It is a path not many in her class would tread. Born into affluence with almost everything at her beck and call, Iman Al-Makura, daughter of Umaru Tanko Al-Makura, former governor and current senator representing Nasarawa south, could have easily settled for luxury. But unlike many typical children born with a silver spoon, Iman believes she has to work her way to success, not inherit it.
This inspired the graduate of combined honours degree in Law and International Relations from the University of Sussex, United Kingdom, to set up Simply Iman, a fashion outfit, recently launched in Wuse 2, Abuja to carve a niche for herself in entrepreneurship.
“Naturally, I abhor influence peddling and we were brought up that way. I prefer to work my way to the top. Truth is, I could probably have secured a job in a competitive process without anyone lifting a finger on my behalf,” she said.
“But as I said, I have my own path in life to follow. Again, as we say in Nigerian parlance, ‘Your papa money no be your own’. My parents have given me what every parent owes his or her child, which is education. It is now up to me to pursue my dreams.
“Besides, I don’t believe there is any job out there that could pay me better than Simply Iman and still give me the satisfaction and inner joy I get from this. I want to be independent and I want to build my own business empire gradually.”
Iman said she has always been passionate about fashion but to satisfy her mother’s wish for a certificate in law, she had to pursue it alongside International Relations, her dream course, at the university.
The entrepreneur added that her foray into fashion was also informed by her resolve to become an employer of labour upon graduation.
“I wanted to study International Relations, but my mother also wanted me to study Law. So, to make her happy without dropping my interest too, I settled for combined honours in Law and International Relations, University of Sussex and I graduated recently,” she added.
“However, I have always had this innate passion for fashion. Even while in school, I knew I was not going to work for anybody. I never wanted to join the labour market. I had a clear-cut vision of becoming an employer of labour. I wanted to be a fashionpreneur.
“I started learning these things from the later part of my secondary school days. Again, while in the university, I continued from where I stopped each time I returned to Nigeria during the holidays. And here we are today.”
Iman’s choice is something that could have easily pitched her against her siblings and parents but not for a family with high regard for entrepreneurship.
“My father is a very, very simple man. The same goes for my mother. And don’t forget that my father is a businessman. Politics is just something he got involved in along the line. His father too, that is, my grandfather was equally a renowned businessman,” she said.
“So, it runs in the blood somehow and my parents have inculcated the culture of industry in the family. So, I am only continuing in the family tradition and my parents and siblings are very supportive and proud of me.
“It will also interest you to know that my mother, Dr. Mairo Al-Makura, was once into fashion. She set up one several years ago, before she divested owing to the shenanigans of the tailors, especially when her other businesses and offices did not give her the opportunity to give it the full attention she wanted”.
On her areas of specialisation in fashion, Iman said she makes clothes for both men and women, including ready to wear clothes, bespoke, luxury wears, kaftan, agbada as well as skirt and blouse. The entrepreneur added that she is also into accessories, fragrances, including local fragrances from Chad and Moroccan soaps.
For the politician’s daughter, fashion business is not one she is ready to ditch for anything — including marriage.
“No way. If you love me, then you have to love my business. You are going out to look for what the children will eat. I am also going out to make some money for the family. Fold my business for marriage sake? No way,” she said.
Speaking on patronage so far, Iman said: “I must say that I am very grateful to God. The patronage has been quite good. And we are not really advertising. We are just on Instagram. Our customers keep coming back and they return with new customers. That way, we have been growing. And these include quite some influential people too and we are happy and feel quite privileged clothing them,” she added.
On her expectations for her fashion business in the next 10 years, Iman said: “I’m sure you know a lot about how many global brands of today started yesterday. Take Apple for instance. It began in a garage. Amazon is currently worth over $225.2 Billion and employs over a million people today.
“But we all know how it started. Mark Zuckerberg started Facebook from his dorm room in Harvard in 2004. See where both Mark and Facebook have grown. Larry Page and Sergey Brin started Google in a garage. Today, it is the world’s leading search engine. The Disney brothers, Walt and Roy, started The Walt Disney Company in the back of a small apartment in Los Angeles.
“One can go on and on. But to answer your question directly, I see Simply Iman going places. I see us going for fashion shows in Nigeria and overseas. I see us taking a huge chunk of the fashion business. The sweet thing is that the driving mentality and forces behind Simply Iman are youthful fellows, who are also daily learning from older and more experienced minds. More than the money we earn, is the satisfaction we get each time our customers call or come around to tell us how they liked our product, and how friends pester them to bring them to Simply Iman. This customer satisfaction is what gives us the confidence that we will keep growing and that we will go places.
“But I know that things evolve at breakneck speed in our contemporary world and the fashion industry is no exception. That is why the philosophy here is training and retraining. Personally too, I have had a stint with Kathy Anthony fashion house here in Abuja. But I will keep learning more. To hone my entrepreneurial skills too, I hope to go to the Lagos Business School and someday soon to Harvard.”
Iman urged Nigerian youth not to give up on their dreams, adding that they should also take advantage of available opportunities to grow their businesses.
“Nigeria has one of the most energetic, creative, resourceful, and intelligent youth populations in the world. But they do not have enough opportunity to contribute reasonably to our GDP. While I was able to raise loan from my parents, I must admit that not many have that kind of opportunity,” she said.
“However, there are several SMSE loans by the Federal Government. There is one being handled by NISRAL Microfinance Bank, etc. I advice fellow young Nigerians to visit SMEDAN to get some entrepreneurial trainings and also be guided on available credit facilities and how to access them.
“But above all, they must believe in themselves and they shouldn’t be afraid to start small. As I said earlier, most of the big brands today started small. Simply Iman too didn’t just happen.
“I started gradually, putting things together until we fully opened shop here. I’m happy that you have toured our fashion house. You could see that our staff are all young men and women. With every sense of modesty, our workers and clothes we make here can compete favourably anywhere in the world. But one has to start from somewhere and I’m glad I did.
“Also, be ready to learn and keep learning. There is this quote by Albert Einstein: ‘The more I learn, the more I realise how much I don’t know’. You must humble yourself in order to learn and you must equally humble yourself in order to grow in business. Be true, good, and forthright in your dealing with clients and workers alike. Have a listening ear too”.
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