She is a Microbiologist, a Teacher, and a Multi-talented fashion entrepreneur with over 10 years of combined experience. She loves being creative, fashionable and putting smiles on people’s faces through her brand.
With no further ado, let’s meet the Founder of Zone A Creations for an exclusive interview.
Please Introduce yourself and your background.
My name is Zainab Okhayole Zuberu from South Ibie Edo state. I’m a 30years old Muslim lady married with 2 kids and currently reside in Benin Edo state. I’m a microbiologist, teacher and multi-talented fashion entrepreneur with over 10years combined experience. I love being creative, fashionable and putting smiles on people’s faces hence the brand
Tell us about your work. How did your company start?
As a young lady, I have always been crazy about DIYs and never really liked the made in Nigeria bags because the few that I had come across are low quality while the imported ones were either of low quality or too expensive. So it happened that in 2013, while preparing lesson plan for my students using Google, I came across an ad on fabric bagmaking and that was a light bulb moment for me. I fell in love straightaway and decided I’d make all my bags myself.
Subsequently, friends and family began to love what I make, so I’d charge for materials and make bags for them for free. Later it became a side hustle until I started loving bagmaking more than my teaching job, so I quit my job and started up the Zone A brand in February 2020. The journey has been one filled with so many twist and turn, From Covid 19 lockdown, to ‘End Sars’ Protest, to the current hike in cost of production cost, we still keep it going cos the passion and commitment is there.
We’ve so far sold over 1000 units of our products and trained over 100 ladies both online and onsite, 5 of whom are known brands that are fully established as professional bagmakers now, and numerous others employed along the value chain.
How did you come about the name and what does it mean?
I’ve always been an exceptional student while in school and would have A’s all through anytime I had a lesser grade I’d be so angry and sometimes cry so hard, so I was nicknamed Zone A. Decided to name the brand so, so I’d use that same commitment and zeal I had while growing up to ensure the brand stays at the top both locally and Internationally.
What is your niche and how did you know it was a market to get into?
Bespoke handbags, footwear’s and accessories. Prior to bagmaking, I had done crocheting, fashion designing, Interior decorations and none gave me as much joy and fulfilment as I felt when I make a gorgeous and unique Afrocentric handbags. The feeling I get anytime we receive a feedback from our clients, the joy and happiness on their voice and faces when they send in pictures/videos is just it for me.
Where do you get inspiration for your products?
Sometime I go through Pinterest and try to design/create products from what I see there. Most times, when I am brainstorming ideas, I visualize unique pieces, sketch it out and continue to work on them till they make sense.
Can you remember one of the first products you made?
Yes! That was a tote bag with an Ankara fabric 7years ago. I still have it till now! I felt so pleased with myself that I took it to the workplace the next day. The admiration was out of this world and yes I got my first 2 orders that day despite not making any adverts
What are some of the challenges you face in your business?
Stereotypes, people believe handmade is equal low quality and cheap article. We always educate our target market on our pages and post feedbacks regularly to help reduce this. Increase in cost price and is absurd to just constantly be increasing price of goods not at this time when everywhere is hard. Drawback of youth in learning the skill, this have reduced the number of employable youth one have access to. Stealing of designs by competitors. It’s so annoying after spending months to create a design only for a competitor to copy and recreate that design almost immediately after release. In pour of made in china bags. These are usually cheaper and Nigerians like going for the cheaper option unless a few
Do you have any regrets about venturing into this business?
I have no regrets whatsoever; I only sometimes wish I had started sooner.
What is your most popular product?
Hamdallah handbag a combination of denim and pleated Ankara fabric to make a unique and special arm candy. Comes in 4 sizes and one of the products people have not been able to recreate even when they tried.
To what extent do you draw upon your Nigerian heritage for your work?
The African Heritage is at the base of all my product. Our products are Afrocentric made from the animal skin leathers to the tribal prints. The touch of Africaness truly stands us out
What are some of your short term and long term goals, both in your business and life in general?
Short term goal is to have wholesale outlets for my products in at least 5 states in the country with walk in stores. My long term goals is to become a household name of handbag brand across the world and also to have a free skills acquisition center to train many youth in bag making.
What would people be surprised to learn about you?
I’m an introvert and often very shy and difficult to learn new languages
What profession would you be in if you weren’t in this industry?
I’d still find a way to be in this industry, it has always been in me. I would have said teaching but I still teach so it’s all part of it
If you could give one piece of advice to anyone who wants to start their own business in your industry, what would it be?
I would say be patient, be consistent and persevere. Never be too big to learn and improve on your skill.
Moreso, shun distraction and don’t be too focused on the competition. Instead, Be your own competition by always trying to be better than where you are.
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