Destiny’s Child may have set the tone for a whole new wave of independence for women like Wilglory Tanjong.
According to CNBC Make It, Tanjong is a full-time MBA student at the University of Pennsylvania and serves as the founder and CEO of a luxury purse brand, Anima Iris, all at the tender age of 25. Upon launching in 2020, the brand has reportedly raked in more than $725,000, catching the likes of Beyoncé herself. But, how does one manage to achieve such success at a young age?
Well, first, Tajong did not start her business for financial gain but instead wanted to use it to honor her personal and ancestral background.
“[Anima Iris] was a therapeutic project that was just making me happy,” Tanjong shared with CNBC Make It. “I’ve always been a very fashionable person. People always ask me, ‘Where’d you get this? Where’d you get that?’ And then I realized, ‘Hey, maybe people will just buy [products] from me.’”
An Entrepreneurial Spirit
After her parents made the trek from Cameroon to Maryland when Tanjong was two-years-old, she learned her family’s hustle by maintaining various jobs and owning and operating a laundromat.
Alongside her sisters, Tanjong would even help her father flip houses during the summer. So, the entrepreneurial spirit has been instilled in her since the very beginning, but it wasn’t something that she necessarily looked forward to.
“I really hated it at the time,” she shared. “But that’s clearly where [my] motivation comes from.”
On the other hand, Tanjong admired the way her mother managed to build something from nothing through the small cosmetology studio that she ran out of the back of their home…all while maintaining her job as a nurse.
While it appears as though the money was flowing in, she explains that tough times did indeed show up when her mother was diagnosed with breast cancer when Tanjong was 8-years-old and her parent’s decision to divorce when she was 14-years-old.
“I’ll never forget the day when my mom told us that we were finally approved for food stamps,” Tanjong recalled. “Having those kinds of experiences really pushed me to be financially independent as quickly as I could be.”
Trouble Don’t Last Always
After tons of hard work and dedication, Tanjong earned herself a full ride to Princeton University where she maintained a high grade-point average during the entire journey.
Although her mother’s passing left her heartbroken during her senior year of college, Tanjong continued and became a first-generation college graduate. She then set her sights upon Atlanta, GA to take on a role as an operational manager at a manufacturing and supply company.
Despite a hefty bank account which included an annual salary of $86,000 and an inheritance from her mother of around $50,000, Tanjong says that she was the unhappiest she had ever been and ultimately made the decision to take a leave of absence to focus on her mental health.
After much soul-searching, which included a trip back home to Africa, Tanjong found her way and was inspired to launch Anima Iris. Now, the company is currently on track to earn at least $1.2 million in annual revenue.
“I project that we’re going to make at least $5 million next year because I think that there are a lot of opportunities for people to learn about us,” she shared.
She will also use her MBA to continue to grow and build her company to new heights, as she is expecting to graduate in Spring 2022.