Serah Kassim, the Fashionpreneur
Meet Serah Kassim, the Nigerian Fashionpreneur
At the very beginning:
My love for fashion was born out of necessity, the need to “slay” on Social Night!
As a teenager in boarding school, the Saturday Social Night gatherings were one of the few highlights of my week, I could take time off my studies to have fun. There was a but, even though we were allowed to ditch our drabby looks and wear some lipgloss we, however, had to do this wearing our Daywear: I remember the checkered dresses all students wore. By my 2nd year, I decided that I wouldn’t go to the social night looking like I did every other day, I would “switch up” my outfits as much as I could. My mom, being a single mother with two mouths to feed and a full-time job to keep, had no time to do this for me. Instead, she showed me how -I’m so glad that I paid attention!
I loved the stuff I was able to come up with, the reactions I got from my teenage friends and the boys too! So, I did more, took bigger risks, made more daring outfits and I got really good at it. By my fifth year, I was making my own Social Night outfits.
That phase of my life ended, and I spent the next four years studying physiology, structure, genetics, ecology, distribution, classification, and economic importance of plants: Botany in the University of Lagos. I love plants but I love fashion more.
My Biggest Influencers, now my biggest Fans
My mum and grandma are my biggest fashion influences, they were both tailors. In fact, my grandmother was nicknamed “Tailor abepetesi” in Yoruba dialect it translates to “tailor beneath the stairs”. I grew up watching my mum and grandma make magic with fabrics all be it with room for improvement in sophistication and finesse as they seemed to always have issues with fittings and finishing. It created a curiosity in me, I knew there had to be a way to solve that problem.
Many years later, both women are still my rock; supporting me and cheering me on.
How I started
As an undergraduate, I had a little “Goal book” where I wrote my dreams and aspirations. One of my entries for 2014 was to get trained as a fashion designer. In the same year, I opened a bank account in my business name “SerahKassin” and started saving up for my training. Two years later, I enrolled in my Pattern-Making classes.
My Tony Elumelu Foundation encounter
It is interesting how we just play around on social media, but social media has led me to my dream. I was scrolling through Instagram one afternoon in 2017 when I stumbled on a post by the Tony Elumelu foundation – the post talked about a non-refundable seed capital for entrepreneurs. Honestly, I was skeptical because there’s this common notion that “in Nigeria, everything is about connections” i.e who you know. I thought it was a publicity stunt, “ask people to apply but only choose people you know”. I also doubted that anyone would be keen on investing in/empowering a tailor when there were people pitching tech solutions, digital interventions and other lifesaving innovations. I wasn’t inventing anything; I was just improving on some things I had seen my mom and grandmother do.
Once I dealt with my initial fears by telling myself that “No one ever died from being rejected”, I applied. As the saying goes, the rest is history. I couldn’t contain my joy when I got the call that I had been selected for the programme.
I am so thankful for the Tony Elumelu Foundation, I really can’t put it in words. I’m so thankful that TEF believed in my dream and spread luck my way!
It is not just about the seed capital but the constant checking up and affirmations (mentoring), the lessons, the classes, the webinars, the additional opportunities shared. TEF became my personal advocate!
How My Business has grown.
I have had to improve on my technical skills each day, using free online training and my own trials and errors to fine-tune my skill and knowledge since I couldn’t afford any fancy fashion schools.
Being an entrepreneur has also taught me a whole different level of multi-tasking that no training could have prepared me for. On an average day, I am my own Pattern maker/creative director, finance officer, communications manager, sales associate, and procurement officer amongst other roles, but, I have embraced all of them wholeheartedly.
I recently had the pleasure of working with the CEO, TEF Foundation to make one of her outfits for the TEF Forum. It was a proud moment for me to see her walk up the stage and give her opening remarks in an outfit that I sewed and stitched for her. It meant so many things to me: That is a powerful woman pulling other women up, that’s an African, encouraging African brands, I was greatly encouraged that my gift will indeed make way for me before kings!
It’s been a learning curve, I have grown as an individual and the business has grown in leaps and bounds. I currently employ up to 6 staff; some full-time and some part-time. We are also working on new ideas to grow and expand the business.
I’d like to say this;
If you don’t try, you don’t know if it would have succeeded. To other entrepreneurs: “do not be afraid to try”, “it is also okay to fail” but “it is not okay to never have tried nor to stay down when you fail”.
Pattern Maker – Serah Kassim
11, Noble street Alagomeji Yaba Lagos, Nigeria.
Customer care: email@example.com
Mobile : 07037861486