With every Youngpreneur Interview I conduct, I find myself appreciating every young person out there who are steadily following their dreams. Many of us are not there yet, but we see the bigger picture and that has kept us moving! Our Youngpreneur today is a beautiful, talented, hardworking, cheerful, humble, young woman who has kept her dream alive and passion for years, and now she’s basically living that dream. A Tony Elumelu Foundation Entrepreneurship Programme recipient, Serah Kassim has turned her passion into profit, and she shares her journey with us.
Take a look!
A: Hi! Can you please introduce yourself?
S: Hi, I’m Serah Kassim. A Patternmaker and the creative director for the clothing brand Serah Kassim. A graduate of Botany from the University of 1st choice (Lmao, Unilag). I’m from Ogun state, Ijebu Ode precisely but I’m nothing close to stingy , lool.
A: Oh that’s really great to know! Lol. Please can you tell us a bit about your brand/business?
S: Fashion designing was something I have always loved , because growing up I had watched and seen my mum and grandma do or make magic with fabrics and I had always looked up to moment and seen myself making magic also, so while in secondary school I started trying out my hands on sewing and people welcomed it and it made me so happy and genuinely interested in the field, but knowing the kind of mum I had , you would dare say that at that time , so I made sure I made my jamb and got admission to the university and I started taking it seriously, and with diligent and commitment I must say that it has been pretty exciting and fulfilling!
A: You focused on getting your degree and still followed your dream. Amazing stuff! Before I knew you as a fashion designer, I first knew you as a pattern maker, but I didn’t quite understand what that meant. Can you please shed some light on pattern making?
S: Pattern making is kind of like the template from which the parts of a garment are traced from paper (new print) unto a fabric before they are cut out and then assembled. Patterns are usually made of paper (news print paper) . For easier digestion, just say making an auto cad presentation on your laptop i.e Architectural student before actually bringing it to life. You dig?
A: Yes I dig! Lol, it’s really great. So, what was the inspiration behind the ‘Serah Kassim’ brand?
S: The biggest inspiration is my mum. She, later the foundation and then it showed me the light, Lmao and then my brother and Friends!
A: It’s so good that you have a great support system, I’m sure it makes things easier. On a scale of 1-10, how prepared were you to go into business?
S: In fashion knowledge I’d say a 5, business and entrepreneurship wise I’d say a 5 too, my mum already paved the way, she was a tailor then stopped, and started selling tailoring materials so I was exposed to the behind the scenes of making an outfit and also the life of managing a business, then Tony Elumelu foundation happened! *Winks*
A: Wow, you were in fact quite prepared. Beautiful! With the amount of young entrepreneurs we have these days, one would think that entrepreneurship is something anybody can venture into. Now would you say this is true? If not, what is the other side to entrepreneurship that is quite oblivious to a lot of people?
S: The first advice I’d give is know thyself, you know your strength and weaknesses, people might know a little at least by studying you and all but you know yourself so well. With that being said , don’t let anyone pressure you or tell you the Entrepreneurial life is cool, it’s not, at least not when you are starting up!
1st : Doing business in Lagos, Nigeria will humble you , Lagos will humble you then. Secondly, utilities and bills eg Nepa, rents will also take a toll on you , so all I’m saying is entrepreneurship is not what entrepreneurs makes you see on the gram , people let you see what they want you to see, so the first thing is a strong passion and natural love for that thing you love, so if it’s a 9-5? Please do that with all your mind and strength because if you don’t you might end up depressed after venturing into the business and then finding out it was really not all that they painted it to be!
A: Very well said! In fact truer words have not been said. I hope you guys are taking notes, it’s not as easy as you see on the gram! I’m sure that you had some fears and reservations no matter how little before starting your clothing line, what were these fears?
S: I wouldn’t call it fear maybe I was just overthinking it then, was just what if I wasn’t really supposed to be a fashion designer, because while growing up I had a lot of things I wanted to do; I wanted to be an Agricultural economist ; one of the reason I entered botany in Unilag, an Air hostess, because a lot of people told me I smiled and laughed a lot (still want to even if it’s for a day), a professor in English, ( Lmao sounds too serious right?, yes but that was it) so I was just really sceptical and over thinking, what if it didn’t turn out that way, will I have to start over ? It got me worked up but thank God, it turned out great!
A: Girl! I can so relate, but like you said, thank God it turned out great. So far, how has it been since then?
S: It’s been amazing , full of a lot of up and downs , full of tears , full of exhaustion, full of style fails and all. But I’m so thankful for growth, and my confidence (I’m not afraid to fail, to have to do it again and also had to take the risk with styles ) and I’m really thankful to the Tony Elumelu foundation! They taught me to do it afraid , Entrepreneurship skills and be bold in all my dealings!
