Be Innovative! Halima tells African Women Entrepreneurs

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

Twitterhttps://twitter.com/BridesandBabies

 

 

 

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Voices of African Women Entrepreneurs

Princess Jenkins, Owner and Chief Fashion Director

 

The Power in Femininity!

The African Women Power (AWP) Network  sat down with Princess Jenkins, Owner and Chief Fashion Director of the Brownstone Woman Clothing Boutique in Harlem, New York. It was an absolute pleasure to speak with Princess. She is a warm and extremely knowledgeable person. Princess shared many powerful stories and wonderful insight, which we would like to share with you.

What inspired you to start your business?

I have always wanted to start my own business and what inspires me I think, is what inspires most entrepreneurs – the willingness to depend on your own talent to make a way for yourself in the universe, the desire for freedom, and a way to create your own source of income. Entrepreneurship for me is believing that the talent God has given you, is adequate to provide you with everything that you will need to be successful in your work.  My work in fashion is my passion. I enjoy working with and helping women to understand their own personal beauty, and create their own sense of style. I strongly believe that we do that well at the Brownstone.

What are the key things that you have learned since starting your business?

I have learned that people will appreciate your work if you are at your best. I have also learned that it is okay to fail. You cannot be afraid to fail – the more risks you take, the better.

What is the goal of your business?

Our goal is to make sure that every amazing woman who comes to my store has a wonderful experience. My company targets women who want to look like the queens that they are. I also focus on image consulting. Overall, it is my goal to make sure that all of my customers are happy and satisfied. I really do enjoy working for myself hence, my reputation is everything.

What advice do you have for women looking to start their business?

I will tell women to invest in their appearance,  especially if you are a start-up entrepreneur. When you first start, nobody knows you and nobody cares unless you have a presence that makes people stop long enough to hear you talk – then they will get to know you. Image is very important and you should build one as you move. Make sure that you are not stuck in time with your image. Stop and take care of yourself no matter how budget restricted you are. Get your nails, hair, and makeup done. It is the whole package. Also, have a power suit – even if it is only one.

Build on a wardrobe, find a signature style that is comfortable to you, and always be a woman. Do not be afraid to be a girl. Use your girl power to your advantage, allow yourself to explore different styles, and be sure that you are true to yourself in your exploration. There is so much power in femininity, you cannot be a mock version of that.

 

What sorts of challenges do you face?

· Meeting payroll – I need to make sure that there is enough money to go around as I am responsible to my employees.

· Making my customers happy – I need to always make sure that I have the right merchandise at my stores.

· Lastly, making life happen – I am a wife, I am a mother, I am a sister, I am a sibling, and I am a child. Despite being a successful businesswoman, I have to fulfill and juggle all of these roles. My wonderful husband is extremely supportive and my daughter understands. I am grateful to my family and my support system.

What are your plans for your business ?

(My) immediate plan is to open a storefront in Brooklyn. My long-term goal is to continue to grow and expand the Brownstone Woman brand across the U.S.  Another long-term goal is to travel across the world teaching everything that I have learned in my entrepreneurial journey to women and young people in the developing world.

How can women continue to support each other?

Women have to create their own support clubs and networks and these groups need to be inclusive. Men have created these clubs and that is how they climb up the ladder. Also, we need to learn how to function and connect with people outside of our networks and comfort zone because people who don’t look like you also want to be helpful.

 

This summer, my daughter opens a lemonade stand called Lou Lou’s Lemonade Stand – named after her grandmother.  It is important that young girls start their entrepreneurial journey at a young age. It teaches them to be financially responsible – the earlier, the better.

Princess is my mentor and dear friend. I have shopped at The Brownstone Woman several times and I can personally vouch for the phenomenal shopping experience – words cannot describe. I recommend her store.

Princess owns two stores in Harlem at the following locations:

The Brownstone
24 East 125th Street
New York, NY 10035

The Brownstone
633 Lenox Avenue
Between 141 and 142 street
New York, NY 10037

Shop online or connect with Princess here: http://thebrownstonewoman.com/

Voices of African Women Entrepreneurs

Ijeoma Genevieve Mbamalu, Founder, MUI|PR

 

The African Women Power (AWP) Network sat down with the Chief Executive Officer of  MUI|PR, Ijeoma Genevieve Mbamalu. We asked her a series of insightful questions that we would like to share with you. Our aim is to inspire upcoming and existing women business owners as they move along in their entrepreneurial journey.

What inspired you to start your company ? 

Three things inspired me to start my business. First – the need to be re-connected with the Nigerian culture.  I had been away from Nigeria for a long time and could no longer speak my tribal language, Igbo.  Starting this business was my way to re-connect with my culture and my roots.  Second – the need to survive. I lost my father at a young age and as the first-born of my family,  I had the responsibility of being a provider. Starting my business gave me a stable source of income during this difficult time. Lastly – my company fills a need.  MUI | PR serves as a platform to celebrate and showcase African products, goods, and services in a positive way.

What is the goal of your business  ?

Our goal is to get African business owners publicity, connect them to the right press channels, and serve as an information highway.  My company is about good publicity for African businesses.

How did you come up with the name of your business ? 

The name of my company is French. My mother speaks the language and I wanted the name of my company to be inclusive of French-speaking Africans. I am also working on re-branding MUI | PR by giving it an identity face-lift. Thus, in the new year, the company will be touted publicly as MUI-The PR Company. Very soon, we will unveil our new website.

What is your competitive advantage ? 

My ability to offer PR solutions and results for my clients – I am able to leverage and pull together resources in the entertainment, music, and fashion  arenas.

How did you finance your business ? 

Bootstrapping – as we grow and expand, we will seek other forms of financing.

What advice do you have for people looking to start their own business ? 

You can not be afraid to fail. You learn more from your failures.  Just go for it!   The journey will not be easy but it is certainly worth it.

Who is your target market ? 

U.S based African businesses in the fashion and music industry – they include photographers, clothing designers, music artists, and DJs.

Where do you see your company five years from now ? 

I see MUI | PR going global by expanding our reach to include all Africans in the diaspora. I also look forward to working with high-end magazines.  MUI | PR will continue to promote African brands and serve as the  PR group that represents the best interest of African businesses.

Connect with Ijeoma here:

Websitehttp://www.muipr.com/

Twitterhttp://twitter.com/MUIPR

 

 

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