Think Global, Act Local: How 10-Year-Old Fashion Designer Brings Africa to America

Think Global, Act Local: How 10-Year-Old Fashion Designer Brings Africa to America

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When 10-year-old Egypt “Ify” Ufele was being bullied at school about her weight, she turned her frustration into profit and purpose with Chubiiline, a full-figured fashion line “bringing Africa to America, one design at a time.” “I wanted to ease my pain from bullying,” said Ufele. “I decided to use fashion as a way to open a platform for models of sizes to be included in the fashion industry.”

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With a plus-sized fashion line recently shown at New York Fashion Week, and a few years of experience traveling to Africa for peace missions and design inspiration, Ufele is not your average 10-year-old. In between TV and radio interviews, she attends elementary school and frequently speaks on panels about everything from fashion to bullying and entrepreneurship. caught up with Ufele and her mom, Dr. Reba Perry to learn more about her journey. How do you find design inspiration? 

Ufele: I travel a lot with my mom, Dr. Reba Perry, who works for the UN and goes to Africa for peace missions. We go to rural areas in Africa and I pick up many different colorful fabrics from different places in Africa. It is important to know my African heritage because my Dad is Nigerian. My mom is able to finance all my fabrics and fashion shows. I also attend a lot of fashion shows and study the fashions in magazines and on television.

Who inspired you to go into business?

My parents both own their own business. My mom said always be your own boss if you’re not good at taking orders.

How long did it take you to go from idea to creation? Any tips for aspiring young entrepreneurs?

I worked for a year with dolls and I decided to create real human doll models. For young people starting a business, have an adult to research the market for your idea first. This plays a big part in how successful your business will be.

What’s your advice to someone else being bullied? Always tell your mom or a guardian and if they do nothing tell another adult. Don’t stop telling till somebody helps you.

While attending school, you’re also running your own business and managing chronic asthma. How do you find the time to make it all work?

I wake up at 5: 30 a.m. for prayer, 5: 45 asthma treatment nebulizer machine,
6 a.m.-730 a.m. pattern making, 7:30 a.m. breakfast, 7:45 school, 2:30 p.m. homework, 3:30 sewing, 5 p.m. guest appearance or reading a book, and 9 p.m. bed. Weekends are booked shows or guest appearance. Two times a month I have down time to be with my peers.

What advice can you give parents on raising a young entrepreneur?

Dr. Reba Perry: My advice is to have a family meeting first and get the whole family involved. This is to avoid sibling rivalry because it can divide your family unit easily.

What sacrifices do you think parents need to make when encouraging a young child to pursue a business venture?

Parents should always work hands-on with their young entrepreneur so
they can be on the same page. The parent can help finance, travel with
them and fulfill the momager roll. It will make the process so much easier.
Please hire a professional publicist as you make more progress. That will
cut out all the extra time and phone calls.

What are some ugly truths about preparing kids for entrepreneurship?

The ugly side of having a child entrepreneur is when they want to still
be a kid. Maybe they don’t want to do an hour-long interview, not feeling well, hungry or tired. Then your mom position has to come back into play. You
have to explain to your child they have a commitment to their business.

Why do you think travel and service is important for your daughter?

Ify has traveled to many parts of Africa several times with me doing peace missions. She has visited really rural areas with no running water, no fridge, no stove, and witnessed kids and adults with no shoes or even clothes. We have been in areas with just running cold water and no electricity. There are children Ify’s age, who care for their sibling because the single mom has to go to work. To succeed, she has to adapt to different cultures.