Making New Memories
As AB Laurels – an apparel and accessories store – approaches its decade anniversary, its owner Munirat Lamina continues to appreciate her entrepreneurial vision as if it were still day one. “I come to the store always happy. Every day is fun for me – there’s never a dull moment.” Her store is attended by a revolving door of visitors and familiar faces: loyal customers who pull up a seat to catch up, a relative who lives nearby, even the security guard stops by and is greeted like an old friend.
“Even as a child, it was never hard for me to talk to customers.” Growing up in Nigeria, Munirat’s childhood was spent primarily in the business owned by her mother, a retail store that sold baking supplies and ingredients. Some of Munirat’s fondest memories are of assisting and learning from her mother during that time. “I would give the customers baking advice and recipes. I’m very close with my mother and learned a lot about business ownership from her. From having that experience helping her when I was a child, it made me want to continue doing it.”
Munirat founded AB Laurels with a hope to build strong connections with her new community in Saugus, Massachusetts, similarly to the way she once had in Nigeria. After launching in her basement, Munirat now has a location in the local Saugus Mall. When customer demand continued to grow, Munirat knew she would need financial support to keep up with the rapid expansion of her business. She was referred to Accion by her banker at Eastern Bank and with her loan, she was able to invest in her business by purchasing additional inventory and stabilize her financials with working capital. This enabled her to continue adding new products based on customer requests.
Ties that Bind
Through her business, Munirat has not only been able to continue working alongside her mother, who moved to the U.S. in 2012, but to mentor her own children. “My mother loves to help out with the store. When you see your daughter doing well, you want to be a part of that.” Munirat’s eldest daughter in particular has begun to show a similar passion and commitment to business ownership as her mother and grandmother. “I can leave the whole store to her and she would have no problem running it. She’s pretty much like me.”
In addition to strengthening familial relationships, AB Laurels has also enabled Munirat to build a loyal network of individuals who over the years, have become more than just customers. “I’ve had customers for 15 years, since I started out of my home. People keep coming back and many have become my good friends.”