From her strong Muslim Background, Nimah Ali is the Chief Executive of Le Hammam, an exclusive female beauty, fitness and wellness centre, located at the Federal Capital Territory, Abuja. Her passion to create a safe sanctuary made ‘just for the women’ was driven by her determination to give women the best. She felt that women should have an exclusive beauty home set apart for them. In this interview she bares her mind.
Please give a snapshot of your background before venturing into beauty industry?
I am an alumna of the University of Ilorin, Kwara State, where I studied Accounting and graduated with honours. I also hold a Master’s degree in International Business (MIB) from Grenoble Gratuate School of Business (GGSB) in France and Master of Business Administration (MBA) from University of Wales in the United Kingdom. I am also an Associate of the Association of Certified Chartered Accountant (ACCA) of Nigeria.
Over the years I gained a wealth of experience by holding key positions with different organizations in five different sectors in Nigeria. I was a business analyst at The Infrastructure Bank (TIB); I have served as an accountant to Nigeria Inter-Faith Action Aid (NIFAA), a non-governmental organization (NGO) where I managed donor funds. Prior to setting up Le Hamman, I worked as an independent consultant to different companies for a period of two years.
What was your father’s reaction to your new found business considering his status as a renowned lawyer?
I wish everyone would have a supportive father and family like I have. He champions his children’s decisions and sits with us to discuss his observations which we might not have noticed. Most importantly, he always says, “It is your life and decision.” When we look back, we know no one forced us into anything including marriage. I cannot say he wasn’t shocked when I started my fashion business. He wondered how I would cope with the business. When I explained it to him, he supported me. He even went space hunting with me several times.
Given your background as an accountant and senior executive, did you always have a secret desire to get into the world of fashion and beauty? What inspires you as a fashion entrepreneur?
The beauty industry is a very large place. For me, I got attracted into fashion at an early age. I had flair and an eye for fashion from my growing up years in Ilorin. I remember that I used to pay attention to fashion details while combining my outfits in primary school. Interestingly, I have a picture taken 20 years ago in a sparkling yellow dress and brown turban in my dad’s office. That brings a wide smile to my face anytime I walk in there.
However, my actual involvement in the industry started in 2013 with a fabric business which operated at both the wholesale and retail levels. By the second half of 2015, the idea of spa came up and started almost immediately. As a fashion entrepreneur, my motivation is drawn from a wide range of items that are in my immediate surroundings and beyond. I have a bias for simple, comfortable and effortless pieces from my head to my toe.
Who will be your clientele and how affordable would the spa be for women generally?
Le Hammam Spa will provide a wide range of services under one roof because we are targeting diverse clientele. Our focus is more on women who are conscious of their looks. Our vision is to provide high quality services to all as we offer bundles that cover a wide range of services.
Why are you a certified accountant (ACCA) and not a member of the Institute of Chartered Accountants of Nigeria? (ICAN)
Association of Chartered Certified Accountants (ACCA) and the Institute of Chartered Accountants of Nigeria (ICAN) are both accounting bodies for chartered accountants. They are not inferior to each other. ACCA shines in terms of quality of the certification; the latter is significantly more recognized internationally and therefore increases competitiveness in the market.
What was growing up like in the family? Are there fond memories?
Growing up was fun, filled with excitement and mixed feelings. My parents were strict disciplinarians. I did not appreciate it then, but looking back now, it was the most appropriate parenting approach in the circumstance. It went a long way in shaping me into the woman I am today. I have not forgotten when my father took us to get our hair done as primary school children, to fun road trips because he enjoys driving. I took that part of his life. I also remember celebrating birthdays and special occasions, visiting days in schools then.
What motivated you to go into Spa business?
It was during one of my trips and I visited a Spa that was a one-stop place dedicated to only women. It could be described as a place to come in with nightwear and leave red carpet ready. It inspired me a lot. The inspiration grew when I realized that there were few all-female spas around Abuja. While interacting with women, (especially Muslims), I realised that one big challenge we struggled with was lack of conventional unisex hair salons. For an even larger group of women, the thought of using unisex spas was immeasurable because women would not feel at home. Therefore, it was paramount to create a safe sanctuary for women to relax and let their hair down.
If you had not gone into Spa, what would you have loved to do, differently and why?
My first responsibility would have been to carry on as a full-time cccounting consultant providing business solutions and services. However, my biggest interest is in dedicating my time and resources to charitable causes. The little experience I have had in this field has been completely humbling and rewarding. For me, I always keep it at the back of my mind that service to humanity remains the greatest opportunity. I had considered taking up a full-time role in my father’s foundation which focuses primarily on the medical and education sectors, but I felt I needed to work hard to be financially comfortable to support others.
Who are your role models?
This is quite straight forward and a cliché. In terms of people I have got to spend time with, it’s primarily my father. He is focused, hardworking and thorough in everything he does. He is able to manage both work and family effectively. He works every day and keeps up-to-date with all spheres of life. As for the one who I did not have the opportunity to meet, it’s the prophet Muhammad (PBUH) because his life and decisions serve as a guide for me.
By 2030 countries will no longer be measured by the amount of money they have acquired but the ability to meet the 17 sustainable development goals. Moreover, women are breaking through the glass ceiling. Are you interested in politics and political appointments?
I do not have real interest in politics. While I find it to be a fascinating game, it is not something I spend too much time following because I am not in games generally. As for women breaking the ceiling in various endeavors of life and profession, there is no reason why women should not be right up there in making decisions about the most critical issues around the world. Across all spheres, I have nothing but absolute respect for the women that are making other women proud.
How do you start your day?
I start my day simply by observing the early morning-prayer (Fajir). I plan myself and the day, before taking a light breakfast and conclude my domestic chores. Then I drive to the office for the business of the day which also includes meetings.
Do you have a project or platform that affects the lives of the less privileged ones, especially women and children?
Not yet, though I am working towards it because it is important to me and I am hopeful that something will come out of it in no distant time.