This year, BellaNaija is kicking off its BN Making It! series on an interesting and homely note. We’re going to focus on young, fabulous entrepreneurs who manage to keep their heads above the tide of challenges.
We’re starting 2015 with medical doctor-turned lifestyle enterpreneur, Samiah Oyekan-Ahmed. In her interview with BN, she described herself as a God loving, family centric homebody.
Her entrepreneurial spirit kicked in when she was 17 and studying to be a doctor. She ran a mini-gift shop and designed clothes.
Today, Samiah runs Fusion Lifestyle, a shopping event based in Abuja, FCT. In this refreshing interview with BN, she gives us a sneak peek into her life. We hope you enjoy it.
So, who is Samiah?
I’m a muslimah, wife, mother of 2 and medical doctor turned entrepreneur in that order. I have an MBBS from the Lagos State University College of Medicine and I’m a completely self taught entrepreneur. I’m super passionate about my religion, completely obsessed with my husband and kids, and love being an entrepreneur far more than I did being a doctor!
How did you become this multi-dimensional entrepreneur?
I currently run three businesses. Fusion Lifestyle Limited is the oldest and what we do is organise premium trade events in Abuja and Lagos as well as provide various platforms for entrepreneurs to grow and showcase their businesses. I actually got into it out of boredom. I’m in an inter-tribal marriage, so I relocated from Lagos to Abuja right after my house job. My husband was based in England at the time so I shuttled back and forth for a bit and I couldn’t work as a doctor because I wasn’t settled. I soon became quite bored and on one of my visits to Lagos, I attended a fantastic shopping event called Boutiq YuRoq which gave me the basic idea for a shopping event in Abuja.
The challenges were huge! I was in a new town where I knew no one, had a baby on the way, but I managed to pull off a great event which I had intended to be a one-off. We, however, grew into quarterly events when people started demanding for more of it. And that’s what we’ve been doing since with a lot of growth and expansion along the way.
The Gift Source is something I’ve always wanted to do! I even had a mini gift shop in medical school. I realized there was a huge gap for provision of quality gift items for different purposes in Nigeria and I decided to jump right in. There are many gift companies, some which are quite expensive, others with low quality items, I decided to merge great quality with affordablility and those are out two strongest selling points!
How long have you been running these businesses?
Fusion Lifestyle has been running for five years. My other company, The Gift Source, which is a one stop gift resource company is in its second year, and I’ve literally just started a third one, Jewelscent Nigeria, which will be the exclusive distributor for Jewelscent USA in Nigeria.
What’s the high point being an entrepreneur?
For me it’s just the fact that it is mine! That’s my constant high point. I don’t report to any one but myself. Big deals for my gift company make me super happy, and I get a tingle every single time I see the massive turn out of participants and guests at any of our events at Fusion Lifestyle!
Can you describe an average day in Samiah’s life?
I wake up early to pray with my husband, then go back to bed for another hour or two of sleep. This is probably the most important period of sleep for me. If I don’t get it, I’m wasted the whole day! Then I have to get up to dress my kids for school. I have two nannies, but I still dress them every day and see them off to go to school. Then I try to get in at least 30 minutes of exercise (not always, but I try). I fix breakfast for my husband, which is another thing I still do. I make 95% of all my husband’s meals – it must be my OCD. I keep saying i’ll get a cook but I just don’t.
After that, it’s meetings, filling orders and deliveries, and just work! Some days are super hectic, and some are so light I can stay in bed and read a book! I do this the whole day, around cooking, being wife and mummy and my religious obligations. Night time is my best time because I’m quite nocturnal and never go to bed early. I spend hours on the Internet looking for new suppliers for my gift company, learning new techniques and finishing up the days work. Then I go to bed usually at about 2am and start it all over again!
You have two kids. How do you balance the family-work dynamics?
I wish I could say I balance. I honestly do what I have to do and make sure time spent on family or work is qualitative as against just quantitative. My family is a young one and my kids are 5 and 4 years old, so it’s very important to be there in all the ways that matter now.
What keeps you trudging on? What’s that thing that keeps the flame going?
I never dabble into anything I’m not strongly passionate about, no matter how profitable it may seem. Passion keeps me going! Through the insanity of being an entrepreneur in a country like ours, its the love of what I do that pushes me. I’m a deeply spiritual person, so ultimately though, it’s all God’s blessings.
Where do you see yourself in the next 5 years?
I see a lot of growth and expansion for every single business I run, those currently in existence, and those still in my head or just on paper. I also hope I have competent people running the day-to-day aspects of them and I can sit back and run things from the background.
Knowing what you know about running a business in Nigeria, would your advocate passion for profitability?
I am a strong advocate for passion in everything you do! Passion with business sense will bring profitability which will last a lot longer than if passion is absent. Passion without profitability can be demoralizing, so one must find away to make it translate into profitability.
Let’s relax a bit
Can you please take us through your beauty regimen?
I am the most low maintenance woman ever! I cleanse, tone, moisturize my face twice a day and I wear very minimal almost non-existent make up. I am a hijabi but I’m also big on healthy hair which I got into after I had my little girl. I treat my hair myself every week because I’ve come to realize a lot of salons are quite clueless! I visit my salon for a relaxer treatment when needed, but that’s it. My washing, deep conditioning, protein treatments etc are all done at home. I don’t use hair extensions, I don’t fix my nails and I just get a pedicure as frequently as I can! I did tell you I was low maintenance!
What’s the most exotic place you’ve ever been?
Gosh, now I’m going to sound so boring! But I’m a typical Nigerian and most of my travels have been to the very typical USA, England and UAE. But my absolute favorite place I’ve ever visited is Saudi Arabia. Apart from the very obvious reasons, its a very cultural place with rich history. But I do have an exotic wish list which includes Bali, Sri Lanka and many cities !
Which African fashion icon would you raid her wardrobe
Not sure if she qualifies, but Folake Huntoon of StylePantry is my absolute style crush. I couldn’t wear a quarter of what she wears, but gosh, if I could, I would! She’s so effortlessly stylish!!!
Three things you can’t absolutely go anywhere without?
Lip balm, a note book and my phone!