Zashadu | From The Designer
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A Reluctant Entreprenuer

I dislike fads, for their transience and the sheep-like behaviour it induces in people. Furthermore, my ego is involved in this dislike, for no matter how I love and have loved a thing, should it become a trend, I drop it with immediacy and harbour an almost hatred for the trend.

It is for this reason that I failed to identify with the term Entrepreneur, and whilst I’m not sure that the lack of identification has done any harm at all, my ego is generally put in check by humility, and if a term describes me, I am willing to embrace it eventually.

In my element, captured by Medina Dugger

My favourite definition of the term Entrepreneur is by businessdictionary.com/ and includes the following statements

“Someone who exercises initiative by organizing a venture to take benefit of an opportunity”,
“As the decision maker, decides what, how, and how much of a good or service will be produced”
“Supplies risk capital as a risk taker, monitors and controls the business activities”

Looking back, I recognise these traits in myself as early as the age of 13. My mum was a bomb ass chef and would make my sisters and I the most delicious packed lunches. One summer, my classmates caught wind of the contents of my lunch box and would pester me for sandwiches. So I decided to take advantage of my new found fame and begun dividing and selling my sandwiches to the highest bidder. As my enterprise grew, I diversified by adding drinks too: the key attraction to the drinks was that having frozen them overnight, by lunchtime they were perfectly slushy and delicious, more exciting and cheaper than the school canteen was offering. My mother promptly killed my business (but not my spirit) when she found out that I was trading my nutrition for sugar, having spent all the profits on chocolate.

That is probably why deciding to start Zashadu was not a decision that appeared all that daunting. As far as I was concerned, there was a problem that needed to be solved and I was required to come up with the solution. The daunting decision did appear later on, and that was deciding whether to turn what had evolved into a passion into a fully fledged business, leaving paid employment behind in the process, and going at it alone on a bigger scale than I had ever thought.

The 1st time I went to Kano, I traveled by road from Lagos. I was rewarded with insights that are and amazing discoveries, including this family run tannery we buy skins from.

These days I am increasingly made aware that I serve as an inspiration to others, I am also increasingly aware of a frightening chasm that exists and seems to hover around wannabe entrepreneurs approximately 10-15 years younger than me, pertaining to work ethic and dedication; it is for this particular reason that I have come up with a list of points I hope will be helpful should you want to run your own successful business in the future.

Working for others is integral to your success.
There is a meme I have encountered on Instagram a few times which loosely translates to “If you are working for someone else, you are helping them build their dream, and not your own” And whilst this may jolt a passive genius with the next big idea, who has been toiling away for years, ignoring his burning need to create, out of his slumber, unfortunately it makes a very many others react to the idea of work in a way that is destructive, and fearful.

If you do not have experience working smart, hard and long, training yourself to solve problems, thinking outside the box, slaving away till you get results for someone else’s business/idea, when the time comes you will not be able to do it for your own. This is because you will fail to understand exactly what it takes to make a business function and thrive; it will seem like way too much is required of you, and the likelihood of giving up in frustration is increased.
If you are unable to work effectively as a member of a team, you will never be able to lead one successfully. Effective leaders have the ability to inspire a dedicated following; not because they are gods, but because they are able to put themselves in others’ positions, understand their needs way ahead of time, and respond to them from this place of empathy: often because they have been in the exact same positions themselves before. There is great honour in playing your part in building the vision of a worthy leader.

There are no real short cuts. Just because technology has advanced in leaps and bounds, and life ten years ago is unrecognisable in many ways; look deeper, the same laws that have governed us from the beginning of time still do. For example You cannot receive if you don’t give, A bad attitude always gets uncovered no matter how much effort you put into concealing it, Talent alone is never enough. Entrepreneurship doesn’t exist outside of these laws, nor is it a place to hide; in fact your true nature will be revealed faster than you can imagine.

There’s nothing new under the Sun. Whatever innovation is created, whatever new easier ways of doing things appear; we are governed on one very tangible level, by the laws of our human form and if you are smart, you will recognise and respect this. Ultimately Social Media Platforms and Apps simply offer us another way of communicating. Communication, whether up in Space, on Tinder, or sliding in via DM, is governed by the same fundamental rule; someone somewhere wants to be heard, and have confirmation that they are valued and understood. Simple.

