Why I Abandoned Architecture for Fashion

0

Next Titan Session 6 Winner Amifeoluwa Yakubu

Looking suave and cosmopolitan in pencil trousers and a matching jacket, she knew she had given her all. Yet, when her name was announced as the winner of Next Titan Season 6 10-week-long competition, Amifeoluwa Yakubu was overwhelmed with emotion. Amifeoulwa shone at the just-concluded sixth edition of Nigerian Next Titan, defeating 15 other contenders to win N7 million and a brand new Ford Figo car. Funke Olaode and Sunday Ehigiator write about her aspirations, challenges and attaining stardom

Her aspiration was high and at the same time her hope could be dashed after all there are other 15 smart contestants who aimed for the coveted crown of being the winner of the Next Titan Session Six. Who wouldn’t? The prizes are tempting; a staggering N7 million and a brand new Ford car. Everybody desires it thus the hope is usually high. From obscurity to the global stage, the Next Titan which began six years ago has continued to re-define young Nigerians’ destinies, unearth unhidden talents and throw up young entrepreneurs to record extraordinary accomplishments.
The reality TV show is not only churning out wealth creators but paving the path of leadership for emerging entrepreneurs

According to the convener of the show and Managing Director, Bravopoints International Limited, Mide Kunle-Akinlaja, the idea behind Next Titans is to create a roll call of entrepreneurs who will boost the national economy and become employers of labour. It is not just an ordinary show but a show that transforms lives.

Over the last five years, the show has constantly thrown up young aspiring entrepreneurs who have excelled in their various endeavours. December 8, 2019, business moguls and captains of industry gathered at the Radisson Blu Hotel, Ikeja to pick the winner among 16 contestants. Though it is a winner-takes-all, the fact remains that the young and talented youths who came in as greenhorns left the academy to become shrewd entrepreneurs.

Twenty-five-year-old Amifeoluwa Yakubu from Kaduna was declared the winner. Amifeoluwa believes that her name is a unique one which means ‘signs of God’s love’. She is a graduate with an M.Sc. in Architecture from Obafemi Awolowo University, charismatic and focused. Amifeoluwa has always seen herself as a top entrepreneur. Her self-discovery in fashion began during her second year at the university. Today, she is into mass production of uniforms and garments. The N7 million cash is the icing on the cake for the young entrepreneur who sees the sky as a stepping stone.

Still basking in the euphoria of her big win, Amifeoluwa said, “I really can’t describe it enough but all I can say is thank you, Jesus. The journey was very challenging, and at some point annoying. I remember the eighth week: I cried. I was very overwhelmed because there was so much to do. But at the end of the day, we are here.”
Describing her family background, the young lady who lost her father when she was just five months old gave kudos to her mother whose strength has helped her to beat the odds.

“I was raised by a single mother. She is the father and mother to me. I lost my dad at a very early age when I was just five months old. My mum is everything anyone could ask for: a trained first-class guardian and counselor. I always say she is not the typical African mother perhaps because of her roots in Britain. But the truth is, she is someone who allows you to make your own decisions; allows you to make your own mistakes, and mistakes are very important in life. Because through mistakes, you understand the beauty of failure.

“Interestingly, the only task I lost during the show was the task that taught me a whole lot. Hence, there is beauty in failure, and she is someone who allows you to fail, make your mistakes and blossom. And she says it often, ‘I am here to guide you’, and she guides. And based on her educational background, it’s not just the paper, it’s in her. I am the second child, and the first girl and I have a younger sister. My family are very supportive and very understanding. Not just to me but to every one of us. We tackle any challenges together and we are all dreamers, chasing our dreams,” explained Amifeoluwa.

As the new champion in town with a large cash reward to boot, she said, “I remember waking up one day and sat down on my bed for 30 minutes asking myself: ‘Did I really want to do this? Is it worth it?’ It means a lot to me that I could leave my business for 10 weeks, and it was still moving and doing well. And at the end of the day, it was rewarding. So this means a whole lot to me. Even when I was down in the house, I kept telling myself that I have to win this, not just for me but for my mum, brother, and my 15-year-old younger sister whom I am a second mother to.

“For me, every little thing that I do, is a step in the right direction for her, because literally, I am a role model to her, the one she looks up to, try to ask questions, and her sister she comes to tell things she cannot tell any other person. And I have to create the right track for her to follow. My elder brother has done that for me, and I owe it to my younger sister to also do the same. So it means a lot to us.”

