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Gearing Up for Greatness

As the youngest child, Khadijah watched her siblings graduate and go on to college, and she knew the same would be expected of her. But it wasn’t until her brother gifted her a University of California, Berkeley shirt that she had a life-changing revelation.

It was something about having gear. About having something on your chest. I just knew that giving that to the kids could be a sense of motivation.

It was a motivation for her, inspiring her to pursue her talent on the track field and win a college scholarship. From there, Khadijah trained rigorously and joined the Nigerian Olympic team. It was there, in Nigeria, the memory of her brother’s gift finally came full circle.

“I feel like that just opened a lot of doors for me,” she says. “Being able to travel and being able to see those opportunities. I asked myself if I didn’t have siblings ahead of me, or if I didn’t have sports, would I have gone to college? That’s debatable, but I know having [those things] put me on a better path and kept me structured in life.”

khadijah-photo-1-1 Khadijah Suleman. Entrepreneur. Athlete. Bizee Customer.
khadijah-photo-2-1 Founder at Gear 'Em Up and Aloyae Clothing.

Khadijah saw her peers in Nigeria -- equally as talented and motivated -- went without the proper athletic attire, because they often didn’t have access to it. That’s when, in 2016, her 501(c)(3), Gear ‘Em Up, was born.

Khadijah’s been busy since then, building up both her non-profit and her retail business into a hectic but rewarding career. So you can imagine her answer when asked what it means to be an entrepreneur: “It means you never get any sleep!”. But don’t let that stop you…!

Top Tips for Starting a Business

Want to start a business but feel too overwhelmed? With a little inspiration from Khadijah, and a little support from Bizee, you can achieve your dreams of entrepreneurship, too. Here’s how Khadijah advises you to get started.

As for what not to do? Khadijah says it’s pretty simple. Don’t get in your own head with negativity… and don’t let anyone else take up that space, either.

You have to stay consistent, whatever you do, because every year, every month, every day, you’re building up to something.

Next? Khadijah Starts her Second Business

Khadijah started her retail company, Aloaye Clothing, in 2018. The company began marketing all-satin, African-inspired bonnets to women. Why? Because as a black woman and a business-owner, Khadijah knew that other women like her were ready to trade in all those hats they wear… for a crown.

“I wanted to embrace the crown,” she says. “I think women, we’re queens. Particularly black women. We’re always held to a certain standard. We’re supposed to be strong. We are strong. So, I think creating these bonnets and these head garments are just a crown on woman’s head, to empower you in whatever you’re doing.”

710A0667-ai Aloaye Clothing, satin bonnets inspired by African culture.
khadijah-photo-4-1 Founder, Khadijah Suleman.
710A0669-aiHand-crafted with the best quality of ankara and satin fabrics.

Passing the Crown

Khadijah’s journey to entrepreneurship began in childhood, with her mother as her primary role model. “I feel like I’ve always been an entrepreneur. I’m my mother’s child,” she says. “She’s always been a go-getter, always had multiple jobs, selling things in our garage. She’s a true African woman and she embodies that. When I was child, she sold Avon products and purses, and I would go to my neighbors and sell them to my friends’ parents.”

That’s where Khadijah’s fire for entrepreneurship was ignited, but the examples of hard work, sweat equity and bootstrapping have long continued.

This Time Bizee Has Her Back

When Khadijah launched Gear ‘Em Up in 2016, she spent countless hours filling out document after document, poring over forms to ensure her filing would be accepted. When it came time to start up Aloaye, she had a different strategy in mind: let Bizee handle it.

One of the things I really appreciated with Bizee is that it took care of everything for me.

Using Bizee just made the process so much easier for me,” she says. Bizee updated me on its own. I would just have to log into the website and see that everything was taken care of, and just knew that my business was in great hands.

Khadijah’s Best Biz Tips

  • 1 Just do it. (Not a surprising piece of advice from a track athlete!)
  • 2 Surround yourself with a supportive team.
  • 3 Find a mentor.
  • 4 Stay organized.
  • 5 Be resilient. (You’re going to hear “no.” A lot.)
  • 6 Be aware of your market and competition.

Khadijah’s Top 3 Tools

Entrepreneurs have drive. They have skill. They have chutzpah. But if they don’t have the right tools, they won’t get far. Here are Khadijah’s top picks for tools with a surmountable learning curve and plenty of bang for your buck.

Ultimately, Khadijah’s best advice boils down to the basics:
Just. Do. It. And if you think you can’t — for whatever reason — you’re wrong. You can.

I like to tell people, never allow what you came from or your environment to dictate your future.

As for Khadijah’s future, it will include forming a new business, and eventually, the freedom to give up her day job and become a full-time entrepreneur.

We have to say — Girl, that crown looks good on you!

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