Hirra Image

It is one thing to build a business; it is another thing to build a business in Nigeria as a young woman juggling school, a tech career and even volunteering work. In this episode of #MoneyRise User story, we explore the journey of Hyelhirra, the founder of Hera’s Closet and how she built a thriving clothing business in the peak of the 2020 lockdown, balancing all she does, managing her finances and her journey on Rise. 

Tell us a little about yourself and what you do

I am Hyelhirra Samaila. I’m 21 years old and the owner of Hera’s closet. I started my business at the end of 2020, at the base of lockdown. I’m also a final-year student of Ahmadu Bello University studying Human Anatomy. Also, I graduated last year from AltSchool Africa with a Diploma in Frontend Engineering.

Such an impressive bio for a 21 yr old in Nigeria. So, what was the inspiration behind your business?

Like everyone else, I’d have said that I was inspired by everything fashion, but honestly, it all started out as an opportunity to make money. It was the 2020 lockdown, and everyone was home and bored. As an independent person, I hated that I had to ask my parents every single time I needed something. Liking fashion, I saw the opportunity to start a fashion business. It was not the easiest decision to make as I’m a very shy person, but I decided to take the risk and put myself out there and it was a beautiful risk at the end.

What were the challenges you faced starting your business and how did you tackle them?

When I started, structure was hard. Dealing with lack of structure was exhausting. It was a one-man business at that time and I didn’t take out time to plan for logistics, packaging, and many other factors before I started. Lack of planning and quality control were my toughest challenges. There were times when items would go out and they’d be of terrible quality and the customers would return them and I had to refund them from my personal pocket. Before I knew it, I was already losing money because of lack of structure and proper planning. 

Over time, the experience taught me a lot. I got better suppliers and started importing items by myself which solved the issue of quality. I also found a better logistics company after many trials and errors.

Another thing I won’t play down on is getting help and delegating duties. My staff are a very big part of my business, and they make my life easier. I learned with time that I didn’t have to do everything myself and to delegate even though I usually prefer to do things myself. So, I pick my strength and delegate the rest. I’m really grateful for them.

One last thing and like I tell other business owners is learning not “to do pass yourself.” This should not be confused with enjoying being mediocre. It is basically not overstretching yourself to the point where you’re not able to deliver. For me, delivering top quality for my customers and great customer service is the benchmark for my business. And I will not stretch myself over to an extent where I’m not giving them this quality.

That’s really nice. You mentioned importing as a solution to your challenges. What were you doing before then?

I was sourcing from Nigerian suppliers. Even though there are good ones, not many of them are honest about the quality of the items they supply. As someone who runs her business remotely, sometimes I send my staff to go and pick up items and when they open the package, it’s not the same quality that I was shown. This used to be a huge problem, and I’d argue with them till I was frustrated to do anything about it. So I had to start importing some of my items myself.

How did you build your customer base when you started?

My business is very customer-centric. I did this by putting myself in the place of the customer and understanding that money isn’t easy to come by, so people should get value for their money. As a fellow shopper, I know the pains of shopping online, the pain of dissatisfaction. I also understand different customers with their needs and their vibes too. From the minute a buyer sends that first “Hello, do you have this available?” or “Hello, I’d like to order this,” we create an experience tailored to the vibe they give off. If a peppy, jumpy customer comes, they get a similar vibe from us. Everyone has an experience tailored to them.

Some customers would want to place orders and they don’t know their size, so I’d suggest to them to take their measurements or show them the size charts, etc. I like to go out of my way to make customers comfortable and satisfied. And when you treat customers well, they refer you to others. A very huge part of my business is built on referrals. And like I always tell most people, it is not enough to have good services; you have to deliver good products. It is not just good service that will keep customers; you have to give them quality for their money or they will not come back.

How has the current economic situation in Nigeria impacted your business?

Hm! Nigeria is the weapon fashioned against businesses. The fluctuating foreign exchange rate, the cost of petrol, the inconsistent policies are really crazy, greatly impacting the cost of production and leading to the death of many businesses. Personally, my cost of packaging since February keeps increasing by 3,000 naira every month. It can be overwhelming and exhausting.

What sets Hera’s clothes apart from other fashion businesses?

