I tried for a long time to not make my Blog Cliche, to try and not make it focused on particular themes because it sort of reduces the reader to expecting certain things from me. As I tell everyone, my blog is where I come to express myself . I just want to write about every and anything I think about as long as I can put it into words. I’ve been trying to move away from interviews and all because I see them as topics that people would see on almost every blog. People want to feature too, I try to stall. But maybe this isnt about me not being cliche, maybe I am just being lazy. Lol.
So I have been thinking of how I can infuse interviews and collaborations and features into this and an oportunity came when I realised Aisha’s business would be turning one and she wouldnt mind writing about her story. Aisha is my own baby girl and I wrote about her business during the November Happiness Challenge. We go way back and I really cant be more proud of how far she has gone with her modest fashion business. Let’s hear her talk:
March 30 makes it one year we officially launched our stay on Social Media via short videos showing you what new thing we have for you and it’s been an exciting journey so far!… It’s been filled up and downs but the thoughts of how much of a supportive tribe we have built in the last one year, makes the whole strife worth it.
As a fresh man in the university, I was used to the usual no head cover way of dressing as it wasn’t enforced by my parents. So, I’d pack my hair in a neat bond and have people (males especially) pass nice comments. This didn’t last two weeks as I began to have this self-consciousness, I always had a veil and a wrapper in my bag for prayer, which was like a prayer costume once at the masjid and I always got the encouraging comments from the sisters in the masjid. You know my response already “may Allah make it easy’’(most of us have been there before). So, I started with wearing caps/turbans, Alhamdulilah and in another two weeks, I found myself in front of the mirror with a pashmina scarf, trying what hijab styles I had seen on several sisters on campus. It looked pretty on me. One mind said to yank it off and tie it the turban way , but I made up my mind to wear it and Alhamdulilah, that was how my hijab story started.
My mum didn’t like the idea of wearing the hijab at that stage. She felt I didn’t have a self- conviction as to why and I still had some more time to do some ‘’shakara’’( whose mum thinks or thought this way too?) but I insisted on wearing it and she soon agreed with me on the basis that I had to keep it smart and fashionable. Before the hijab, she already made rules like “WEAR MORE OF SKIRTS! ONLY LONG TOPS ON TROUSERS IF YOU HAVE TO’’ On many of her trips, she’d buy me pretty hijabs, pins, tunics and skirts just so she makes sure I kept to the conditions as she still did all of my shopping ( well, she pretty much still does most of it) at that time. Soon enough, I became a role model to my friends and other muslim ladies in their first year, if I could start wearing it and still looked pretty, they were inspired, I remember how I’d style hijabs for my friends on mornings before we went for lectures. We all became pros and got our own individual styles after a while but in this time I had friends take one or two scarves from my wardrobe, I’d buy some during the holidays and give to my friends at the cost price, many as gifts and it all didn’t appear to me that I had a passion for modest fashion already.
My aunty who is a hijabie was dazed, we had lived together all along before her marriage but she didn’t imagine me wearing the hijab on a regular. I then boasted as to how I was even helping people with their hijab needs and styling. She said to me, ‘’why don’t you get these things and make them available to your friends at some extra cost. You know I sold shoes when I was in school too”. I discarded the thoughts, I wasn’t going to spend five (5) years studying agricultural economics, I had set out for medicine and was still juggling studying for another jamb with these lectures in school. No way I could make out time to do that.
My second year in university was one that required you being in the classroom morning till evening (Apparently, medicine didn’t work again) and burning the night candles to ace the bulky yet many courses. You can tell what happened again, I didn’t give the business a thought. At the end of my second year, I aced my courses and was on the top list in my class. I wasn’t happy still, I wanted medicine but that tiny self- confidence began to grow. This grade won me a seat in the Agricultural economics department and it was just enough consolation for me, Alhamdulilah.
