Hanifa Mansur Ahmed is the CEO of H-87 Apparel. In this interview, the 32-year-old indigene of Kano State tells us how she started her clothing line and what she hopes for in the future.
How did you start the business and what does it take to be a professional?
I have a business background and I have always had an interest in fashion design and tailoring.
I started the business officially in 2016. For a long time, I wanted to own my own business and for me, it had to be in the fashion design industry because that is what I was interested in. I also got a lot of encouragement and support of members from my family and friends.
A professional in this field must be very creative, very hard working and persistent, someone with very strong communication and interpersonal skills, someone that pays attention to detail or has a very good eye for detail, someone who has an interest in fashion trends.
What was your starting capital, and is the business lucrative?
I started with about N1 million which was given to me by my father, to encourage me.
The sector is a growing one with lots of potentials though the industry is rapidly growing and highly competitive, it is still very lucrative because people always want to buy clothes and the more creative you are the more attention you get. So yes, it is a lucrative business.
What motivates you to do your job?
For me, the main motivation for the business is seeing people in outfits designed by me in different parts of the world.
How do you attract customers to buy your designs?
Some of the ways we attract customers are by having in-store events such as pop up shops with other brands, sales events and exhibitions, fashion shoots and social media adverts. The target audience for H-87 Apparel is currently females between the age of 15 and 40 although it is not exclusive to this age group and gender. We also sell men’s fabrics and are about to start tailoring for men.
What challenges do you face in this venture?
One of the challenges we face is the non-availability of quality materials. Sometimes we have an idea of a style we would like to make, unfortunately, some of the materials needed for it are not available in the market. There are times that we search for certain thread colours but would not find them anywhere in Abuja and will have to source them from either Lagos or even another country.
Also, the saturation in the industry is a challenge sometimes because you find that most brands make very similar outfits. So unless you are very creative, it might be a big struggle setting yourself apart from the rest.
But of all these, I think the biggest challenge is finding dedicated and professional staff that are reliable and efficient. I am very lucky to have found my current team but before them, it was a real struggle. I had to go through over five sets of tailors within three years. Sometimes getting the tailor to understand and produce the styles is hard if they are not familiar with the design.
What is the best lesson you have learnt over the years?
For me, the best lesson I have learnt is that not every day will be good but every day spent doing what you love doing would be worth it no matter the outcome. There is always an experience to be gained and a lesson to be learnt.
Most of my inspiration comes from other people. I know a lot of hardworking people that are very dedicated and passionate about what they do and have prospered. I love to see people flourishing in their various businesses as a result of hard work and consistency; this motivates me and makes me want to push harder.
What advice do you have for youths out there?
For the unemployed youth, I would encourage them to continue being patient and keep trying; never to give up. Anyone with an idea should be very dedicated and do his or her best to make it come to fruition. Don’t waste too much time thinking of all the possible things that could go wrong but think of what you could be missing out on if you never give it a try.
For anyone that is starting a business in the fashion design industry, I will advise that they ensure that they actually have a passion for it because that would be their motivation, especially in times when things aren’t going as well as they would like. Passion is what would make you keep pushing every day regardless of the outcome of your efforts.