Hirrra's closet

Like I said earlier, we are customer-centric. My customers are the bedrock of my business, so their happiness is my happiness. Before making money, they come first, because without them, there is no money. I make sure they’re happy and appreciated and get value for their money, even if it means running at a loss sometimes. I offer refunds and exchanges easily unlike many businesses, which leaves my customers shocked because they’re not used to such services from other businesses. And you see, that shock is what sets my business apart. I shock my customers into wanting to come back.

I’d also like to mention that I have really loyal customers, who I occasionally check up on. The calls are not a reminder to patronise or purchase any item, but to genuinely know how they are, and even in my absence, I’ve trained my staff to do so too. I do this because the customer is king, and without them, I won’t have a business. 

This is impressive. How do you juggle being a business owner, final year student and software developer?

Oh, may I add that I also do some volunteering work on the side. But honestly, most times, something suffers and that’s okay. Finding a slight equilibrium is the beauty of it. But, I’ve also come to realise that if I want something to be very good, then, I have to divest myself of some things. I have to free myself of other responsibilities. For example, during my exams in school, I leave the running of my business to my staff to handle. It is why I’m so big on delegation; learning to delegate both business responsibilities and other areas of my life allows me to focus on bigger and more important things, which has made my life so much easier.  I also ensure to get enough rest to avoid breaking down. Whenever I don’t, my body reminds me, and it never does it in a kind way.

Where do you see Hera’s Closet in 5 years?

Oh, I see Hera becoming a proper international brand. This year has opened my eyes to the potential market I have, especially within Africa. Right now, I’m working towards finding a budget-friendly and sustainable delivery within African countries. I’ve come to realise that sending things offshore to other continents is way cheaper than within Africa.

Let’s talk about money. How do you manage your business finances? Do you invest the profits or do you put it back into the business?

Sometimes, I invest my profit. Other times, I save. The same way I save and invest personally is the way I do for my business although a bulk of the profits goes back into the business.

Let’s talk about Rise. How long have you been using Rise?

Hirra's Risevest Tweet

I would say about two years now. It was an ex-partner who introduced me to Rise around late 2022 and the journey so far has been nothing short of amazing. 

We’re pleased to hear this.

Yeah, I love the product so much that I like to talk about it. It makes saving and investing very easy for me. I particularly like that I don’t have to do a lot of the work. So, anytime someone talks to me about saving and investment, I just refer them to Rise. Even my Dad has been using Rise since last year because of me. I’ve also referred a bunch of my friends who are enjoying the product. I quite appreciate things that make my life easier, and I’ll always want to toot the horn about Rise. It is an amazing product.

What other thing do you love about Rise?

Hirra tells friends about Risevest

Oh, I enjoy using Rise because it makes it easy to send my friends money. It makes it easy to be an intentional babe. I randomly ask my friends to send their Rise username to me so I could send them money, especially those outside the country. As someone who is too lazy to figure out how to send money abroad, I just ask my friends who don’t already have a Rise account to set up one. Not only is it the best way to refer people, it actually makes me a better friend and I love it. I also send money to my parents on Rise whenever I want to gift them.

How would you say Rise has impacted your finances?

Risevest and Hirra

It has made saving and investing easier for me. For example, if I want to save in stocks, I don’t have to think so much about it. I just put my money into a plan and that’s all. For someone like me who doesn’t know so much about investing or what stocks to pick, I like how Rise takes that stress off me. If I have to think about something for a long time, I tend not to do it again.

Finally, what advice would you give to people looking to start a clothing business like you, particularly in Nigeria?

First, you have to remember that the industry is saturated. However, this doesn’t mean that you should not try. You simply just need to find a way to stand out by giving people a reason to pick you over the others.

Also ensure that you plan and put things in place before you start. Plan your logistics, sourcing and packaging. You don’t even have to do something fancy for packaging because at the end of the day, what matters is the quality of your product and service. 

Also remember to take care of yourself and delegate responsibilities. You cannot do everything by yourself, so get people to help you. It will make your life so much easier.

If you enjoyed this episode of MoneyRise User Story, and would love to be an intentional friend like Hirra, build a business or achieve any of your financial goals, click here to sign up on Rise or log into your account to fund your investment. We’re always here to help you meet your goals.