Father was impressed with the second year grades, so during the short break, he suggested I learn how to drive. My sister, Maryam had just got an admission to study in the college of medicine in the same university as me . “You and your sister can use the car to navigate your ways around campus” he said. What a life saver! I lived in a boys quarters that was far away from civilisation. I had to walk my way to school every morning as you’d never find cabs around there. Then the pieces began to make a pretty design in my head but still looked vague. First series of lectures in the agricultural economics department were on Agribusiness management, Micro-economics and Agricultural finance, business records and contrary to my opinion and of several people, only farming ideas were taught in a regular agricultural economics class. Absolutely wrong! The basic economics is taught and an application to agriculture comes next. A few lecturers would ask in the middle of a class, who had a business or intended having one. My friends who knew about it will mention my name in unison ”Aishah” and I’d have to stand and give a brief intro and talk to the lecturer, more like a free consultation session. I was never the type to be asked questions and look blank. I just needed to blurt out something even in the worst scenarios. I’d give business-minded responses that had just been lying in my subconscious and end with capital intensivity and a doubting face (my dreams looked too big for me to accomplish, even now I still shiver at some thoughts) and it’d lead to further questions which maybe related to what had been taught. I realised I just needed a push! A female lecturer invited me to her office on one of these days, she encouraged me and of course reminded me of how I had to take my courses seriously too, then I thanked Allah, seems like He had a better plan asides medicine for me. I wrote out my plans and spoke to mother about it. My trunk wasn’t just going to sit there useless. She kicked against it at first and then said to see what grades the semester ends with, else, I shut the business down. She made a few calls and with my savings and a “loan’’ from her, my trunk made new friends in a week.
The mobile business started and I was the first and only lady student to pull into the masjid on every jumah day( this would mean that I had woken up early enough to wash the car myself before going for lectures, sometimes I did it the previous day), get a strategic parking space, open my trunk and stand in the sun for about 3 hours and attend to customers!. It was a new one in the university environment, people were dazed especially because I obviously looked small, I had just clocked 19 at the time(2013) and my trunk always had beautiful and unique items in them. I began to grow a customer base, I’d treat every customer with utmost respect (it earned me a lot),a large number who were fellow students as me, we’d interact on a personal note, help them mix and match when they had events and I’d ditch speaking English for Yoruba when I had older clients to deal with, they loved it!. Soon enough, I became a household name ( the business didn’t even have a name at the time) in the university and environs. People would come to pray in the masjid in Unibadan with an intention to shop after jumah. Many didn’t even know me but the description was clear ’’Aishah, the only girl at the parking lot with a trunk of hijabs and accessories’’, some others had my phone number and could track with it.
Consistency was my watchword here and it was what pushed me on every Friday morning when I was feeling lazy. Every business has a goodwill that stems from their clients’ perception of them and is pretty much as easy to lose as gained .I got full support of family and we made joint efforts to remain actors in the market.
The years passed and one friend or the other will tell me about how I could increase sales with the social media. I wasn’t cut out for it ( I had school grades and a weekly physical market to deal with). At the end of my fourth year in uni, I was convinced that I had laid a solid foundation in terms of grades. So, I explored the online business with a major focus on Instagram. We set out for a photo shoot, it didn’t seem so easy considering all the logistics involved as I had a low-cost budget but it was worth the try! Alhamdulilah. In less than two months (March 2016), I realised a gap that needed to be filled, it had been one I had constantly tried to find ways around but just never got it. Very of many of my corporate muslimah customers always wanted instant hijabs that’d suit their office wears but the market was flooded with the regular ready to wear hijabs. The opportunity to fill this gap came and in no time, I took advantage of it, took a leap of faith and recorded short video clips, the feedback was overwhelming. We got advices, critics and a support we didn’t imagine and it definitely made us bigger and better.
Final year was the toughest for me( but Today, I’m grateful to Allah for planning my university education that way, a good percentage of what I apply to the business today were learnt in the lecture rooms.) I had to multi-task like I never have, from park A to park B dispatching orders, taking orders, working on bridal pieces with close deadlines, having bridal styling sessions , managing the growing customer base and of course staying up to study . I have graduated now and I can only say Alhamdulilah, Allah has been merciful.
In that one year, you have stayed and grown with us and we can’t but appreciate your loyal support and continuous patronage. We ask that you remain on this boat ride with us as we promise to serve you the best of what we know how to do best, bringing you quality, unique and affordable modest fashion accessories at your own convenience. Won’t you rather stay with us?
To mark our first anniversary on Instagram, we are having a sales promotion you don’t want to miss out on. Looking back at the last one year, we want to appreciate your loyalty, patronage and support. We’re not where we want to be yet but we’re hopeful that you’d stand by us in years to come.Please accept our token of appreciation. Got your shopping bags already??
I’m Aishah Olayiwola, a graduate of Agricultural economics and a Modest Fashion Entrepreneur.
So, there we have it guys. Isn’t that just a beautiful story? Please don’t miss out in the freebie. Do check her out on Instagram (@hijabsbyaeesha) to participate and also to patronize for yourselves and family.
If you’d like to be featured here, you have a collaboration idea you want to do with me or you just have anything you want to share , please send me an email on firstname.lastname@example.org and We are good to go.
I’ll be back. BOS