March 3, 2012 – I Started Making Money At Age 16 – Toyin Lawani
To many, especially those in the Lagos social circuit, Toyin Lawani depicts many pictures. But who is this 30-year-old entrepreneur who runs Amala.dot.com and Tiannah’s Place, which boast a few subsidiaries in health, beauty and fashion? naijagists.com
In this no-holds-barred interview, the Lagos indigene, opens up on her life and sets the record straight about her personality.
Toyin Lawani has her hands in many pies— she is a stylist, a restaurateur, runs a salon, spa, travel agency, a designer and much more!
Blame her? She started business at the tender age of 16! “I began making money in business when I was 16,” she recalls. “I had just gained admission into the University of Lagos to read English and started off buying things with my pocket money whenever I travel out of the country on holidays. I sold them to my school mates, made some profit and ploughed it back into the business.
“Gradually I got a shop space in front of my apartment in school and opened a boutique/supermarket. Two years after, I got another shop at the sports centre in the school complex and a year before my final year in school, I got another shop space on Akoka road and opened my first spa/cosmetic shop. I named it Tiannah’s place, after my daughter whom I gave birth to in my final year in school.”
Now with her outfit on the Island in Lagos, you wonder what motivated her in toeing the business path so early in life.
“I didn’t deliberately set out to be my own boss so early in life but my late mother, who was into textile business inspired me a lot. In fact she pushed me into it. She made me realise that I could do both things together— be in school and run my business at the same time.
“She once ran a beauty business as well and when she left for America to treat her cancer ravaged body, I was entrusted with managing the business.
“This prompted me to open my own spa/beauty business. Even while in America, she continued from where she stopped and when she gave up the ghost, my sister took up the running of the place till date. I really looked up to her and followed in her footsteps.”
Running a salon, a spa, a travel agency, a styling agency, a boutique, a designing studio (all under the trade name, Tiannah’s place), a restaurant called Amala dot com, coupled with taking care of her daughter have been made unusually easy for her. The secret?
She replies: “I try to treat my staff as a family such that when any leaves, they always find a way of coming back to me as I am intimately involved in the minutest details about them.”
This comes as a surprise going by the negative impression people have about her—she is rumoured to have a standoffish attitude.
“I want to believe that people who paint such pictures about me have a serious complex problem. When you readily judge people based on rumours, without actually getting to know them, then you are actually judging yourself. We should learn to love ourselves, be positive about each other and help each other, not expending energy trying to pull people down. I simply ignore them and I do not lose any sleep over this.
“Initially I used to be bothered but I have since developed a thick skin , preferring to focus on my work because I have since realised that getting worried about what people say about me will only bring a setback. People have said all sorts about me— that I used to be dark-skinned, a street girl who came from nowhere and runs after men for money.”
“But I am not that person. I work hard for my money, no one should be given any credit for what I have today. I am a responsible mother, who is out to lay a good foundation for my daughter and to impart the right values in her. How would I achieve all that if I run after men like people think? I had a privileged background and a strict upbringing.
“My father, Olanrewaju Lawani is a politician, who works closely with Gen. Gowon. My paternal grandfather was a former commissioner of police, my maternal grandmother is the reagent of Ikole Ekiti in Ekiti State. I had everything I wanted as a child but I wasn’t spoilt to the extent that I became useless to myself. We were made to do house chores even though we had maids. That I chose to become independent of my parent’s wealth and inheritances was purely by choice. I love to be independent.”
Oh! Toyin has a moniker — ATM — which was rumoured to be as a result of how her partner spends money on her.
She explains, “ATM is the acronym of my full name — Ajoke Toyin Muinat. My passport and birth certificate have my name as that. It is simply not what people thought.”
She was once married. Reminiscing on this, Lawani, who is into philanthropy under the umbrella of I rep for hope, says, “I got married at 20 and I was in it for five years. It just didn’t work out so we went our separate ways. My father wasn’t quite pleased at my marrying at that time but when he found out about the man’s background, he relaxed. My only daughter is the product of that relationship.”
Not in the least bit interested in giving marriage another shot any time soon, this lover of tattoos says she is focused on building her numerous businesses and raising her child.
Of her, she says, “She is my greatest achievement and I wonder what I would have been up to currently if I didn’t have her. She means everything to me. In fact she motivates me to attaining my highest goals. The only way I enjoy unwinding is spending time with her. I try to make out time out of my busy schedule to connect with her and set her on the right path in life.”
Asked if she would also encourage her daughter to toe her path, just as her mother did, Lawani was quick to reply: “No, I won’t force her to, I will only encourage her along the path she chooses for herself and support her 100 per cent. Although she says she wants to be a doctor, she is already exhibiting the tendencies of being fashion/beauty conscious. She is quite young but she is already becoming a little diva. Watching her pushes me to want to expand my business frontiers by incorporating the art of grooming children for poise, class, charm, carriage, confidence, the whole works.”
A fashion conscious person, she however claims not to have a fashion fetish. “I don’t have one particular thing that I am crazy about because I have everything that a girl is meant to have in quantum—hats, shoes, belts, clothes to make-up, name it. There is no item of clothing that I do not crave for, I love them all and I have them all in abundance.”
At 30, she must have made some mistakes in life which she sorely regrets. “I regret the fact that my nice attitude made me to mingle with the wrong people and this sort of gave people a wrong impression about me, I got judged based on how negative some of these people were in their attitude and way of life. I have since cut off from them because they have nothing of value to offer.”(interview by punch)