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portrait of Alimah Kasumu wearing green and yellow dress standing in front of mint green wall

Grad Alimah Kasumu Wins $10K National Grant for Her Skincare Brand Muji's Shea Essentials LLC

Born in Philadelphia, PA and raised just outside of Philly, Alimah Kasumu attended Abington Senior High School where she was the President of FIDM Fashion Club. After attending FIDM’s 3 Days of Fashion summer program and the DEBUT Runway Show, she knew FIDM was the college for her. Graduating this year with degrees in Apparel Industry Management, Menswear, and Business Management, she recently won a $10,000 Be More Fund grant through the National Society of High School Scholars (NSHSS) for her skincare brand, Muji's Shea Essentials LLC, and hired FIDM Grad Shay Maio (Merchandising & Marketing, Business Management) as her Social Media Coordinator. We caught up with the entrepreneur to learn more.

Why did you choose FIDM? I chose FIDM for the following reasons: 
- Different city 
- Fashion capital 
- Highly focused courses 
- Strong alumni connection
- Successful instructors within the industry 
- Wide variety of majors in the creative industry 
In my junior and senior years of high school, I was appointed the President of the FIDM Fashion Club at my school. Being a part of that club throughout my high school years made me more passionate to attend FIDM. After attending FIDM’s 3 Days of Fashion and the FIDM DEBUT Runway Show, I knew it was the school for me. The environment was full of creatives that you would not find anywhere else. 
Tell us about your brand, Muji's Shea Essentials: Muji’s Shea Essentials LLC provides organic, handmade, and eco-friendly skincare products for all skin types by using plant-based and natural ingredients that complement the consumer’s skin. We started because there are so many natural ingredients on this Earth that are healthy for the skin that many people are unaware of. People who want to live an all-natural lifestyle struggle to find all-natural skincare products that do not contain harsh chemicals or “fragrances” and that are affordable; our products address the need for natural and clean ingredients to apply to the skin and body. With Muji’s Shea Essentials LLC, we get rid of the toxic preservatives, unknown ingredients, and unaffordable pricing–we offer affordable all-natural skincare products with full ingredient disclosure. Read more about how we started on the “About Us” page on our website! 
Tell us about the $10,000 national grant you won for your skincare brand. How did you find out about the grant and what was the application process like? I joined the National Society of High School Scholars (NSHSS) around my junior year in high school. I knew that joining the honor society will aid me in the future since it is a lifelong membership (same as Phi Theta Kappa which I am a part of). One day, I received their periodic newsletter with the latest scholarships and grants that are posted on their website, and the Be More Fund caught my attention. It was the second year that the NSHSS were giving out the Be More Fund grant. This grant was awarded to ten NSHSS members for their business idea. Because of my passion and drive in my business, I was persistent to apply for the grant. The application process started out as an online application where you answer a series of questions about your business idea and describe how it will be of benefit to society. Then, the top 20 finalists were chosen and the next part of the application was to prepare a five-minute business pitch. The final round of the grant was a two-day event in Atlanta, Georgia, the headquarters of the NSHSS; 14 participants were remaining and we all pitched our idea to a panel of judges like in Shark Tank. The ideas ranged from building a well in a foreign country, a nutrition app, a mental health stuffed animal, and more. After presenting to the judges, I was able to show my presentation and products to the general public attendees of Scholar’s Day. As the closing ceremony began, all of us were anxious as we had no idea who would win because all of the ideas were great and innovative. Since this was the largest grant amount awarded, they saved our winner announcements till the end. We all walked up on stage together and the four runners-up were acknowledged first. Our hearts were racing as the names were called because we didn’t know who would be next. After the four runners-up were called, it meant that the remaining of us on stage were the winners! One by one, they called each winner and mentioned their business idea. Prior to the start of the ceremony, it was mentioned that we may have to give a thank you speech to the audience–which I quickly wrote up on my index cards prior to going on stage, but due to time, only one participant was able to give a speech on behalf of all of us. Once the ceremony was over, I congratulated all of the participants and took a picture of the check awarded on stage.

How did it feel to be awarded the grant? I was proud of myself for all of the passion I put into the project, and for raising awareness that sustainability and natural/clean skincare are the future of the beauty industry. 
What will FIDM grad Shay Maio's role be at Muji's Shea Essentials and what was it about her background that made her the right fit for the position? Shay’s role is the Social Media Coordinator which entails numerous tasks. The social media coordinator is responsible for thinking of creative and engaging content ideas by drafting a content calendar. Next, designing the content to catch the viewers’ attention as they scroll through Instagram, and write engaging captions that include a call to action. Lastly, the social media coordinator role requires industry research in order to understand the market. Shay has a background in marketing and a personal passion for skincare and her own knowledge of it from her environment and community. Shay was the right fit for the position due to her expertise in marketing, passion for skincare, and amazing work ethic. 
What are your career goals and how is FIDM helping you get there? My overall career goal is to become an entrepreneur with businesses that uplift and help people solve pressing lifestyle issues. Apart from entrepreneurship, which involves wearing multiple hats, I look forward to working in manufacturing, packaging design, and overall graphic design. FIDM has helped me improve my design skills on Adobe and CLO. In the Menswear program, product distribution was heavily touched up and included the manufacturing process of a collection. Lastly, I keep in touch with FIDM career advisors for active job searching and internship opportunities.
Anything else you’d like to share? Recently launched a new website with new products. Check it out at https://mujissheaessentials.com. And just started a TikTok page that will be used to educate people on our products https://vm.tiktok.com/ZTdmEQGb4/.

Categories:  Apparel Industry Management Business Management Menswear Merchandising & Marketing Alumni Student