We each have a specific role to play. Not everybody is meant to start a business; and every business owner needs people to bring ideas to fruition. We all need each other; there is no Us against Them.

Being an Entrepreneur is so un-glamorous it’s unreal. That’s why most Entrepreneurs are such good story tellers. Why is it that we can laugh about a once tense event only after it has occurred? It’s always funnier and sweeter when the tension has dissipated and danger is no longer imminent; then we can all laugh roaringly and slap each other on the back. But at the time it was happening, there was nothing remotely funny about the situation.

Here are some of the traits you need; most can be cultivated.

  • Guts of steel
  • A cool and level head
  • An ability to comfortably and genuinely engage with people across all social classes
  • Honesty
  • Extreme Self Motivation
  • Clarity of vision
  • Unwavering Self Belief in your God given abilities
  • A healthy dose of Rebellion
  • An incredible Sense of humour
  • Strong Values that you have cultivated from your own life experiences.

A Refreshing Break

I escaped to Dakar, Senegal for a few days early this month with my family; we rented a beautiful villa by the sea on the Island of Ngor, which we were to get to by boat, in the middle of the night on cold waters. It satisfied the adventurer in me, but terrified my partner, nanny and friend, much to my (unexpected) delight. Thankfully my son slept through it so I didn’t feel too guilty.

We visited the many different exhibitions at the Dakar Bienalle, and I came back refreshed and totally re-inspired. Here are some images from the trip.

 

My photographer friend Aisha, and I explored Dakar’s art and surfing scene

Zoe would drag me to the ocean everyday, fascinated by the shells

A vacation without our Nanny is not a vacation, the wonderful Mrs O.

Dakar’s Romantic too! Strolling on the island with Mr N

After many hours of sleep I felt like a beauty queen

En route to the Biennale

Don’t you agree?

“Water, water, water” Zie would sing over and over

The more I travel, the more I encounter Zashadu Girls! On my way to deliver Yaikah’s bag and Koyo’s shoes x

Some beach side sexiness

The Mule

It was my friend Zara Odu, founder of Designers Consociate who alerted me to my love of mules a few years ago, “Z, you’re always wearing mules, I know they’re on trend right now but you’ve been wearing them even beforehand”. It got me thinking, and I begun to analyse my sole dependence on mules as shoes for almost every event.

Pretty early on in, in my late teens, I understood the shape of my feet, the position of my natural arch in relation to the type of heels that gave me comfort, and pretty much steered clear of anything uncomfortable. I also understood my feet in relation to my body, the size of my ankles in relation to the shape of my legs, and chose shoes as a conclusive answer to all these factors. Aesthetically, my favourite type of shoes were what I referred to as ‘naked shoes’; sexy, strappy, not much leather, 2, 3, or 4” high and showing off as much of my foot as possible.

And although the pairing of handbags with shoes seems like the most natural, I have always been shy of venturing into creating shoes, for the huge responsibility of fit, and ergonomics involved; preferring instead to go back to school, sometime in the future, to learn the science of shoe making.

However, my curious mind has gotten the better of me once again. Noticing that I am drawn to very specific kinds of shoes that no one seems to make in the exact way I wanted, I begun to create shoes for myself only, becoming increasingly obsessed with the process, opening up shoes to see its inner workings, researching local material, understanding local constraints, and respecting the handmade process.

My foray into our range of mules is a natural progression of this long and sometimes arduous process. Thus it is with pleasure that we present a 3 piece collection of 1.5” high mules working with exciting skins such as hand dyed and polished Ayers snake skin in turquoise and orange, Natural Raffia and cotton, and sustainably farmed Rabbit Fur.

Ayers Snakeskin in Turquoise

Rabbit Fur and Gold

Raffia Mules

 

Love Zainab x

Elongated Box Clutch 

I have always loved box bags; As a designer I love playing with the constraints of space and form, of rigidity and fluidity; by my mid twenties I had amassed a collection of over 200 bags, with around 50 box bags; all of them beautiful looking, but each one spatially inept.

The idea of the Box Clutch Elongated came to me out of the blue; I recently attended a gorgeously lavish event with great company, excellent food and drink, dressed up to the nines with a beautiful metallic Ultraviolet Box Clutch Mini.

