How this Senegalese Entrepreneur went from a Geographer to now a Fashion Designer at Ashara
Startup Stories
How this Senegalese Entrepreneur went from a Geographer to now a Fashion Designer at Ashara
Mariam Abdullah
Mariam Abdullah
November 12, 2021
4 min

Aissata Maimouna Sambou is an example of what happens when passion takes over the front seat. She comes from a Senegalese background and is the youngest of her siblings. Aissata began her studies by attaining a Bac L2 then later furthered her education in a bachelor’s degree in Human Geography and in Transport and Logistics.

Unlike many who studied designing and tailoring before opening up a fashion brand, Aissata said, “I have done no styling training, but I have been passionate about fashion since I was little”.

Her mother, who is a seamstress, had a little sewing school in which Aissata spent many of her hours. While her mom was busy working, Assiata was fascinated by the art and could do hands-on cutting and sewing at a very young age.

It was right after Bac that Aissata felt the desire to be an entrepreneur and created the Ashara clothing brand. Aissata started her clothing brand with the name Ashara which she perfectly describes as “Ashara” this sweet royal-sounding name is a unisex ready-to-wear brand. ASHARA comes from the word “SAHARA”, chosen to transcribe Africa in all its splendor on our creations with the use of local materials”.

From successfully starting a brand soon came her first challenge which she tried to manage whilst working for a transport and logistics company and in addition juggling her university studies. It was by far the most difficult thing to do, to manage all three without giving up but then came an opportunity to open her first home store, followed by her succession to sell in France, Nigeria, and the Ivory Coast.

There were countless times when she wanted to stop everything. There was a time when she went on for a year without production which gave people many reasons to doubt her dream, even telling her she would not make it as she is too young. With no styling training, the environment being too saturated, her economic model would gain nothing with her brand. Many people discouraged her, but she believed in herself, in her abilities and talents, she launched herself. Aissata made a lot of sacrifices, today she has her brand, a shop, and a wonderful team that allows her to strengthen even more.

In 2014 when Aissata started her clothing brand with the help of another friend, in doing both the fashion designs and sewing, it was unfortunate that things did not play out as they had expected and so it was down to Aissata who continued her passion for Ashara in managing, sewing, communicating and every other aspect of the business. Aissata worked tirelessly with passion for her brand and gracefully In the year 2020-21 her small team of one grew. Today, Aissata is proud to say there are seven hard-working employees working on the brand in Dakar, and apart from that, she also has ambassadors working across different countries who took up the responsibility of distributing in their respective countries.

Despite the little exposure, Aissata started out with capsule collections which captured the interest of the director of the Dakar Arts Village. With respect to the opportunity that led her to take part in the Francophonie parade and the Dakar 2018 Biennial at the Villages of the Arts of Dakar. Aissata found these two events as a bigger stepping stone for the ASHARA clothing brand.

When setbacks arise along the way her best solution is to stay calm and find solutions. Just like every other business, there are highs and lows and for a clothing brand such as Ashara, there were periods when sales were down and the team had to create a new model, also similar to when there is a shortage of production materials from suppliers. As a team, the most vital question to ask themselves is, what solves this problem? And by adapting to each obstacle there must be a solution created as soon as possible to maintain demand and supply.

Aissata knew her biggest difficulty was starting her business at a very young age with no solid understanding of what she was doing. She paved her way through to launching her dream brand with the help of her savings. In a competitive market such as fashion, ensuring the quality of the product was her top priority to make sales, but that was difficult either. Customers like what they see but it all comes down to the quality of the product that determines their buying decision and for Aissata, it was necessary to meet her consumers’ demands…

Through the many challenges, Aissata made exceptional milestones for the brand that she now reflects on and is proud of the journey her brand has taken, anticipating what the future has in store for her. The two triumphs which stood out of her the most and made breakthroughs were the parade à la Francophonie and the opening of the home store. “These two events mark the most important moments of the brand; they opened several doors for me in Senegal and internationally”, she said. In 10 years Aissata hopes for Ashara to be an international brand open to other horizons and to be known as the number one “READY TO WEAR” clothing brand in the African continent and be strongly present globally with several shops opening.

For young girls across Africa who also want to start creative ventures. “All I can say is to learn, to undertake, to believe in them and their project. They must never give up and work hard to get there. Entrepreneurship requires a lot of sacrifices. They will face a lot of obstacles and setbacks but still have to get up” says Aissata

When asked what she likes about owning the Ashara clothing brand, Aissata said she knows the African economic market is too important for her to not be part of it. “It has been a genuine pleasure to create the ASHARA brand in order to take part in this market. I am proud of my ASHARA brand and the fact that it can contribute to the economic growth of Africa by generating market value and employment”, Aissata added.

Like all strong-minded entrepreneurs, she believed in making mistakes because that led her to better her brand to meet the success of where she is now. Despite several debuts, she learned to be devoted in her journey of producing and giving her best to the passion she had birthed.

Shop Ashara: https://sellox.app/shops/ashara


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