It’s been a while I had an entrepreneur on the blog, and so when I sent @IamuzayAp a message on Instagram and he graciously said he’d give me a few minutes, I was thrilled!
Yusuf Abubakar (Mr Tumi) is a computer engineer, designer, stylist, personal shopper, and a serial entrepreneur. He is a watch ambassador at Ritmo Mundo, and you can find a bit more about him here.
Ready? Let’s do it!
FGS: First off, thanks for taking the time to chat, and at such short notice! I was going to make the meet and greet you had in London, say hello personally, but I was reminded last-minute of another engagement and there was no way I could merge the two.
Yusuf: The pleasure is mine, we had the event on a short notice so I wouldn’t fault you on that ha, but your keen interest is much appreciated.
FGS: Welcome to the 3, 2, 1 series! Let’s start with your Skype profile message which says, “when I stand before God at the end of my life, I would hope that I would not have a single talent left….” What does that quote mean to you?
Yusuf: it basically means using all the talents we have on earth to the best of our ability based on the fact that when we go back to the creator we won’t need any of those. I want my talent to be part of my access to paradise by helping as many people as I can and doing the best with whatever I have on this earth.
FGS: What are these talents you speak of? Put differently, what gets you out of bed every morning?
Yusuf: Funny but I don’t see my self as being talented, I only get told I am.. I have been involved in a lot of things all my life. Let’s start from my secondary school days when I came up with a month-long campaign to adopt a class project and my mates laughed at it. The idea was to get parents to adopt classrooms and distribute laptops, tiles, electric blackboards, etc. I pitched the idea to parents on visiting day because it was a boarding school. At the time I calculated that a class would be transformed for about 5million or so. Before I left the school we had almost 7 classes out of twelve adopted and that’s excluding staff room and other facilities!
I have always tried to initiate things on my own; from a promotional event company, to working with a radio station in Leicester. Then I came up with my brand as a university project in 2011 – I love sketching. I may not be as good as I was anymore but that was my starting point of designs.
FGS: Incredible! Tell us about your brand. After the university project, were you totally convinced building a label was what you wanted to do, or was there a turning point moment?
Yusuf: I made a design for our entrepreneurship module and when I posted it online, my mates went crazy for the shoes. It wasn’t even any good based on the quality but they went ballistic so I registered my company immediately!
I got Leon Best to wear my jacket; he was with Newcastle and we were supposed to do a project together; he plays for Blackburn Rovers now. However, Ivory Coast play Tiote Check Ismael of Newcastle United saw my design, liked it, got in touch, and now we’re working together.
FGS: Speaking of football and footballers, how was that connection born?
Yusuf: To be honest I don’t know, I think if your work is good people will come through. I say hard work spotlights the character of people; some turn up their sleeves, some turn up their noses, and some don’t turn up at all.
FGS: Question 3 – If you had three wishes that you were sure would be granted, what would you ask for?
Yusuf: Hmmm. First, I’d wish that Nigerians and Nigerian companies embraced their own, supported other ventures besides music.
Second, I’d wish for checks. Africa has great designers but no product checks, no material checks, size charts, nothing. We need to focus on that.
Finally, I’d want to see bigger companies sponsoring African brands in Europe and supporting their standalone shops like the Christian Dior’s, LV’s, Bottega Veneta’s, Margiela’s, Gucci’s, etc.
FGS: Awesome! Looks like it’s all about the brand and the fashion for you; I notice you didn’t even have a private/personal wish!
Yusuf: Ha ha, I thought we were speaking just about the brand.
FGS: Nope, I’m interested not only in the brand, but the person behind it!
Yusuf: My personal wish would be for everyone to be successful… and that one day they could have my statue at Madame Tussauds.
FGS: Ha ha ha! How many working hours do you have in your day?
Yusuf: To be quite honest I have exceeded my limit but let’s say about 17-19hours.
FGS: out of 24? Or are you one of the select few that have 30 hours in their day? What’s a typical day like?
Yusuf: I don’t think I ever have a typical day o. I could be checking what Forbes is saying or doing a Data Flow Diagram of an app I am working on or maybe I want to travel to a vintage city with a lot of English or any cultural history.
FGS: Question 2 – what are two things that an upcoming fashion designer needs to have to succeed in the business?
Yusuf: Business plan, supportive friends, inspiring environment, finance, work on retail outlet or if you can do it yourself fine, deliver well and deliver great
FGS: Lol, Yusuf I said two o! Do you have a ready to wear collection or you stick to bespoke outfits/couture?
Yusuf: All my stuff is ready to wear. We have our products in Cannes stores at the moment and we’re working on other places. Plus, I’m very easy to contact.
FGS: Cool. What was your biggest challenge with starting the brand?
Yusuf: Finance, support and knowing your target market. Then you need a feasible plan and measurable deliverables.
FGS: So did you have a pot of money when you started out?
Yusuf: nope I just had better networking. if I had a pot of money, my secretary would probably be doing this interview (lol). Truth is everyone has different strategy but money is king we all know this. I’ve been very fortunate.
FGS: I totally understand. It also means I should be grateful you don’t have a pot of money (yet)… Lol. Where’s the place of family in your business?
Yusuf: Family? I like to be discrete with that; I try not to mix them at all
FGS: I understand about that too. Final question. What is the one thing in the world you cannot do without?
Yusuf: wow… let’s say my Laptop, power, Internet; gadgets in general to be honest.
FGS: Lol, Yusuf, I said ONE thing!
Yusuf: Am I safe then to say technology?
FGS: Ha ha ha, that’s a sly answer, but it will do! Thank you so much Yusuf for chatting with me today, I really appreciate it!
Yusuf: The honor is mine, much appreciated dear!