As the evening wore on, and I became merrier, at one point I lazily reached across the table to retrieve my abandoned phone from friends now on the dance floor who had been swooning over my son’s cuteness moments before. I couldn’t reach, so I grabbed my clutch and tried to use it to draw the phone nearer; still no luck. Mildly irritated I was forced to get up out of my seat to retrieve my phone. Going home later that night, definitely giddy at this point,I begun to think about the fact that my bag was unable to assist me. “I need a bag that is an extension of my arm!” I proclaimed haughtily and with new found enlightenment.

The first bag we produced was so close yet so far, large and bulky, the artisans at the workshop enjoyed laughing at my expense “Madam done come again o!” “Ma, this one na coffin abi wetin?’ Nevertheless I stuck to my guns and worked at it, and after a few tweaks, The Box Clutch Elongated was born; elegant and perfectly proportioned, and as I tried it on for size and eyed the artisans one by one, I couldn’t help but notice that it was perfectly suited for knocking the heads of those who had mocked me earlier.

I’m proud to share the newest, most elegant addition to our Clutches with you, available in store and online next week!

 

Love Zainab x

How to travel with an older baby (No, not your spouse)

If you’ve not been around babies full time, social media will have you believing that everything about being with them is cuteness, giggles and snapchat-filter-induced glowing. You may also be led to believe that travelling with a baby is a doddle; biggest mistake of your life. I too am guilty of the social media deceit; my recent Instagram pictures of my Cape Town holiday failed to omit the real reasons behind my wide grins; one of Zie’s nanny , (Mrs Oni, a wiry old, warm and wise woman, with tales from the war, and other generally alarming stories), whom Ziemife loves and frankly I cannot do without, traveled with us.

Admittedly I tried it once and I came back frazzled, haggard and in need of an actual holiday. It was to London, I took him to see my parents when he was 10 months, for 10 days and the ‘fun’ started almost immediately. On the plane, all Zie wanted to do was walk around, meeting ALL the passengers, or else he would fling his arms up, throw his head back and emit a wail so loud and decisive, you could hear it all the way from the moon. I had no choice but to walk with him and observe as he introduced himself to everyone. One nice air hostess saw my situation  and kindly offered me several strong beverages; I promptly broke my rule of not drinking whilst in the air and I discovered that dry, dehydrated, ashy looking skin was a small price to pay for some semblance of sanity.

The trials continued, upon arriving in London, Zie refused to be carried by anyone but me; not my mum, my dad, no one. So, he became literally glued to my hips; and he started walking at 9 months, so I couldn’t leave him alone for even a minute. If I managed to take a shower by 2pm, it was a good day. My sister came to the rescue again by taking him overnight, “But Hafsa, he doesn’t go with anyone, not even mum” I bemoaned, “Forget that one, he will follow me by force” she retorted. And follow her he did, when he saw his cousins and their cute barking puppy, he stood enthralled, giggling wildly, without even a backwards glance back at me; I escaped and walked 40 minutes on the country lane, back home, joyously alone.

On our way to see Aunty Oreke in Camden Town

As I walked back I contemplated what I was finding so testing about being his only carer for 10 days and nights, and it was simply the fact that his schedule wholly dictated my own, coupled with the very shallow sleep I was now experiencing as he was back to sharing a bed with me, any slight turn or whimper would wake me up.

It wasn’t all drudgery though, I enjoyed being alone with him and gleaning more insights into his dynamic personality, and we made a good team; a few firm words from me held a lot of power which I didn’t fail to use; in turn he would reward me with sloppy kisses, giggle fits and that priceless look of adoration. I vowed to do a solo trip with him at least once a year.

My tips for travelling with a 10 month old or older baby

  1. Use a rucksack as a baby bag, and a slim cross body pouch for your passports and money. Forget about a handbag my sister; unnecessary extra weight.
  2. Similarly, you’ll find it almost impossible to use a carry on luggage, so forgo it or ask if it can be checked in for you, if you want to use your allocated weight allowance
  3. I’m usually a big advocate for staying hydrated, but I would say avoid drinking many fluids on the day you travel. Constant loo trips with baby are frustrating. Keep up your hydration levels, 2-3 days before your trip; that should suffice. But keep baby very hydrated; he’ll be far less irritable.
  4. Take an iPad with some baby entertainment
  5. This may seem impossible but don’t forget snacks for baby, and for you. All the brain work I was doing left me famished
  6. If your baby is energetic, inquisitive and strong, make sure you secure your wig very well.
  7. Request for assistance from the airline; you can’t push a baggage trolley and a pushchair at the same time. Technically, you can, but it’s not worth it. You deserve better mummy.
  8. Accept assistance from well meaning strangers.
  9. Reward yourself daily for making it through each day(cakes, glasses of wine, chocolates; you catch my drift), and indulge yourself in a countdown till you are back to your normal. Very dramatic but totally worth it for the sense of accomplishment it provides when you make it. And you will make it mummy!