A: ‘Do It Afraid’ has to be my favourite quote now! I love that you’re not afraid to try, I’ve also learned over time that action conquers fear. Have you had any major challenges since you started? How have you been able to overcome them?
S: It was last year, I was serving at Ibadan, taking courses for the Tony Elumelu foundation and also making sure to meet up clients deadlines, wow it was exhausting , knowing that you had to do all of these and still delivered, but I’m thankful for the experiences , it really taught me perseverance!
A: There’s always a lesson that we learn from challenges, it’s good t know that you didn’t let it weigh you down, welldone. In recent times, social media has taken over almost everything including entrepreneurship. In your opinion, how can young entrepreneurs harness the full potential of social media when it comes to their brands/business?
S: I really just think you should be yourself and represent your brand and yourself while doing that, I see lots of people trying to be someone else and copy someone else’s style and then get it all wrong. I have had people tell me “hey Serah , the way you manage your page is all wrong and all” it doesn’t mean they are lying because, obviously that’s their field but I am a very happy person by nature and I want my clients and whoever visits my page to feel it too! So I’d rather not put myself in a box because I’m trying to fit into an ideal way to manage my page! So my advice is just enjoy what you do and let it tell on your business, people who can relate will come through, and the ones who can’t , the quality of your work will make them , through referrals, and don’t forget to be consistent in whatever it is you are doing!
A: Love this bit honestly, enjoy what you do and let it tell on your business! What has been the highlight of this journey for you?
S: The Tony Elumelu foundation, The Mandela Washington fellowship (speaking into my existence, Lmao) and damn, the things I have learnt , entrepreneurship taught me how to be more patient when dealing with people especially women (I make women clothing)
A: Amen to that sister! Lol. Do you work alone or do you have people working for you?
S: When I started I was working alone for about a year but I have staffs who do not work for me but work with me!
A: Ayy, I love that! ‘work with me’ Your humility is beautiful Serah! Tell us a bit about your training program.
S: The goal is to have an institution, one of Africa’s most notable fashion academy , where graduates of the academy can stand tall with world renowned fashion designers. So right now we train people on being pattern makers , and designers for duration of about 6-9 months. The testimony has been great so far, and if you know me , you know I try and I’m kind of a great teacher and tutor. Lol
A: Great work! Guys you better contact her if you’re interested, I’m pretty sure it’d be great, she’s a great teacher after all! Are there people you look up to in the fashion sphere, both home and abroad? What are their names?
S: Just 2! AprilbyKunbi, Yousef Aljasmi!
A: At least I know AprilbyKunbi! What would you say is the secret to staying in business?
S: Stay diligent, Stay FOCUSED! Have support groups and systems: could be friends and family who want to see you win and would stop at nothing to see you do that, I’m thankful I have both, Find a Mentor ; could be online, Collaboration! You would have to make sacrifices, provide good services. Start now and do it afraid!
A: Even I am taking notes! I totally agree to these points, not just for business but for basically everything in life! What is your golden rule when dealing with customers?
S: Put yourself in their shoes, and try to see where they are coming from, it’s hard but you need to!
A: Hmmm great advice. Would you say that the Tony Elumelu Foundation Entrepreneurship Programme has helped your brand gain some of the recognition you have now?
S: Yes! Everyday I wake up, and I’m thankful to God and that day I saw the sponsored ad post on my TL! And thank God I listened!
A: We are also happy that you listened! What inspires you?
S: My mum! She has taught me , that I can do anything and everything I want to do if I put my heart and mind to it, she’s a living example!
A: Are mums not just the absolute best? Thank God for your mum. Apart from being a boss, What else do you do?
S: Be a Friend!
A: Great! How do you blow off steam when you’re not working?
S: Attending owanbes and trying out new Amala spots, Lmaoo don’t judge me!
A: My kind of girl! No wonder they call you the amala junkie! Maybe whenever I come to Lagos, you can take me to one of these spots! What words of wisdom would you give other young people out there who want to start out but don’t yet know how to?
S: Talk to someone you trust and you can be accountable to.
Know the knowledge of the process of whatever it is you’d be going into! It can not be over emphasized.
Be focused and diligent!
Have genuine people on your side, you’d need them along the way and also be a genuine one!
Thank you for having me!
A: Thank You Serah, we’re so delighted that you shared your entrepreneurial journey with us, and we wish you all the best in your future endeavours!
I know this was a quite lengthy read, but i can tell you that i enjoyed every bit of this interview and learned a great deal!
To connect with Serah, as well as patronize her, you can follow her on Instagram here
What do you think of our Youngpreneur? What lessons did you learn from this interview? I would love to know.