“Beading in Style”: UM sophomore creates waistbeads company

Photo credit: Nafisah Akim-Shittu

“My waist beads snapped. I can’t find a waist bead style to fit me. I don’t even know where to get waist beads!”

These are all cries for help that Nafisah Akim-Shittu, a sophomore biochemistry and molecular biology major, heard loud and clear before deciding to create a solution once and for all.

Waistbeads are string-embedded beads that tie just below one’s navel. With its origins deeply rooted in 15th century Africa, waist beads symbolize femininity, tradition and spiritual healing.

Their unique design allows for wiggle room and comfort as the waistbeads move with one’s body. In support of body positivity and inclusivity, Akim-Shittu offers custom waist beads for men and women of all shapes and sizes.

“Beading in Style,” a student-led company founded at the University of Miami, reflects sacred Nigerian values and focuses on educating the community on the origins of the popular accessories. Each bead color has a different meaning behind it. It was not easy for Akim-Shittu to get her business started, but once she found her rhythm, success was inevitable.

Planning is essential for maintaining consistency and creating growth while being a student entrepreneur.

“I had to figure out a way to balance everything, there’s just so much work to do, I would put these sets [of waistbeads] together and I’ll take a picture of this set today and post it on Instagram,” Akim-Shittu said.

Student entrepreneurship is very common amongst Generation Z college students. According to Entrepreneur Magazine, college businesses have the opportunity to thrive in such a unique environment. With the support of professors and experienced staff members, student businesses receive substantial professional advice that can be taken into account.

The conflict often faced in student-led businesses is having the financial means to support their dreams. Up to 65% of US students borrow money for their studies. Finding the financial means to attend college alone can be daunting, but financially supporting a startup on top of it can be brutal. Akim-Shittu suggests that students reach out to family for support.

Support presents itself in many different ways. Akim-Shittu’s family supports her by sending material to sell.

“Now, I work with my aunt in Nigeria who custom makes the waistbeads and sends them to me so I can sell them here,” Akim-Shittu said.

Student support is also what keeps Akim-Shittu going.

“One of the things I’m relying on the most is word of mouth which is hard because the world is so fast paced,” Akim-Shittu said.“You say one thing to somebody and it’s out their ear the next, so reminding people that I’m still here and keeping up with my posts is what keeps my business active.

Akim-Shittu offers a variety of colored waist beads and has expanded her business to sell anklets. She hopes to expand to a larger area and sell even more traditional Nigerian jewelry that fits perfectly for people of all backgrounds. You can support the small business on Instagram and follow @beadinginstyle for more information.