How to be a working mum!

Leaving my business for almost 5 months, and operating it from another country was honestly so daunting and frightening, but somehow I was able to make it work. I’d go virtual ‘shopping’ selecting leathers at the tanneries with my assistants via FaceTime, keep in touch with my team via Skype, and set weekly goals as usual. Right from the beginning I knew I had to be upfront with clients and inform them I was out of town. But I was surprised by how much I still enjoyed working; especially in the last days of the pregnancy, I was grateful to channel my angst into work, even on the day I had him, the only messages I responded to from my hospital bed were work related.

 

Here are 9 things I learned on the way to becoming a working mum

  • Clients are very understanding if you are upfront with them; my pregnancy brain was in a league of its own, but thankfully clients saw the humour in it and were supportive
  • However being yourself is always the best option. If you know deep in your heart that operating your business whilst pregnant will push you over the edge, don’t be afraid to give the business a break. The time away will most likely refresh you, give you new ideas and allow you to take your business to the next level inadvertently.
  • Video calling is a life saver, and vanity is still important when you’re as big as a whale. Before every video call, I would take a bit of time to wear some make-up however little to make myself feel good, and to inspire my team!
  • So is CCTV
  • You need people you can trust, so learn to foster a good team spirit

And upon becoming a working mum

  • Be very gentle with yourself, especially if you’re a workaholic like all entrepreneurs. Take the time out to take care of yourself, watch a nice movie, eat your favourite meal, do things that make yourself happy, regularly. A happy mum is the best mum. Talk about your feelings, don’t believe social media constructs of alleged ‘post natal reality’, remember that this new you is a phase and all your insecurities will pass especially if you address them. BE YOURSELF.
  • Don’t make too many changes – I opened a store at 32 weeks, left the country at 33 weeks, came back to the country when he was 3 months old, left the store, fired some staff, found, rented and renovated a brand new store, all the time breast-feeding him exclusively for 6 months. It’s no surprise that I had a breakdown at 8 months post baby.
  • Don’t forget your partner in all of it! Try not to play victim and instead take control of your emotions. Although I couldn’t physically be away from my baby for the first 6 months (and now in hindsight, I would extend that to 9 months for 1st baby at least), it helped that I took the time out mentally to DECIDE and nominate myself as the parent that stays home in the first year whilst my partner traveled for work. That little shift of perception allowed me feel empowered and added to my happiness.
  • Be Yourself

My new reality: early days of motherhood

Whilst pregnant I was on the receiving end of unsolicited advice from strangers most oft-repeated was; “Sleep as much as you can now!” spat out with urgency, conspiratorially, eyes widened, as if passing on some golden nugget of wisdom. Well let me tell you something, no amount of pre-baby sleeping can prepare you for a firm, decisive, consistent head-butting of your breasts at 2am, in search of a dribbly nipple.

The thing I found most surprising about being thrust into motherhood, was exactly that. Being thrust into it. I was alarmed to find that there is no lull between delivering the child and suddenly having to attend to his every need and decipher his cryptic codes. On the third day of offering up my breasts to this little one probably every 30 minutes, to be suckled for 30 minutes straight, I was convinced my nipples were going to fall off to the floor.

Then there was the constant chase of the oh so elusive burp, it became the most beautiful sound in the world, peace inducing and anxiety relieving, at once, pure music. I would sit up with my back against the head board, cushioned by pillows, knees up and straddle him across my knee, leaning his torso against my chest, 20 minutes into his sleep, the bubbles would work their way up and the beautiful burp would surface, he would smile in relief and I in delirium not knowing whether to laugh or cry at the one hour of sleep that would ensue.

 

Twice at 8 weeks old my baby sister took him overnight, with bags of frozen milk and excited cousins looking forward to having Aunty Zainab’s baby. The first time, after she left, I screamed down the house excitedly, hopping from room to room, chattering away to myself, going to the bathroom unaccompanied, taking a long shower, tears of joy mixing with the water, star fishing on the bed. I was so excited with my free time and the possibility of all that I could achieve that I promptly passed out into a sleep coma, startled to wake up four hours later by boobs that were ready to explode.

