From “mummy’s handbag” to founder, CEO, and designer of a luxury accessories brand, this Northern Nigerian woman defies all odds of her destined conservative future.
Fatima Babakura, who currently lives in Lagos, is a glowing product of her environment and has fully embraced the culture that inspired her to dream bigger.
“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 told the magazine.
“And because I was privileged enough to experience that, I am not your average Northern Nigerian girl.”
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At an early age, Babakura discovered her passion for sketching designs. She recalled childhood memories that would go on to ignite her entrepreneurial spirit.
“Growing up, I remember being called ‘mummy’s handbag,’ not because I followed her everywhere as that title would suggest, but because I was always holding my mother’s handbag when we went out together. I guess it was only natural that after I sketched a handbag, I became very curious to see it come to life. That is how Timabee started,” Babakura recounted, per She Leads Africa.
Launched during Babakura’s freshman year at Canada’s McMaster University, Timabee is an encapsulation of the founder’s “concept of redefined luxury, where artisanal dreams are brought to reality,” per the brand’s website. The then 17-year-old mastermind brought her vision to life by promoting the works of African-based designers to a global audience.
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The first product was a “simple handbag” that she had gifted to her close family friend, per Forbes Africa. She didn’t think it was “that great,” but her curiosity led to a hunt to find a manufacturing company using the pocket money she got from her parents.
“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,” Babakura said.
However, an ambitious Babakura ended up losing the pocket money she got from her parents due to an interaction with a fraudulent vendor. She refused to let that stop her, mistakes and all. Now, she wants to create opportunities for the next generation.
Today, Timabee offers a wide selection of elegantly handcrafted handbags and hand embellished shoes. The future of the brand looks bright as Babakura said she wants to open a “mentoring school” in the next three years “specifically for high school and university students” to learn in the ins and outs of the fashion industry, “especially as it relates to Africa.”
“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.”
“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.”
While her company aims to please, Babakura garnered Queen Bey’s and her team’s attention. Timabee made it on Beyoncé’s list of Black-owned businesses in 2021, and for the Lagos resident, she said, “it just goes to show that as a small, growing brand, the work we put in every day does not go unnoticed.”