Mariam Sule is a Writer, a serial entrepreneur, and aspiring teacher. Her fiction and non-fiction have appeared in the Ake Review, Brittle Paper, Ebedi Review, Arts and Africa, ITCH Creative Journal and Litro Magazine UK. She was a Writer-in-Residence at the Ebedi International Writers Residency. She writes monthly articles for ArtxJuJu, a brand committed to challenging the demonization of African culture, which she also co-founded. She is a beneficiary of the Tony Elemelu Entrepreneurship Programme 2019.
Mariam shares with LLA how she has managed to run Nigeria’s first all-African online bookstore- TheBookDealerNG so far.
Can you briefly describe yourself and your business?
My name is Mariam Sule-Izuagbe. I am a writer with work in the Ake Review, Arts and Africa, ITCH Creative Journal, Litro Mag UK and a few others. I started TheBookDealerNg in October 2016. I had always loved books but it was hard finding the kind of books I liked to read. In early 2016, I was a writer in residence at the Ebedi International Writers Residency, there we were to mentor secondary school students as part of the program.
It was there I realized the opportunity available in the inaccessibility of books. I saved up, started contacting publishing houses and TheBookDealerNg was born. Aside from the bookstore, I am a Co-Founder of ArtxJuJu, a brand committed to challenging the demonization of the African culture by incorporating artifacts with everyday fashion.
What is it like being a female entrepreneur, and why did you choose to be one?
Initially, I did not think of myself as an entrepreneur. I wanted to be a medical doctor, then a psychologist but I never really thought about entrepreneurship as an option until 2016. I don’t think I choose it either. It happened and I went along with it.
What new innovation have you introduced to your business?
TheBookDealerNg is Nigeria’s first all-African online bookstore. On our website, you have access to ordering a wide range of books, reading book reviews, exclusive author interviews as well as finding opportunities for the freelance writer and news updates within the African Literary scene.
What will you say is responsible for your success so far?
In your opinion, would you say that there are any unique challenges that female entrepreneurs face?
Personally, I have not encountered any particularly unpleasant event except the fact, I am mostly referred to as a ’Sir’ before any further clarifications. This comes from the default mindset that only men can be business owners, which everybody knows is NOT true. This can be corrected by telling more diverse stories about women, something Leading Ladies Africa is doing great at. Kudos
What values and principles have helped you so far?
Honestly, it has to be taking care of my mental health. Sleep when necessary, eat breakfast, personal affirmations. These help me with my mental health. I can’t work efficiently if my mental health is unstable so I am very particular about these. I also keep a lot of records for accountability purposes.
Why did you decide to go into this particular line of business?
Easy! Because I love books. Books have always been my companion and I wanted to share the love and happiness books give me with others.
What are some of the challenges you’ve faced, and what’s kept you going?
Slow business days, when sales aren’t coming in. What keeps me going is that I know that money works in a cycle. It comes and it goes. I try to think of better, more interesting ways to attract buyers and keep it moving. It is hard though, I must say.
What’s your five-year plan for your business?
Expansion beyond the virtual world. Events, Festivals. Partnerships. Exciting stuff.
What do upcoming female entrepreneurs need to do to be successful in this path?
Find a community of women like yourself. Honestly, it is the most comforting thing knowing people are going through the same things as you are. They could also share opportunities with you and give advice that you would have never gotten otherwise.
The LLA Lady Boss Series is a weekly interview series that highlights the achievements and entrepreneurial journeys of African female entrepreneurs. The idea is to showcase the Leading Ladies who are transforming Africa and the African narrative through enterprise and business.
It is an off-shoot of Leading Ladies Africa, a non-profit that promotes leadership, inclusion and diversity for women of African descent.
If you know any kick-ass women of African Descent doing phenomenal things in enterprise, email firstname.lastname@example.org, and she could possibly be featured.