My Business Story

Amazing Story of A Fashion Reporter's Big Leap

Aisha, who started as a fashion reporter in a newspaper house, reveals how she later took the fashion industry by storm

Aisha Abubakar never thought of becoming an entrepreneur; not at the time she took the leap of faith. The Kebbi State-born 2010 graduate of Geology from the Ahmadu Bello University (ABU) Zaria got a good job as a reporter after her National Youth Service Corps, and thus had little reason to worry about entrepreneurship. 

Interestingly, it was at her duty post that the opportunity to become a fashion entrepreneur presented itself – and she grabbed it with both hands.

Journey Into Fashion 

Since it’s not every day that a good paying job allows an employee to think about starting a business, we asked Aisha how she started: “After my NYSC in Abuja in 2011, I got a job with Leadership newspaper in the LeVogue department. It was a weekly lifestyle pull-out. I was in LeVogue for a while. Because I had to go out and do interviews, I met a lot of people who influenced my career path.”

Business brief:
Started 2013

Social media contact:
Instagram: aishaabubakr_ng
Twitter: @aishaluxurydesigns
Facebook: Aisha Abu-Bakr Luxury Designs

The nature of her job with Leadership newspaper involved red carpet events, weddings and other social gigs. Aisha said writing for LeVogue exposed her to meeting fashionistas. “Sometimes the interviewees (thinking that I know a lot about fashion) would request that I help them fix one thing or the other in terms of their appearance,” she recalled.

One day, one of the ladies Aisha met at an event wanted her to help make a dress. Because Aisha had learnt tailoring in-between school and NYSC, she decided to make the dress herself instead of giving it out to a tailor: “I told her I was a tailor. She said I should go ahead and make the dress.”

When she began sewing for the women she met while covering events, Aisha still didn’t immediately think of making a career out of fashion design, but things changed gradually. 

She said: “When I started styling the women I met during LeVogue, I changed my mind and thought of making a career out of tailoring. I registered my business in February 2013 and that’s how Aisha Abubakar Fashion was born.”

Edge in a crowd

Aisha said she leaves a striking signature on the fabrics she designs. The problem with Nigerian fashion brands has always been meeting international standards, especially the finishing details. She was determined to make a difference.

“I told myself details and finishing matter,” Aisha said. “That I should be able to make a dress that can be displayed in any fashion house anywhere in the world.” She said over time, she has specialised in making patterns, which has helped her to get her designs right.

"Sometimes, the people working with you won’t show up at work after the (sewing) pattern is ready. And the client would be expecting you to deliver at a given time. I shared the challenge with my mentor and she advised me to change my operational model."

Raising capital 

Aisha said she raised her start-up capital from family and friends. “I started small but it didn’t deter me from pursuing the dream,” she told us.
Her most critical challenge starting up was electricity. She said she has spent a fortune buying diesel for her generator. But she also experienced a peculiar challenge in the form of employees’ attitude to work. 

She said: “Sometimes, the people working with you won’t show up at work after the (sewing) pattern is ready. And the client would be expecting you to deliver at a given time. I shared the challenge with my mentor and she advised me to change my operational model. If you work on Monday, you earn for Monday. If you don’t show up to work on Tuesday, I will call another tailor and you won’t earn for Tuesday. This change of personnel operation has helped me surmount that particular challenge.”

Although Aisha started with two sewing machines in 2013 and a handful of clients mostly family and friends, she now has 10 staff, with 16 sewing machines.

She has learnt from her mistakes: “I didn’t have much time to market the business properly and didn’t have any business knowledge because often we overlook the importance of having business knowledge. It made growth slow in the beginning.”

Future growth plans

One strategy that Aisha has deployed to a great effect is observing her competitors. “I noticed that a lot of bespoke tailors were beginning to do ready-to-wear brands. Also, our industry may not be structured but people have started opening up retail stores. So I have also diversified a little,” Aisha said.

Her ultimate vision is to announce to the world that Nigerian designers have come of age.

She wouldn’t end without advising up-and-coming designers to harness their skills and learn the business aspect of fashion. She also thinks that designers should have an area of specialisation and grow at their own pace.

She said, “If you have three clients, you don’t need to have a shop at Ademola Adetokunbo Crescent, Wuse II. You don’t need to spend N5 million to get a shop, leaving you with only N500,000 to buy fabrics. Invest in your product; social media has made things easy; you can sell online.”