Securing Her Bag: This Uniben Student is Trying to Bag a Degree while Selling Bags

Final year Uniben Microbiology student started her Bag business after taking lessons from the university of YouTube.

What was your earliest memory of money?

I really can’t remember, I had always used money, it was something that had just been there and I didn’t have to think too deeply abouit t until I got into senior secondary school when I was 12 and realized that you needed money to make things happen.

What made you come to this realization?

So right from childhood I always wanted to work with the United Nations, UNICEF, WHO, or any other international or humanitarian organization involved in helping women and children or giving back to the community. Good education and health have always been key to me and I wanted to put in the effort to help people who did not have access to these privileges. And I came to the realisation that to do all of these you need money, it’s not just okay to have wishes, you need to make a conscious financial effort to achieve this.

What did you want to become as a child?

I wanted to be a doctor, and a gynecologist in line with my desire to help women. I used to read a lot as a child, emphasis on as a child because I don’t do so as much now, and somewhere I read about Obstetrics fistula and some of the other problems women go through, how in some places young girls have problems giving birth because they were married off early and their bodies are not yet developed enough to have children. It made me really sad and I wanted to do my part to alleviate the situation.

What are you studying now?

Unfortunately I couldn’t meet the cut-off mark to study medicine at Uniben so they gave me microbiology and I’ve come to love it. now I’ve taken an interest in data science, so I’ll be focusing on Microbiology using data science, specializing in genetics.

Cool! Tell me about your business and how you started?

So I run a fashion brand, the idea is to produce a wide range of clothing items but because of limited funding I’m focused on making only tote bags, duffel bags and fanny packs now. I started my business in 2020, but before that I started my fashion career in 2016 when I went to fashion school for more than a year, I wanted to start a ready to wear brand at the time but because of funding which is still a problem now, I had to put a pin in that. Also, I got admission into school and that pretty much upended all my business plans. In 2020 I was watching this YouTube video and I saw a tote bag I really liked so went on Instagram and found a vendor that sold tote bags but it was too expensive. I realized I could actually make this thing by myself. So I went on YouTube again watched a tutorial and made my first bag. I took it to school and everyone liked it and complimented me. So I decided to turn it into a business. At first, I started with cotton materials because that’s what everyone was doing but I wasn’t satisfied with the quality so I switched to jean materials and then I also started making fanny packs. A friend needed a durag and I said I can do it, so I watched a YouTube video and learnt how to make it. So I started making durags on the side too.

What did your parents think about you running a business?

My parents are the biggest support system I have. When I decided to start, they were not sure I could cope but once I started they just continually helped me. Sometimes after I finished sewing my dad would help me iron the bags. Sometimes my mum will stay up with me late into the night to keep me company when I have a lot of orders to fulfill. They’ve just been very supportive.

How do you handle running a business and school?

At the beginning it was quite confusing because I did not have a sewing machine in school, I live in Lagos and school in Benin. So at first I thought I was going to make the bags in bulk at home and take to school to sell but that didn’t work. My supply quickly finished and orders were still coming in. And I needed the extra money that was coming in so I asked on twitter if there was anyone who could help me with a machine and someone agreed to help me free of charge. Also when I had to do my industrial training in another state I put the business on hold for a while.

How does it feel like running your own business?

It’s good for the most part, when the orders are coming in and I’m fulfilling them on time, being creative and making something with your own hands and having it coming out nice, that’s a good feeling. The cash is also nice to have because I don’t have to depend on my parents for everything, and it makes me feel responsible because I can help my parents with little things around the house. I can also get gifts for friends and pay my tithe. But it can also be overwhelming when the orders are too much and I don’t I have a lot on my plate. Also there’s impostor syndrome where you feel like you’re not doing well enough and you’re wasting your time. But for the most part it feels really good.

What are your worst and best business experiences?

My best experience was the first time I got an order from somewhere very far, it was Port Harcourt, it was the first duffel bag I made and this guy ordered it and even though there were some glitches and it wasn’t as nice as what I make now, he liked it. It was good to know that my business was moving beyond the confines of Lagos and Benin. Also another highlight was the first time my durags went to Canada. Somebody play me Foreign by Simi, even though I’ve not yet japa’d, my durag has. My worst experience didn’t come from me, it came from a printer I had contracted to make a design on a tote bag I’d made. And this guy did rubbish and completely ruined the order. I was so sad and disappointed, it can be really difficult collaborating with people to make a product because not everyone has your standard of excellence.

What’s your relationship with money like?

It’s not bad, I think. My idea of money is that it should be used for investments, in that way the money grows instead of saving and it’s the same amount you saved that you get back sometimes with a little interest. I’ve not yet started making any investments yet because I don’t have as much money as I’d like but I plan to invest in crypto and shares when I do.

What advice do you have for students starting a business?

Set your priorities right. Learn to manage your time properly and to find the right balance between school and business one doesn’t have to suffer for the other to thrive, know what works for you and know your potential. Entrepreneurship is not for everybody, if you can’t do it then don’t but it is possible to be an entrepreneur while in school and be successful in your school work, don’t let anyone make you feel less.

Securing Her Bag highlights the entrepreneurial and career journeys of Nigerian female university students. If you’d love to share your story on the Securing Her Bag series, please send an email to hello@hervest.ng or fill this form

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