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COVID-19 threw a heavy punch on many. While many sucked at what could have been, it was an awakening for Folashade. For her, there is no single advantage of being broke, except that you’d be spurred to think about ways you can make money.
In this Interview, the calm and soft-spoken Gen Z lady takes us through how she started Shade Alankara. Folashade believes that Ankara is just as fashionable as Western styles and it has the potential to define global fashion in today’s pop culture.
Can you please introduce yourself and what you do?
My name is Gbadebo Folashade and I sell Ankara online. I am a mass communication graduate of Olabisi Onabanjo University, and I finished in January 2022. I think the contrast between what I studied and what I currently do comes as a surprise to many people.
So, when people hear “Ankara textile merchant”, the first thing that comes to their mind is one middle-aged woman in Balogun market. I mean, I understand the stereotype because it’s not every day you’d see a Gen Z babe that sells Ankara. Not to mention someone with a second-class upper-division degree but yeah, we exist. Some of my customers even assume that I’m married because they are just not used to seeing young people selling Ankara.
What are the most ridiculous stereotypes people attach to your business?
Some people assume that my being an Ankara textile merchant makes me local. But instead of allowing that stereotype to define me, I chose to own it and brand it as my identity. That’s where the name Shade Alankara came from. When people think of Ankara, I want them to think of Shade and remember the face behind the name.
We’re rooting for you. So what inspired the Shade Alankara business itself?
I actually grew up learning the ropes of the Ankara business in Lagos. I’ve watched my mom run a successful Ankara business her whole life and in a way, I can say that I learnt from the best. But, that wasn’t where the inspiration to start my own Ankara business came from. So when Covid hit in 2020, I realized that I could barely depend on myself for money. I am not exaggerating when I say that I literally had to save up to recharge my phone.
Nothing was funny to me anymore, I knew I had to get my money up. So I decided to go fully into the Ankara business. I knew there was an untapped potential there and I’ve always been quite knowledgeable about business. So, I took everything I had learned from helping my mom run her business and all the advertising lessons I was learning in school and I formed a business strategy out of that collective knowledge. I’ve never met most of my customers in real life yet I’ve sold thousands of pieces over the years.
How did you balance school and business?
So there was this time I got a lot of orders, I had just gotten back to school but when those orders kept rolling in, I knew I had to go back to Lagos to process them. I didn’t even tell my parents that I was coming back home to attend to my business. I knew they’d be against the idea so in my mind, I was like “Why bother? Last last, everybody will be alright”.
However, my dad’s reaction was quite something. Like a typical African parent, my dad threatened to kill me if I ever left school to focus on my business again. That was hard for me to process because I didn’t want to go back to that broke babe. I was in 400L at the time but I didn’t want my business to suffer simply because I was in school. So instead of leaving my business unattended to, I started considering the idea of dropping out of school. Obviously, that would be kind of irrational. So instead of quitting school, I had to find a way to make sure neither my business nor my academics would suffer. Shortly after I came to that decision, I started sending bulk orders to my mom to process them.
It’s giving smart money woman. So how has your business shaped your finances?
It has really impacted my finances. I made my first 100k after just one month of starting that business. I looked at my account balance and I literally could not believe it because I literally went from someone that could barely afford to buy data to someone that had over 100k in her bank account after just one month of starting a business.
What is your greatest vision for your business and where do you see yourself in the nearest future?
I’m actually thinking of getting a 9-5 to raise capital for the expansion of my business. I’d really love to have my own walk-in store one day. A big store where people can walk into for all their textile needs. I’m so sick of the narrative that Ankara is only for old or local people, I want my business to prove that Ankara is just as fashionable as Western styles. Ankara can also be a part of pop culture and that’s what I’m setting out to prove.
Besides your Ankara business, is there any other way you make your Daily 2k?
I’m currently relying solely on the income from my Ankara business but like I said earlier, I’m hoping to explore the corporate world. I’m thinking of digital marketing because as a business owner in Nigeria, that is one of the skills you’d have to develop on your own. You’d be surprised how much an average business owner in Nigeria knows about digital marketing. And coupled with the online courses that I’ve taken since last year till now, I think I’d thrive well in that role. So yeah, I hope to make my daily 2k from my Ankara business and digital marketing. Even though the rejection letters can be discouraging, I know I’m going to get a job in marketing soon.
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As a young child, you looked forward to adulting. It always looked fun to you. You couldn’t wait to become independent, receive instructions from no one and take ‘charge’ of your life. But it’s not what you expected. You eventually find that the transition to adulthood can be challenging due to financial concerns, family obligations, and the realities of the day-to-day life of a working adult. It’s overwhelming! It hurts even more when you think about the economic status of the country and its influence in making things difficult around us. The rate of inflation makes things very expensive and the little you get to save does not seem to be acquiring enough interest. By the time savings targets are met, the prices of your wants or needs experience a rapid increase.