Minna Salami is the founder of the London based online boutique MsAfropolitan.
Launched as a tribute to African Women’s Decade, the MsAfropolitan boutique celebrates the successes of African women in the diaspora, showcasing must-have fashion, jewellery, art and interior design collections.
Why did you decide to start the MsAfropolitan boutique?
The MsAfropolitan Boutique is part of the MsAfropolitan brand, which also consists of an analytical lifestyle blog.
The aim of the MsAfropolitan brand is to be a resource for empowerment, analysis and celebration of the African diaspora woman and her multifarious journey towards global impact. The boutique, which sells a range of items from fashion and jewellery to art and interior design, was set up as an initiative to support this journey.
I decided to launch MsAfropolitan in observance of the African Women’s Decade 2010-2020 inauguration in July 2010 as my contribution to the remarkable UN initiative.
How did you conceive the name for your business?
Coming up with the right name took a lot of brainstorming. However, when the name MsAfropolitan came to mind I knew I had found the right name for a brand with a focus on the cosmopolitan African woman.
What was your career path prior to starting your company?
I’m a hyphenated person. In addition to running MsAfropolitan I am also a writer-social media manager-project manager-dancer-model. I’ve earned my living from these roles in the past and still do to varying extents.
Where can I purchase your collections and what are your current bestsellers?
The products can be purchased from the MsAfropolitan Boutique or from the individual designer websites.
There’s a 10% discount on the retail price if someone buys the items I’ve picked in my boutique. Furthermore, I donate a percentage of profits to the charity Forward UK that is working against female genital mutilation in Africa.
As for bestsellers, the boutique has not been live long enough to say, but the silk scarves, the Ankara fashion and the art pieces are proving quite popular.
How do you select your collections and what advice would you give to start-up business owners who are looking for stockists?
I handpick the items that are featured in the shop. The idea is to build trust with my customer so I am very picky about the selection process.
My personal shopping style is versatile; I shop at markets, charity shops and independent designers for the most part. I wish to reflect this diversity in the boutique by offering a variety of products.
It’s really important for start-ups to believe in the future success of their product. This excitement comes across and is bound to influence a potential stockist positively.
What are you working on at the moment? Can you describe your typical working day?
I don’t really have typical working days. If I’m not sleeping, socialising or practicing hobbies, then basically I am working. It’s a 24/7 work lifestyle.
What have been the highlights of running your own business?
Meeting and getting to know inspiring people is the best thing about what I do. Some of my regular blog visitors are people I would now consider friends.
As for the boutique, every woman whose products I sell has been an inspiration to me. African Diaspora entrepreneurs are driven by a passion for not only their product, but also to showcase the talent and resourcefulness of Africa.
What is the hardest part of running your own business?
Being responsible for everything from start to finish can be daunting but I do enjoy this process and the challenge.
What has been your biggest triumph to date?
There are so many things I am grateful for. Just being able to do what I do is the most important thing to me.
What’s the most important business lesson you’ve learnt so far?
Never give up on your dreams. Know yourself, figure out what you want and then set out to make it happen.
What, or who, inspires and motivates you?
I am inspired by life; the in- and outgoings of human interaction with the environment. I am also inspired by rebels, people who have the courage to be themselves.
My motivation comes from knowing that if, as an African woman, I don’t define myself, then someone else will do it for me and so far I’ve not been happy with the definitions the world has given us.
Do you have a business mentor?
I don’t have a particular business mentor but my dad, who is a successful entrepreneur, is a resource of inspiration to me. Whenever I feel stuck, I think to myself; what would he do in this situation. If the solution doesn’t come to me, I call him and he always has a sensible suggestion.
What inspires me about my dad is that he has worked very hard to become successful without ever losing sight of his core values and beliefs.
What advice would you give to someone who is considering starting a fashion business?
To just do it. It might sound simple but it’s so important to start somewhere. You can always sew that one skirt, or register that website or get a business card.
If the idea of a business is scary then just take that one first step and then start planning the next one when you get there.
What are your future goals for MsAfropolitan?
I believe that African women have a huge role to play in global economics, politics and social life and I want MsAfropolitan to contribute to this movement. Wherever this journey takes me, I am ready to go.
Minna Salami was interviewed by Octavia Goredema, founder of the Twenty Ten Club.
The Twenty Ten Club connects, inspires and supports Black female business owners. If you are interested in becoming a member you can find out more here.
MsAfropolitan featured collection
Designer credits: Scarf, Eki Orleans; Notebook, Eva Sonaike; Ankara fashion, Ifenkili; Swimwear, Aya Morrison.