“The journey ahead has the possibility of being full of promise and hope,” says Paboy Bojang, the creative entrepreneur and designer behind In Casa By Paboy, a social enterprise that without urgent funding could be forced to close its doors. “So today, I am asking a special request which could help save my business and will allow me to grow as an artist and creator.”
After fleeing The Gambia a decade ago to escape the brutal dictatorship which ruled the country, Bojang spent two years undertaking an excruciating journey across the desert and Mediterranean Sea. Arriving in Naples in 2015, he set out to fulfil his creative dreams using determination, resilience and a passion to pave the way for other refugees who would find themselves in a similar situation.
Finding employment with Antica Manifattura di Stingo, the renowned majolica workshop, Bojang established a life for himself in Italy. However, his world changed again in 2019 when the immigration system didn’t renew his asylum papers in time, leading to unemployment just before the onset of a global pandemic. It was at this point that Bojang decided to revisit his sewing skills, which he had developed as a young teenager working in his uncle’s tailoring workshop in Serrekunda as the main breadwinner for his family. The experience and passion for selecting fabrics and pairing colours quickly came back to Bojang and, thanks to social media and the borrowing of an old sewing machine, he began to create a series of signature homeware designs.
Spring 2020, during the first lockdown, saw the birth of In Casa by Paboy, with its hand-sewn, brightly coloured, sweet wrapper inspired cushion covers catching the eye of design lovers across the globe. Growing an audience via social media, the brand went from strength-to-strength in the following months before launching a website in January 2021. Featuring in titles such as the Financial Times and The Wall Street Journal, as well as an international client base from Dubai, to Sydney, London and New York, Bojang’s hard work started to pay off. Grateful for the love and support he received, Bojang looks back on his journey to date with happiness. “You have given me a chance at making it here in Europe and most importantly, helping to work towards a miraculous dream. A dream that has brought me hope where many in similar positions have felt defeated.”
Despite the support, the brand is at another crossroads and Bojang reveals there are critical questions to address. “Each month we sell enough cushions to cover our overheads but we have been struggling to make the necessary investments in the things that make a business a business,” he says. “For example, marketing, a production manager, even an accountant. Without these elements I am not sure the future is sustainable for the company. With a lot of our business coming through social media too, an ever greedy algorithm means we can no longer rely on this avenue of support.”
Asking for donations via a crowdfunding campaign, Bojang is looking to take the impact of the company another step further. “By securing funds it will help me to structure In Casa as a social enterprise whereby I can give back to the both the migrant community in Europe and provide employment back in The Gambia so my peers do not have to undertake the horrific journey I did,” he states. The hope of creating something which benefits the migrant community in Naples and beyond has always been Bojang’s long-term goal. “My proudest achievement has been to employ Blessed and Ibra, allowing them both access to legal contracts and therefore papers for themselves,” he reveals. “They are one step closer to their dream of making Italy a permanent home.”
Bojang’s vision is proof that design can be used as a force for good. Building a platform for migrant artisans like himself and helping them to pursue their dreams could be pivotal in increasing accessibility for such creatives. Urging for us all to join him on the long road ahead to fulfil the potential of In Casa, Bojang is looking to raise £30,000. “With no network or family to rely on in Europe, I have only all of you who have supported me so far to ask for help,” he says. “Be it a small one-off donation, a regular contribution, investment or your energy, time and pro-bono expertise, it will all help to keeping small businesses alive and strengthening the pathway for creatives like myself to fulfil their dreams.”
Thanks to the relentless work of Bojang and his commitment to change, he is rewriting the future for many creatives who find themselves shut off from exploring such opportunities. Through his optimism, he is inspiring us all to be a part of the change and come together in reshaping a creative world that is accessible to all, and creating an industry that is enriched by it.