Entrepreneurship chose Aisha Umar Tofa from when she was just 15-years-old. At that young age, her father testifies that she would usually rent out her bike to make extra cash. Now grown and managing a flourishing business, the super successful business woman in this interview with Fatima Shua’ib, shares her experience working for herself and escaping the monotony of the regular 9am to 5pm schedule of employees.
Can you please introduce yourself?
I am Aisha Umar Tofa. A graduate of Mass Communication from the prestigious Bayero University Kano. I’m an entrepreneur, a photographer and a tech enthusiast. I am a member at the global shapers community, a youth and women advocacy.
Where are you from?
I am from Tofa in Kano State, Tarauni local govt.
Tell us about your family
I come from an amazing large family. I am the eight child of my father, Architect Umar Othman Tofa, a very humble man, and my mother, Hajiya Zainab Umar Tofa, the strongest woman I know. I have 11 siblings, three boys and seven girls. If given a chance to choose another family, I would still choose my family because I grew up in love and affection. I grew up learning and adapting so that today, I can survive whatever comes my way.
My Dad has been a father to everyone because everybody calls him ‘Baba.’ By implication, our house, right from my childhood days, is always full of people. I love him so very much that sometimes I just sit and keep staring at him and sometimes I end up crying for no reason. My parents gave me everything a child could ask for. I must admit that I was a privileged child.
Entrepreneurship chose me, I wanted to be a pilot or a diplomat because I love traveling. But entrepreneurship chose me at the age of 15. My dad says I used to rent my bike when I was a kid just to make extra cash.
Being an entrepreneur is a great thing because as one, you get to see business in every situation unlike when you have to endure a 9 to 5 job. Also, I get more time for myself and my family. I get the opportunity to invest in other businesses too, plus, I have time to focus.
I graduated in 2015 and I still haven’t applied or accepted any job offer and I am not planning to for now. We have already founded a company “Startup Kano” which incubates and accelerates startups with creative and innovative ideas, and I am really happy about that.
What, in your opinion, is the position of Northern woman today?
Honestly we are left behind. It is so unfortunate but yes we are. Being left behind is one of the reasons we established Startup Kano, and our target is women and youth. We realised that most of our women are not empowered, and there is no actual government body that solves that fully (empowerment, mentoring and funding). All we see is car wash, soap making training and things like that which is not what the economy needs. So we started and made technology our drive. It has been three years now and Alhamdulillah, we have a reach of more than 1000 women. Some of these women are now agripreneurs, social entrepreneurs, freelancers, fashion designers, technology experts, and they are all competing with international brands. Things are changing, slowly but it’s a good move because in the next few years, Northern women will reflect in Nigeria’s economy because we are strong, passionate and willing, all very good virtues.
Would you say it has been a smooth sail all through?
It definitely was not a smooth sail all through. There was and still is a lot of challenges and hurdles! Being a Northern woman is hard especially because we live in a stereotypical society. But Alhamdulillah, with prayers and lots of prayers, we are where we are now. We are still fighting for ourselves and others and we will keep fighting until we can all sit down and make a living from our comfort zones.
What is fashion and style to you?
I am really not a fashion person. I still do not even know what shade of foundation suits me. However, I love comfort. Majority of my clothes are gowns, free and simple. So long as I am wearing a gown, a good wrist watch, nice perfume and a pair of sunglasses, I am good to go and can actually see the president like that.
Which is your favourite genre of music and why?
I love R&B because that is the kind of music that helps me express myself, it speaks to me.
Where is your favourite tourist location in Nigeria?
I love Abuja and Adamawa because the two cities are calm, have beautiful scenery which is actually good for my personality, and of course, I get to take lots of pictures of nature and lifestyle images particularly.
What do you do during your spare time?
I read a lot. Most of what I know is from reading. I also watch movies and series a lot, I get ideas from there and see how the world is moving and changing. Sometimes I sit with my dad and ask him about our roots because the story is so amazing.
Your beauty routine
I believe in cleansers, scrubs and Natural remedies! these are things i do everyday! Thanks to pintrest!!
Last words for women and measures to be taken to empower women
Seek for knowledge be empowered and never let anyone tell you that you cant make it. Have a Dream and work hard to live it because i promise you nothing is impossible.
For measure to be taken to empower women i think we need the government to work harder and more organizations too. The women should also try and use every little resource at hand because i know alot of women who refuse to start a business because they don’t want to start small.
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