Having grown up as a conservative Northern Nigerian, it was ingrained in Fatima Babakura that at a certain age, inevitably, she would have to finish school and then get married “to someone rich who can take care of you”.
But Babakura was never going to let this happen.
“Living in Lagos gave me a different perspective because I was living around people whose mindset was ‘make your own money and then go to school’ so it’s not like you are waiting for someone to come and take care of you’,” Babakura tells FORBES AFRICA. “And because I was privileged enough to experience that, I am not your average Northern Nigerian girl.”
Babakura is the founder, chief executive officer and designer of Timabee, an accessories brand that “redefines luxury in Africa and beyond”.
Her sharp eye for design, curiosity and yen for imagining a product and bringing it to life motivated her to start Timabee.
Babakura began the brand in her first year of university in Canada.
She had designed a “simple handbag” and given it to her close family friend as a gift.
“I didn’t even think it was that great,” she laughs. But continuing on with her theme to be “curious”, she set out to find a manufacturer who would make this bag.
“Keep in mind, I was an accounting student with no business or fashion background. I did a simple Google search which led me to Alibaba where I found a company that agreed to make me a sample for $150 in December 2013.”
From the pocket money she received from her parents, 17-year-old Babakura set out to spend the $150 which she ended up losing as “I interacted with a fraudulent vendor and had no clue”.
Losing the money did not stop her.
“I was determined to find someone else to make my bag, but this time I was a lot more careful and I did my due diligence researching the company.”
One of the biggest highlights for Timabee was in 2021, when the brand was approved by award-winning American artist and businesswoman, Beyoncé.
“Last year, when Beyoncé’s team compiled a list of black-owned businesses, we were honored to make the list. It just goes to show that as a small, growing brand, the work we put in every day does not go unnoticed.”
Having taken the pro-women approach when it comes to running her business, she wants to encourage many women, including those who may look like her, to feel empowered to start enterprises.
“Starting Timabee as a young girl, there were many mistakes I made as I did not seek out mentorship earlier on due to the fear of being rejected. I learned a lot through trial and error, many of which cost the company money and could have easily been avoided had I sought mentorship,” Babakura says. “This is a major reason why I have set up Timabee global resources, a concept aimed at helping entrepreneurs in the accessory business navigate their way to global recognition and achieve success. I truly believe in paying it forward and so in the next three years, I hope to open a mentoring school specifically for high school and university students where they can have hands-on experience on the business of fashion especially as it relates to Africa.
“Many girls from Northern Nigeria aspire to marry rich as a ‘career path’, sadly. I believe that through my mentorship program, the right mindset will be the foundation for future success especially since I will be an example to them through my achievements as a Northern girl.”
Words and Curation: Chanel Retief
Art Director: Lucy Nkosi
Additional Research & Reporting: Lillian Roberts
Photography: Ilan Godfrey for Forbes
Videography and production: Timothy Pierson for Forbes & Chad McClymonds for Forbes
Video Editor: Chanel Retief
Styling: Katlego Magano of Oak Ave; Assistant: Tumelo Nkwe
Hair & Makeup: SnehhOnline Beauty; Thapelo Letsebe
Location: Image Lounge, Botswana and 2022 Forbes Under 30 Summit