Amina Mukhtar-Shagari is a fashion designer and Chief Executive Officer of Amina the Brand. She tells TOFARATI IGE about her entrepreneurial strides
What are your educational qualifications?
I had my secondary education at Regent School in Abuja. I went on to study Business Management at Coventry University, United Kingdom.
What motivated you to go into business?
My passion for fashion started at a very young age. I have always enjoyed styling and creating looks. In 2016, I officially started my journey as a fashion blogger. Surprisingly, a lot of people showed interested in the looks I created, especially abayas (flowing gowns). This motivated me to launch my own abaya line called, ‘Le Voile’. After I graduated from the university, I fell out of love with abaya design and interest and joy in creating and wearing comfortable pieces. I wanted to create something that would incorporate lounge wear into everyday clothes. That is how Amina the Brand started.
What satisfaction do you derive from what you do?
Being able to create my own designs and getting people to appreciate my hard work gives me so much joy.
What was the initial reaction of your parents to your chosen career after graduation?
My parents have always been extremely supportive of my dreams and they have consistently encouraged me to realise my ambitions.
I was never denied the opportunity of exploring my potential. I owe a lot to my parents because they never hold back when it comes to empowering and supporting their children.
They have made a lot of sacrifices for me and my siblings, and I am grateful for that. I thank them for their constant support and encouragement.
What were the initial plans your parents had for you, as regards your career path?
My parents have always encouraged me to choose a career path I have passion for. They have always harped on the importance of knowing my purpose and following my dreams.
What were the initial challenges you faced when you started the business?
Consistency has always been a challenge for me. Many times, I feel like giving up but my passion keeps me going. I am aware that nothing good comes easy, and there is nothing worthwhile one embarks on that one will not face challenges along the way.
Also, I try as much as I can to make my pieces affordable. But with the current surge in inflation, it is impossible to maintain the same prices for a long period.
It really is a tough time to be an entrepreneur, but with the grace of God, consistency and determination, we will overcome.
How were you able to surmount the challenges?
I have learnt that business is a game of ups and downs, and wins and loses. But with hard work, patience and prayer, everything will fall into place. The passion I have for what I do is what keeps me going, especially at times when I feel like I am not doing enough. Also, as prices are increasing, I ensure that the quality of my products improve to give my clients value for their money.
What advice do you have for the youths in the light of the current unemployment situation?
They should think outside the box. There are so many opportunities out there to tap into. They should find their passion and believe in themselves.
Your grandfather, Shehu Shagari, was the first democratically elected Nigerian president. What can you tell us about him?
He was a man of integrity and a complete gentleman. I loved and respected him so much, and I am glad that he was able to make meaningful contributions to the growth of the nation.
It is also a motivation for me not to soil the family name, but to keep working hard to bring more glory to the name and family.
Do you have any political ambition?
I do not have any such plans at the moment.
How do you think youths can realise their political ambitions in the light of the heavily monetised political landscape in the country?
Honestly, I do not like the current political environment. I believe, as youths, we should change the narrative for the sake of our beloved country.
Have you ever had any corporate work experience?
No, I have not.
How many employees do you have?
I have five members of staff, but our pieces are made in a factory in Abuja.
What is the most challenging outfit you’ve ever made?
I cannot think of any at the moment. All our pieces are made by skilled and experienced tailors without complications.
What are your short-term and long-term plans for your career?
At the moment, my goal is to remain consistent, work harder and build my brand. My long-term goal is to have my products in stores around the world.
When it comes to fashion, I want to be a household name, and I am working intentionally hard towards achieving that goal.
What do you love most about being an entrepreneur?
I love the fact that I am able to use my passion and creativity to turn my dreams into reality. Also, it helps that I have complete control over my time and energy.
Also, the feeling of being financially independent is something I will not trade for anything else.
What can you recall of your childhood?
I am from Sokoto State and that is where I was raised. I come from a large family and I have 20 siblings. All members of my family share a really strong bond as we all grew up in the same compound. My father is a politician, while my mother is a businesswoman. I have always looked up to my parents and aspired to be like them. At the age of five, I relocated from Sokoto to Abuja with my parents, and that was where I completed my elementary and secondary education.