith and encouraging parents:

"Gazelle London is truly the product of faith, a passion for journaling, and an incredible love for the African continent.


COVETED: Just two of the items available on the Gazelle London website (photo credit: Agenda at Visual Marvely™)

"I started with £2000, some earnest prayers and an awful lot of encouragement from my mother, who had been my rock during my health issues between 2014 and 2016. My mother's unwavering belief in me gave me the confidence to fulfil my dreams without fear of failure. And so Gazelle London was born!"

Looking forward to this August's Gazelle London pop-up shop, which will sit inside one of the UK's most influential retail stores, Topshop Oxford Circus, Ogunsanwo marks each milestone with gratitude and is careful to keep 'giving back'. She is a purposeful ambassador for the diverse beauty within Africa and a regular donor to charitable causes which support disadvantaged girls and women on the continent:


PRETTY IN PINK: Gazelle London's Gratitude II journal (photo credit: Agenda at Visual Marvely™)

"The Gazelle London slogan 'Sharing the Colours of Africa with the World' is reflective of how I see Africa. The continent is a vibrant and colourful place full of warmth and beauty. I tried to reflect this across every collection I develop. The bold prints are inspired by beautiful places in Africa like Lake Retba, (the pink lake in Senegal), and also by my personal travels. From the Gratitude Collection to the Wanderlust journal, each one is made with a specific purpose in mind.

"The choice to give a percentage of Gazelle London’s profits to the Campaign for Education (CAMFED) was driven by an experience I had in 2005 whilst travelling in Lagos. A little girl, no more than five years-old, approached our slowly moving car as we crawled in traffic on a busy motorway. She didn’t ask for money, she simply smiled. But as she looked longing into the car, at the space between myself and sister, my heart broke. The memory has stayed with me for the last 12 years.


AN OPEN BOOK: Kemi's original Gratitude journal

"Donating to CAMFED is a way of contributing to one solution of child poverty – through education.

"My hope is that Gazelle London will be able to do much more over time in order to help little girls in poverty become educated women in business."


PUT PEN TO PAPER: The Discloser journal, by Gazelle London

Some thank-you quotes from Gazelle London customers:

"What a fabulous gift - not just he gift itself but the outstanding presentation and the message on the card!" (Elleni-Jay A.G.)

"Thank you for being committed to embracing the culture you represent and infusing that into your brand." (Anu N.)

"We absolutely LOVE our new journals!" (Shaari H.)


TRAVEL COMPANION: Use Kemi's Wanderlust journal to document your holidays

Meet Kemi and purchase items from the Gazelle London collections at various places across the capital this summer, including Africa at Spitafields this Bank Holiday 29 May, the Afropunk Fest at Printworks on Surrey Quays Road on 22-23 July and a pop-up shop in Topshop Oxford Circus from 20-27 August.

Click here to make purchases and find out more.

Follow Gazelle London online:

Instagram and Twitter: @gazelle_london

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