My Business Story

Entrepreneur Builds Thriving Fashion Business From Side Hustle

An entrepreneur who wanted to be a broadcaster or nothing, is saved by a venture she started as part-time job

Marylinda Alinor had her career options figured out even before she was called up for the National Youth Service Corps (NYSC) in Calabar, Cross River State. 

She wanted to be a radio presenter or TV broadcaster. Luckily, the 2011 Theatre Arts and Mass Communication graduate from the University of Benin was posted to the Cross River Broadcasting Corporation (CRBC).

She was on the verge of living her dream.

As a backup plan, however, Marylinda decided to hone her makeup skills. She recalled, “I finished in 2011 as a costume and makeup major from school. After graduation from the university, I took a diploma course in makeup and beauty at an institute in Lagos. Somehow, I thought I needed to hone my skills, just in case.”

After youth service, she declined the opportunity to be retained as a TV presenter and an on-air personality.  

She smiled: “I just thought that Calabar was not for me. It was too quiet, too peaceful. I lived in Lagos all my life, so I am used to the fast life.”


Business brief:
Started 2014

Social media contact:
Twitter - @capitalDIVA
Instagram - @capitalDIVA
Facebook - fb.com/capitaldiva

Switching to Plan B

For Marylinda, it was either she worked as a broadcaster or nothing. When that opportunity was not forthcoming, she decided to activate her Plan B.

She recalled: “I said to myself, ‘You have this skill already, you are a makeup artist, you are a bead maker, so why not just make something out of it?’ That was how I started making beads. I was trying to earn a living, to avoid depleting my NYSC savings.”

Once Marylinda set her eyes on entrepreneurship, there was no looking back. From bead making, she went into other ventures, including shoe making, tailoring and designing costumes.  

“I learnt how to make footwear from leather, from fabrics and all of that. In two weeks, I had learnt what I wanted. And then this age when YouTube has everything, you can learn how to do virtually anything from YouTube. I went on YouTube a lot. I saw a lot of videos.  So, YouTube was my regular class,” she smiled.

Interestingly, she said that unlike bead making, which took a while to catch on, her leatherwork quickly gained acceptance.



"I learnt how to make footwear from leather, from fabrics and all of that. In two weeks, I had learnt what I wanted. And then this age when YouTube has everything, you can learn how to do virtually anything from YouTube"


Raising start-up capital

If Marylinda’s venture into business was fascinating, the way she raised capital for the business was no less thrilling.

“It was basically from my service year savings,” she said. “Throughout my service year, the Federal Government was paying us N19,800, the state (government) pays you, and sometimes, the place of primary assignment also pays you. So, I knew I wasn’t touching my federal ‘alawi’. It was sacred.” 

She continued: “I was living on N7,000 per month during my (youth) service year. I only spent my state ‘alawi’ and my stipend of N4,000 from my place of primary assignment. At the time, the state (government) was giving us N3, 000 every month. Whatever I had to do was within that N7,000.”

Marylinda’s mother and sister also offered financial support, and remarkably, she found a landlord willing to accept rent in instalments.

Challenges

When Marylinda decided to become a fulltime entrepreneur in 2014, her initial challenge was location. She lived in Ijesha (a Lagos-suburb), where clients were not willing to spend much on accessories. 

“Because of my location,” she said, “my profit margin was very low. The few who actually wanted to look good to parties didn’t feel they should pay much to look good.” 

Gradually, however, people got to value her work.  Marylinda hugely credited her event-decorator neighbour for the referrals, which improved her fortune.

On December 26, 2017, Marylinda suffered a major setback – her store was burgled and her goods were carted away.

She narrated her ordeal: “I remember I came in, and I was like, ‘What a Christmas gift!’ I was broken. My parents and family were scared. My friends knew how hard I had struggled to build my business to this level… I made a lot of slippers. We made bags, dresses and so on. We stocked up with everything. And then I came to the store, it was open and empty!”

What does the future hold?

With the help of family, friends and even strangers who were sympathetic to Marylinda’s story when she shared it on social media, she bounced back. She now values the power of her social media platforms as a marketing tool.

Marylinda believes, against popular notion that the fashion industry is saturated, that it will keep growing and she wants to be part of that growth.

She said, “We hope to be a brand big enough to be called the one-stop store for Nigerian made fashion items. The idea is to push the Buy-Made-In-Nigeria initiative. We are trying to produce things that can equal the standard of what we import from China, US and the rest of the world.”