My Business Story

Medical Doctor Changing The Face Of Giftware Industry

A medical doctor who shares the same profession as her parents, has branched off into merchandising, setting the giftware industry on fire

Samiah Oyekan-Ahmed’s parents are medical doctors. Therefore when she was admitted to the College of Medicine, Lagos State University, to study Medicine and Surgery at the age of 17, it seemed like a natural extension of the family tradition.Or so friends and family thought. They were in for a surprise.

“My journey to entrepreneurship started with me running a gift store from my cupboard in medical school at 19,” Samiah recalled. She kept at it, without sacrificing her studies. She tried to find out what personal items friends and classmates needed and supplied them from her closet for a small profit.

By the time she graduated, the young medical doctor and part-time entrepreneur had decided that the stethoscope was not for her. She immediately started her first company, Fusion Lifestyle Limited in 2009, and four years later, noticed a gap in the Abuja giftware market, which led her to set up another company, The Gift Source.

Business brief:
Started 2013

Social media contact:
Facebook/Instagram: Thegiftsource

How it started

Looking back, Samiah said: “I was looking for somewhere to do my residency training after my National Youth Service Corps (NYSC). A lot of factors got in the way of that and I wasn’t about to sit at home twiddling my thumbs; I decided to set up my own company. A few years later, I recognised the need for qualitative event favours and kids’ party packs in Abuja and The Gift Source was born!

The Gift Source has grown side by side with Fusion Lifestyle Ltd, the lifestyle and events company, which launched her into business. Samiah said, “Being a medical doctor and the daughter of two medical doctors, my dad resisted the idea (of going into business) at the beginning. This made me realise that sometimes you have to work a bit harder to prove yourself. Now both my parents are such huge cheerleaders of all I do. My husband has always been extremely supportive and my friends are used to my choice now.”

Finding capital

Samiah’s first post-graduation business was funded with the N750,000 that she saved from planning her wedding. It was a different affair when she started The Gift Source later. Samiah said she raised capital by ploughing back the deposit of her first order: “Based on the good name I had established for myself from my Fusion Lifestyle, it was easy for me to get my first order from a friend who needed wedding favours. She paid a deposit of N100,000 and I delivered her order and saved the remaining money.”

She continued that model until she saved enough money to buy her first batch of stock from the US.

Early lessons

Asked if selling high-end gifts is a sustainable business especially in a growing economy, she said: “You can only be in business for as long as you’re meeting a need. Once you can do this, and you are willing to put in the work, it is definitely worthwhile.”

"You can only be in business for as long as you’re meeting a need. Once you can do this, and you are willing to put in the work, it is definitely worthwhile"

To continue to meet the needs of her clients and remain in business, Samiah realised she had to structure her operations. She said, “A few things completely changed my mind set. First was attending a class with Tara Fela-Durotoye and Mrs. Ibukun Awosika. That was where the seed of growing a generational business was born in me. Then I read the Smart Money Woman by Arese Ugwu and attended another class by Tara on business structure, and that changed everything.”

Although she has always run the business full-time, those tools helped the mother-of-two to completely restructure for better efficiency.
Samiah summed up her early lessons: “Work can take over your entire existence if you let it; the amount of work your business requires to keep going is huge; and I also realised that I still have to learn and will never stop learning.”

Defining moment

Like many other import-reliant businesses, there was a setback The Gift Source suffered during the recent economic recession. The exchange rate affected the company, as it sourced its gifts from mainly the UK and the US, where Samiah has established partnerships with major gift companies.
However, it was a blessing in disguise, as she explained: “We overcame this by looking inwards and started producing gifts locally. We engaged local artisans and trained them to be able to churn out locally made gifts to international standards. Right now, one of our unique selling points is the interesting fusion of imported and locally made gifts which we carry.”


Registered in October 2013, The Gift Source now has eight staff mentored by the medical doctor leader. Samiah plans to expand and diversify her business and in the process, help aspiring entrepreneurs in the gift business. “Our next plan is to move into wholesale. A lot of start-ups in the giftware industry struggle with getting access to quality gifts and even when they know where to get them may not be able to meet the minimum order requirements of international brands. We would like to take that stress off them.”

Does she miss practicing as a medical doctor?
“To be honest, no I don’t. Even though my exit from the profession wasn’t planned, I definitely do not miss it. I’m not sure I was suited to the profession to begin with.”