The second time, I scheduled a date with the boyfriend, managed to comb my hair and apply some lipstick, (outside my lip line, I later found out) and sauntered off to the Cinema, walking in the crisp winter air, trying to take deep breaths whilst constricted by my baby snap back thing. Operation snap back by force. That’s another thing that shook me to the core; the shape of my stomach post baby. I looked down at this wobbly mass of a soft shrunken belly, deeply pigmented, totally alien. I was convinced I would have to start to wear a waist trainer permanently like those girls I’d been laughing at on Instagram.

“Noooo, Nabs, it gets back to normal for sure”, my friend Oreke said in consolation, super-mama of two boys, abs of steel, size UK XXXS. Her post baby body gave me hope, but she’s also a professional runner and a part-time control freak, so hope itself isn’t enough!

BIRTHING BABY Z

I gave birth to my son in the UK in the winter, I arrived London at 33 weeks, my doctor practically pushed me on to the plane, but I was so freaked out about leaving Lagos, my home and more importantly, Zashadu HQ, that I secretly hoped to arrive at the gate and be sent back home, banned from flying; but my mother’s prayers over-powered mine and there she was waving frantically and beaming widely at me, at the arrival in Heathrow “You don’t even look that pregnant Z!” she fibbed as I waddled my way through, huffing and puffing, pushing my luggage trolley along.

6 months pregnant in Milan

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

I planned to stay till he was 3 months old, before heading back to Lagos. Once at my parents’, I was glad to be away from the hustle and bustle of my Lagos life. I slept and slept and slept  Ziemife grew large in those last few weeks. “Mum, my lower back is going to break, I’m certain of it” I groaned over and over, the only thing that helped was yoga which I did daily, swirling my hips and trying to remain calm.

5 days overdue and ready to pop!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

I did everything extra, that was available to me; homeopathic therapies for the psoriasis that flared up from nowhere, acupuncture for general good feeling, reflexology to stimulate labour, hypnobirthing course, I employed a doula to be our own personal cheerleader and support system, and when Zie was 10 days late, after two membrane sweeps and the promise of being induced in 48 hours, a deep tissue, Thai massage. “Zainab, your beck soo tight, you put a brick in there?! Pan our long time family masseuse howled in laughter as she kneaded my legs and lower back for two hours, and I winced in pain.

I went into labour the very next day, “Stina what does early labour feel like?” I fired off a text to my doula, at 10pm she replied describing symptoms I was feeling, “But it’s probably just your membrane sweep, I wouldn’t be too worried” she replied. At 4am, I was rudely awakened by the most intense cramps and quickly rushed to the loo, certain I was going to do a monumental number 2. Nothing.
What is this? I thought, angry at the interruption to my sleep, I got up to head back to my bed, when another wave of cramps from hell engulfed me, I writhed around for sometime, trying to find a comfortable position, then my body was silent once more. I tried to stifle my moans, intent on not waking my mother in case it was a false alarm, but the surprise of warm water gushing between my legs gave way to a stifled shout. Then I was sure, I was in labour. I was also sure that I wouldn’t make it to the birthing centre in a taxi, the only position that gave me any comfort was not going to work in a taxi; I looked at the time, 6am, My contractions were strong and fast, my mother was a frantic mess, and I was having to calm her down, “Omg, Mum, chill out, It’s just a vagina!” I felt sorry for the emergency services operator on the phone, all he asked was whether she could see the baby’s head from my vagina, “It’s an abomination”, she retorted haughtily, “How can I look at my daughter’s vagina, you people are sick” the ambulance arrived at 7am, my mother gave them a dirty look, we got to the hospital at 7.20, and after 5 smooth pushes, my 4.1kg heavyweight of a baby was born naturally, and without drugs, at 8.22, my active labor had lasted all of 4 hours. “You’re a birthing goddess” gushed Stina in admiration, and as I munched on my second Pret chocolate croissant and between sips of hot sugary tea, whilst my mother cooed over her grandson, I smiled widely and deliriously, nodding in agreement.

Getting to know my Zizi

Going out gave me anxiety so I had to force myself out. It passes, thank God!