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Friday, August 18, 2017

Mikaiferlux Founder on Building the Foremost African Lingerie Brand from Scratch

Tell us about yourself.

My name is Shamim Mikaifer. I am a happy outgoing person. All my friends call me Mimi. My parents are from Uganda Originally, but I was born in Sweden. I am a teacher by training. After I became a single mum, I was teaching one day and I looked at my life and it was not going anywhere. I was making money but it was just being recycled and never enough. Beyond that, I just didn’t have the passion for teaching anymore.

 Most of my childhood friends thought I would go into fashion and when I became a teacher they were surprised. They said to me, “Mimi, this is so not you”? I eventually decided to quit my job in 2015 and follow my heart.

Tell us about your business.

Mikaiferlux is my life! I put everything on hold for it. I believe in it so much that I breathe it and I live it.

It is affordable luxury lingerie for the African market. I don’t want women from Africa to have to travel to get quality lingerie anymore. They should be able to order it from the comfort of their homes.

Let us make our own, and show the world that we can.

 Why did you choose to start the foremost African Lingerie Brand

 A few years ago, I took a vacation and came to Nigeria. I didn’t like Nigeria the first time. But I came back again to see my boyfriend at the time, who was a model and worked in the fashion industry. I attended a lot of fashion events with him and that was what opened up my eyes to the fashion industry in Nigeria. It made me realize you can make a career doing fashion, which I never knew before then because I thought if you did fashion you would be broke.

African Lingerie Brand

 So I thought, what can I contribute to this industry? At the time, I was looking to buy lingerie but couldn’t find any one place to get indigenous lingerie in the right styles and sizes. I realized there was a need for it. So I did some research and put together a business plan and started looking for people to invest in the business.

What does Mikaifer stand for?

 It stands for pride. It is the African pride. It’s about empowering women. It’s my gift to Africa. I want to give back to my continent. I want to create lingerie for real African women, that takes into consideration their body types.

 Where do you get inspiration for your designs?

I get inspiration from everywhere and from my own self. I think about what I need. I am a tom-boy. I want something that is comfortable and sexy at the same time. I know what looks good on women. I want something practical and useful with good quality.
 We are not about mass-producing lingerie that is not useful or does not last. We create designs that are practical and functional but beautiful at the same time.

 What are the challenges you have faced so far in this line of business?

 So far it’s been up and down. Bumps and grind. Bringing the idea to product stage alone was a lot of work. The hardest challenge for me was having to leave my son most of the time and he’s just five. But I believe if I struggle this whole year through it will be worth it. It’s also been a lonely journey, only you truly understand your vision. Getting investors to invest in this too has been challenging but we made it happen.
 You have to have a thick skin to be able to take on this kind of project. Now I don’t have any salary but I am spending my savings. I am thinking to myself all the time, “if you fight and don’t give up, then one day it will be worth all my efforts.” 

 What motivates you to keep going?

 The feedback from my friends and family motivates me to keep going. There are many times I want to give up, but my brother has been like a rock behind me, encouraging me. I put naysayers on hold and then focus on whatever I am doing because I don’t need the negativity.

 How do you strike the balance between running your business and running the home?

I have a great support system, which is a great thing. My son’s dad is very supportive and he allows me to do all these things and he minds our son.
In order for my kid to be happy, he needs to see me happy. This is what I strive for. He has a good life. But I want to be able to give him the best out of the money that I make.  I want to be able to give him the best I can in life like any mother would. 

Do you have any regrets? If you could start over, would you do this again?

 Of course, I would! I am glad I chose to do this now because this was the right time. If I had tried this five years ago, I would have given up. I have traveled a lot; I have met new people, tasted new food and It has opened me up to a lot of new experiences. I am glad that I did it.
 I would do it again and again.

 What advice would you give to other mothers who would like to start a business?

Everybody needs to think hard about what they want to do. If your guts tell you to go for it, go for it! So you don’t regret that you never did it. People will judge and talk, but if you are not happy, your children cannot be happy. Develop a thick skin and do what makes you happy. Because only you know what makes you happy.
When you get to the point where you hate your life or hate yourself, then it's your inner self, talking to you that it's time to change your life. Anybody can make money as long as you have a dream and keep it alive.