“I started my business because I wanted to prove to my dad that I could buy an iPhone on my own” - Haleemah Salaam of Hayya Station

“I started my business because I wanted to prove to my dad that I could buy an iPhone on my own” - Haleemah Salaam of Hayya Station


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For Haleemah Salaam, the fear of poverty is a major source of inspiration for many business ideas. Haleemah who refers to herself as a serial entrepreneur is the founder and creative director of Hayya Station, a natural-hair-inspired wig brand. In this interview, Haleemah shares the unusual motivation that inspired the thriving business she successfully runs today. 


What’s the story behind the name “Hayya Station”?


So fun fact, yeah, the first name I chose for my business was feminine zone but I didn’t feel like it was giving what it was supposed to give. So I decided to choose another name that really conveys what my brand is about. Then I stumbled on “Hayya” and it all made sense. But I didn’t want it to be Hayya hair or any of that cliche stuff so I went back to my brainstorming board until I finally decided to go with the word “station”. The fact that my brand also offers wig-making and hairstyling services made “station” make more sense. 


 What inspired you to start this business and how long have you been at it?     


As weird as it might sound, I started my business because I wanted to prove to my dad that I could buy an iPhone on my own. I had recently lost my phone during that period. So I told my dad specifically that I wanted a new phone and I wanted it to be an iPhone. He didn’t agree though, instead, he told me that I could buy the iPhone myself when I had enough money to make big purchases like that. Of course, my ego was bruised and that was exactly what made me decide to start making my own money. I was actually already making small change at that time but it was only enough to buy food. It was that new motivation to make more money that kinda inspired Hayya Station. The business has been up and running for the past three years now and so far, it’s been nothing short of amazing. 


You sell very unique wigs to black women, we’d love to know if that’s intentional or not.  


As black women, we’ve been told that our natural hair is not beautiful enough to be flaunted or our skins are too dark to wear bold colours. When I started my hair brand, the goal was to challenge those stereotypes. We sell Afro wigs in bold colours and that’s not random at all. It was actually one of our oldest clients that suggested that we make our wigs in bright colours. When you see the colours of most of our wigs, they will most likely grab your attention for 10 seconds. Again, that’s very intentional. We want black women to wear our wigs and feel like the main character. There are several natural hair brands that make wigs in neutral colours but I’ve never been the type of person to play it safe when it comes to hairstyles and colours.  We make wigs for all kinds of black women. The ones that like to play it safe, the ones that like to be the centre of attention and the ones that like to be spontaneous with their look. 


Love it! It’s giving baddie on a budget.


(Laughs) Exactly. 


What keeps you going on days when business gets hard and how do you manage those downtimes? 


My first year of business was actually quite hard. It was filled with trials and errors. Unlike many other business owners, I didn’t draw up any business plan or strategy. Just vibes and inshallah. I made one of our custom Hayya Station wigs for myself first and people saw it on me and they loved it. From there, I decided to start selling. I didn’t even have any intention of selling to a wide range of people, it was more of an “if you want it, buy it” kinda thing. But when I saw the potential of the business, I started taking it seriously. Now, one of my biggest challenges is how overwhelming things get on days when we have countless orders to process. I mean, it’s every business owner’s dream to have hundreds of orders but sometimes, the stress of processing them makes it frustrating. And there are times when I won’t get any orders for as long as two weeks because some customers say our wigs are above their budget. When that happens, I try not to worry too much and keep myself busy with other things. But since I adopted the “sales” strategy, the business has been quite great. 


Impressive. Are you currently in school and if you are what are you studying? 


I got an extra year in my final year and that was a wake-up call for me to start taking school seriously again. I started running my business in school and my grades suffered because of it in my final year. There were times when I had countless orders to process and different school projects to complete at the same time. Finding the perfect balance between school and business was almost impossible because my course is really demanding. At that point, I had stopped bothering my parents for money and I wanted to keep that up because it made me feel independent and capable. If I had stopped my business, I’d have started relying on my parents for money again and that just wasn’t an option for me. Besides, I was still on a mission to prove to my dad that I could get an iPhone for myself. It was challenging that only my business could have helped me win. 


Would you rather have a successful corporate career or build a business empire? 


When I was 13, I really wanted to be a lawyer. Although I had business ideas that I wanted to pursue, I loved the idea of being a lawyer more. I had a family friend who saw how much I loved the law and decided to sign me up for a law internship. Imagine being a law intern at only 13 years old. When I finally got a taste of that lawyer lifestyle, I instantly knew that it wasn’t for me. The idea of working from 9-5 alone was enough to discourage me. I was actually excited about the internship at first but when things started getting real, omoooo! I’ll choose to have my own business empire over this but I’ll also love to teach in the future. Maybe when I’m finally done with this degree, I’ll spend my NYSC year teaching kids. I’d actually love to teach for at least 5 years because I really love kids. 


 We love that for you. Can you remember the first time you ever made money and what it felt like? 


I was in JSS3 when I made my first money. It was #3,500 and I got it by selling a wire work necklace to my mom. She wanted to gift it to my big mommy for her birthday. I was super excited about that cash. It felt huge to me. My mom even took me to the bank, I walked to the cashier myself and saved the money. From that point, I started selling more wire work pieces and charm bracelets to my classmates. 


How much would you say running a business has impacted your finances? 


On a scale of 1-10, I’ll give my brand a solid 7 because it has changed my finances drastically. I have a monthly financial goal and sometimes, I even exceed that goal. It’s always such a surreal feeling. 


Okay, Miss Entrepreneur! Aside from your hair brand, how else do you make your daily 2k? 


I’m a serial entrepreneur. I have a crochet brand, I sell beaded bags, I have a jewellery store that I run alongside my friend, I also do importation classes from time to time and when I have extra money lying around, I import trendy clothing items and I sell them to whoever is willing to buy. I just do anything that can bring me money because I don’t want to ever be broke in my life


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