Founded on a passionate mission to not just move Nigeria forward but to provide women with an innovative method of providing excellent customer service, Halima Gidado-Mijindadi, Founder and Creative Director of Brides & Babies Inc., sits down with the African Women Power Network to discuss her experience and reasons why she started her business.
Halima is a well-accomplished wife, mother, trailblazer, and entrepreneur. She has the unique distinction of being the youngest woman to graduate from the University of Houston with a Doctorate degree in Pharmacy. With an extremely supportive husband, Halima is determined to make her entrepreneurial experience work.
Our interview with Halima takes place on a warm and busy Saturday afternoon. Customers are leaving and entering her store, some browsing and others shopping. Her well-trained staff handles the customers and this gives us the time needed to complete this interview.
This interview is especially beneficial as it demonstrates the significant role that African women entrepreneurs play in hiring the jobless and helping to reduce the unemployment rate.
What is Brides & Babies Inc., all about?
The name Brides & Babies Inc., I believe is God sent. Everything about my business thus far, has fallen into place effortlessly. Brides & Babies Inc. is a one-stop shop for women as they experience important stages in their lives. From the big day (wedding) through pregnancy, and child-birth – Brides & Babies Inc. is the place to visit. I have always been fascinated with the bridal industry and I enjoy shopping for baby products, so I thought to myself, why not start a business that combines all of my interests.
Most brides in Nigeria want to be mothers so they can kill two birds with one stone by coming to a store, which adequately captures the experience from wedding through pregnancy, and child-birth. We have a holistic view on the woman experience. I sell products like custom-made wedding dresses, brand name baby wears, American branded pediatric and women’s health products with free consultation by yours truly.
What are four key things you have learned since starting your business?
I have learned so much that I cannot begin to say how much I have grown.
1. Be Innovative! Be Patient! Be Consistent! Be Persistent!
Brides & Babies Inc. opened a month ago and in developing the concept for the store, it was difficult explaining my vision to Abuja-based Nigerian architects. Sorry to say, but most people in Nigeria are not used to developing new ways of doing things. So when I had to develop the concept for the store, not only did I have to explain my vision, I spent lots of time handholding these various vendors throughout the process. It was very time-consuming, but I exercised patience and I am glad that everything worked out.
Yes, finding the right architect to bring my vision to life was tough. People kept doing the wrong things, so I needed to be extremely patient, consistent, and persistent. Entrepreneurs in Nigeria should not be afraid to say NO! or push vendors to go beyond, so that you are not stuck with mediocre results but excellent work and end products.
2. Do not be afraid to ask questions. When looking for a space to rent, I asked around for a list of credible landlords to rent from. I spoke with friends, colleagues, and family members. Once I got a referral, I went directly to the landlord and negotiated for a good deal.
3. Speak to the right people. Network and get connected. It is important to be connected to the right people.
4. Have personal integrity – it goes a long way.
What or who inspired you to start your business?
My husband inspired me. He felt really bad that I had to leave a career that had spanned over seven (7) years to go with him on his move to Nigeria. The passion for what I do, the vision, and the dream that I had, to create a one-of-a-kind shopping experience with a western touch in Nigeria also inspired me. Lastly, the opportunity to create a solid financial future for my children and family.
How many people have you hired so far?
I don’t just have staff persons, I have properly trained staff members. I want my staff to portray my vision and render exquisite customer service to all of my clients, especially when I am not there. I want the right team selling my brand and I tell my staff not to judge anyone who comes into the store based on looks. I also tell them not to be partial towards a particular client because of who they are – everyone that comes in to my store matters.
Having employees can help you to grow your business to the next level but having bad employees is the worst thing that can happen to a small business owner. I make an effort to serve as a mentor to my employees but business owners should not be afraid to let go of bad employees. Bad employees can make or break your business. Bad news gets around quickly – your reputation is everything.
What is your five-year plan?
We have a plan to expand into various cities across Nigeria but currently, we are focused on establishing a solid brand that provides excellent customer service.
What is your competitive edge?
I sell unique products at a good price. We provide value and excellent customer service. Things in Abuja are very expensive so I make sure that my clients have the highest quality products for the best price. I go to great lengths to make all of my customers happy and it doesn’t matter who they are.
Nigerian women do not need to go abroad to shop for a wedding dress, they can come to my store. I handpick all the items and everything is personally approved. We encourage women to think ahead especially on how to accommodate children into their lives. You need to come to my store to experience what I am talking about. We certainly look forward to having you. We provide healthcare consultation and sell American branded healthcare products – we are a holistic retail store.
How have you financed your business?
Real estate in Nigeria is very expensive so we bootstrapped to start this business. My husband and I saved our money. My advice to those looking to start a business, is to plan ahead, save up, or perhaps get a loan with stable rates and have a top-notch marketing strategy.
How do you balance all of your roles?
It is quite difficult trying to balance and manage my roles as a mother, wife, employer, friend, and mentor. However, l love and enjoy what I do – so I try to be the best wife, mother, and entrepreneur that I can be with an appreciation towards serving God – It feels like my purpose. I take a break when I need to and make sure that it is a relaxed work atmosphere for my workers and my customers.
What issues do you face as a female entrepreneur?
Security is a major issue. As you promote your business, more people will get to know your face and your name. So please pick a safe location and be willing to pay for good security. I am security conscious, sometimes I would like my staff and I to stay late at work but I cannot risk it.
How can women entrepreneurs support each other?
Yes! More women entrepreneurs need to support one another. Understanding that we all have something in common is very important. We need more conferences and round tables – we need to be connected.
Brides & Babies Inc. is located here:
130 Aminu Kano Crescent
(Adjacent to Glo, before Assorted)
Wuse 2 (II), Nigeria Abuja, FCT
Connect here on Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/BridesandBabies