Driven by her desire to be independent and boost her family’s economy in these difficult times, 32-year-old mum of two, Serifat Muhammed, started her soap, disinfectant and insecticide production business in April, 2016 with just N10,000. In just 6 months, she generated resources to buy a mini-bus to convey her products and now has a capital of over N1,000,000.
In this chat with MIM, Serifat opens up on what inspired the business, her previous hustle as a ‘Keke Marwa’ driver, the business’ growth so far, her aspirations for the future and more.
What inspired starting this business?
“Hmm…because of the economic change. Things are very hard now and you know, you can’t leave everything to your husband. Everything is expensive, so, in a lot of homes, by the time husbands bring the little they have, you realize it can’t even buy much in the market. So, I wanted to support the home the little way I could and be independent.”
Were you doing any business before this?
“Yes. Before starting this business, I learned how to ride ‘Marwa’ (commercial tricycle) and was using it to make money. I don’t have it anymore.”
How was that experience for you?
“To me oh, I enjoyed riding it because I knew my aim for doing so. You know, the men driving it are to doing so to make money to sustain their families and I was doing it for the same reason – it was no big deal. Why should a lady not do it? And women in India do the business, so, why can’t women do the same in Nigeria? I didn’t care what people would say or think, my aim was to make money and I did.”
So, why did you stop?
“I was in the business for a year. I stopped when the government started saying that they would stop the use of ‘Marwa’ in some areas in Lagos. There were also time restrictions and there was high possibility I may not be able to make as much money as before. So, I just thought before those rules are completely enforced and the stress would be too much, I better quit, and I did.”
Did you start this business immediately after quitting?
“No. I started working in a factory that produces paint. I still do despite my soap business.”
Why did you choose this business?
“Well, because it doesn’t require much capital and it’s something I can conveniently combine with my job at the factory – I can produce at any time, even during the midnight, and it won’t take much of my time. It just needs my concentration; just for me to focus on what I want to do. I can do other things during the day but in the evenings, I can focus on it. I don’t need any machine to produce, it’s just for me to protect my hands and nose.”
How did you start?
“I invited somebody to train me at home and trained for three days. I paid about N60,000 for the training and the materials – that was in April this year. So, I learned how to make the soap, Izaal, local Dettol and insecticides.”
How much capital did you start with?
“I started immediately after the training with N10,000 and was producing all I learned to make – Dettol, Izaal, soap and insecticide. The chemicals I started with were bought from the money I paid for the training.”
How has the business grown?
“The business is worth over N1,000,000 now. I have a bus I use to transport my products for sale. It cost about N800,000. I generated the money through contributions from my family, the business, the factory where I work and the people I have trained.
I have trained eight people so far and two are already using it as their source of income.
My customers have also increased a lot. I usually reduce the price of my products to win customers because almost everyone I meet already has a supplier. I then change to the usual price after few months.
Having a bus has also made it easier for me to market my products at different places every day, reach more people and sell large quantities at a time. I go to car dealers, offices, hospitals and hotels. I try to have contacts in places I know people will buy more quantities and even pay more than the usual price.”
How do you combine producing, marketing the products daily and your factory job with the demands of your home and kids?
“It’s not been easy, I just give good the glory. I mean, waking up every day by 4:30am to prepare food, bathe my 8-month-old baby, get my other daughter ready for school, prepare myself for work, arrange my products in the bus and so on, is tiring. I leave home early and return late most times so I can market my products and deliver to customers. Thank God for my supportive mother who helps with my baby.”
How supportive has your husband been?
“In fact, he is one in a million. He has been so supportive. I can’t thank him enough. Apart from contributing hugely to the purchase of my bus, he always advises me on how to move the business forward. He helps with house chores… I’m grateful for him.”
What would you say to other mums aspiring to start a business?
“You don’t have to wait till you have a million. Start with the little you have and no matter the challenges, it will grow with time if you are focused. I believe my future is bright with this business because I’m giving it my all.”
Your future goals for the business
“I want to be my own CEO (laughs), have my own factory, get my NAFDAC and SON registration done… the vision is huge. I’m working towards them gradually.”