The cash prize and car aside, Amifeoluwa said the knowledge garnered during the competition was unquantifiable. “What I gained from the Next Titans Nigeria is even worth more than N7 million or the car,” she explained. “And interestingly, it’s the first time I even found out about the show, and the first time I entered the competition, and God did it. And I must thank the organizers and all the sponsors for this platform they gave us. Trust me, I don’t take this for granted at all.”

Amifeoluwa began her early education at the Federal Staff Nursery and Primary School in Ilorin. Thereafter, she attended Federal Government Academy Suleja. She later gained admission into Obafemi Awolowo University, Ile-Ife in Osun State to study architecture. She graduated in 2017.
Her aspiration has always been to be a business mogul. Upon graduation, she side-stepped architecture to focus on what she knows how to do best.

But at what stage did the Kaduna-born architect-turned-fashion designer develop a passion for fashion.
“Since my 200 level at the university,” Amifeoluwa said.
“I remembered sitting down in my studio while I was at 200 level and listed the things I was good at. I had singing, dancing, fashion, architecture, public speaking, and writing. I made the list and also rated how good I was at each of these things; how profitable they would be; how I enjoyed them; and how impactful they were. And at the end of the day, when I was done with my analysis, fashion was top of the list.

“From there, I knew that my love for fashion was going to top architecture, meaning I knew I was going to be an entrepreneur in my 200 level. Hence, I began to improve my fashion skills. So I started the business while I was at 200 level and I’ll say it took three years before I became an entrepreneur because that was when I understood the difference between being a business owner and an entrepreneur.”

What was her motivation or the quality that endeared her to the judges? “I really can’t say why the judges picked me as the winner, because this night was one of the boardroom sessions where the results were unpredictable. Four of us who made the final list were really good. We had good businesses and do well in businesses. I mean, Harvey, even though he was the first to get evicted among the four of us had made over N45 million revenue before entering the house, and to have achieved that meant a lot.

“So, everybody has really good businesses, and I really can’t ascribe any reasons why the judges picked me. I only know that I put in my best and I kept praying and hoping that my best would be good enough, and it was,” Amifeoluwa recounted.

What was her most challenging moment in the house? She stated, “For me, it was the second to the last task, the second Heritage Bank task. Because it really drained me. I am someone who had always been on top of my game and always strong and tries to pull others up when they were weak, but for that task, I was very drained and overwhelmed, that was why I told you that I cried.
“At that point, even though I was down, I reminded myself of why I came on board, why I was in business, why I needed this and why I had to do everything that it would take. And even if I don’t end up winning, I would know in my heart that I gave everything I could.

From architecture to fashion, Amifeoluwa is living her dreams. She is gradually building an enterprise with specialization in anything that has to do with uniforms and branded apparel for banks, hospitals, airlines, hotels, companies and even schools.

Though still growing, she said the N7-million prize would help to expand her business.
“Right now we just cater for about four to five clients in a quarter, and even those five clients, we work so hard. We don’t sleep just to be able to meet up with the deadline because we don’t have some very necessary equipment yet,” she disclosed.

“With this money, we would be able to procure the right equipment to accelerate our productivity and bring efficiency into it to about 200 percent. This also means that we can now attend to 40 to 50 clients in a quarter, instead of the usual four to five clients, and this is going to triple our revenue. It is also going to help us lift more people out of unemployment because we need more hands. We don’t just deal with graduates, we deal with skilled labour, and literacy is not a criterion for employment with us. Currently, our staff strength is over 30, both permanent and contract staff.”

Prior to being part of Next Titan, her role models included Tony Elumelu and Aliko Dangote. But after the competition, her focus has shifted to Lilian Olubi, Tonye Cole and other judges.
“They are so vast (in business expertise),” she explained, “and I want to be as vast as they are.”
It has been a dream come through for the young lady who is ready to make a mark in the country’s economy.

To those keen on chasing their own dreams, Amifeoluwa said: “Never ever think that your dream is not valid, or it is just a dream. As long as you can think it, you can achieve it. Make sure that you seek counsel, and you have the right understanding and knowledge to move in the right direction so that you do not waste time and resources.

“I wasted a lot of resources and time, trust me. But at the end of the day, we have to make mistakes so that we can keep growing and learning. So I’ll say to them to be fearless, and make conscious efforts towards improving themselves and chasing their dreams.”