For the past ten years, Aqeelah Harron-Ally (@fashionbreed) has been all over social media channels, ad campaigns, and of course, billboards. She is one of the people that we associate with the success of influencing in South Africa and her brand keeps rising and developing the longer that she’s in the game.
I first met Aqeelah in 2003 when we were in grade 8, and even then she had a magnetism about her that was unlike anyone you’ve met before. From having Harry Potter spell fights in Matric Afrikaans, to extremely extra moments in our drama group, to chilling on the Jammie steps, the one thing that teenage me knew about Aqeelah, was that she was funny, smart, and unashamedly herself. This is why I think her rise to the top was so easy to understand, she is someone that you trust and listen to because she is so authentic.
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We are live! Get your copy of my 91 page e-book, #BOOKEDBUSYVERIFIED now on shopfashionbreed.com 🥳 spilling all our biggest business tactics, a step-by-step on how to approach brands, building your audience, how to shoot better images and videos, how to be a better writer, how to STAY booked and busy and so much more. You will be able to download your book instantly so you can get to reading and strategizing for your digital brand immediately! • • Remember, we are donating R100 from every sale of every product on the website today to @muslimhandssa COVID19 relief fund. Lightroom presets are marked down too! Thank you for all the support you have shown me for the e-book so far. I’m so excited for you to take your digital brand to new heights!💥 xoxo Aqeelah
As an experienced influencer, Aqeelah has had to change and grow with the times, and now she is sharing what she has learnt over the ten years with new and aspiring influencers in her new ebook Booked. Busy. Verified.
I chatted to her about her journey as an influencer:
Why did you decide to write a book about your experiences?
There are so many people in our country with talent and/or big numbers but they clearly aren’t working with brands, and there are many good reasons for that! I’m so passionate about fellow creators growing and I want to help them be the best they can be both behind the scenes and creatively. Being in the influencer industry for 10 years now has in many ways turned me into the digital “big sister” as my husband calls me. Both my successful peers and newcomers to content creation come to me so often for advice pertaining to running their platforms, be it for business or creative reasons. I’ve also run multiple sold-out content creation workshops in the past, so I decided to put all of that information and so much more in eBook form. I may not have one of the highest followings in SA but I’ve built a respected digital brand and I have an audience that undeniably has my back through it all. When it comes to brand longevity and truly having influence, these are the things that matter more than numbers. Whether you have 4000 followers or 4 million, there’s a place for you in the digital space.
What has been the most difficult part of being an influencer?
From a creative perspective, it’s an ‘adapt or die’ situation. You have to go with certain trends as the market evolves so that your brand stays relevant. For example, one day, Instagram may change its algorithm again. Two years ago, it was evident more and audiences and brands wanted video content, so we all had to make sure we knew how to create in that space, no matter how you did it. Right now, Tik Tok is the place to be and we’re embracing this fun, new turf with a younger audience! So you’re constantly navigating new terrains and I’d be lying if I said that isn’t draining, emotionally even at times, because it can feel like you are starting back at square one.
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I’m excited to share that my 90 page e-book, 𝘉𝘰𝘰𝘬𝘦𝘥. 𝘉𝘶𝘴𝘺. 𝘝𝘦𝘳𝘪𝘧𝘪𝘦𝘥 , launches this Friday at 12pm SA time (UTC +2) 🥳 Containing all my major trade secrets; whether you are an influencer or a young brand creating your own digital content – it covers everything from running your digital brand as a business, how to build the best media kit, how to shoot better photographs and videos, how to collaborate with brands, how I stay booked and busy, how to grow your following, how to get a quality audience that fits your content and has your back, healthy + positive mindset habits for social media, what to post when you don’t know what to post, huge mistakes I’ve made so you don’t have to, paid apps I’ve used and the free alternatives to them and so so so much more. It will be priced at R700 and if you purchase on Friday, I will donate R100 from every sale to @muslimhandssa for their COVID19 efforts. Presets will also be on sale on Friday only and R100 from every preset sale will be donated too! #BOOKEDBUSYVERIFIED • • [PS: all e-books sent out are encrypted with PDF security measures that will notify me should the illegal sharing of this book occur (included but not limited to whatsapp, email, etc) and legal action will be taken. I worked hard on this for a really long time, and I too am a independently-owned female business, so please don’t try and be shady🙏🏼]
What, in your opinion, is the biggest misconception about being an influencer?
There’s the misconception that we’re all narcissistic freeloaders who will make any claim that a product works just for a payday. I choose not to focus on that though, and I show up for the people who show up for me.
Why is so important to build up a personal brand?
Both your audience and paying brands need to know that you know what you’re doing and why. That’s what makes an audience support you, and brands want to work with influencers who have their act together. Paying brands are working with a lot of creatives with low numbers now because those creatives know what they’re about, they run their space with magazine-like efficiency, they care about their audience and it shows.
Has your audience played a part in your success as an influencer?
Most definitely! I still get so many messages and comments from people saying they’re an OG follower who has been with me since 2010. I realised when I put them first before any content or any brand deal, that’s when I have their love and their loyalty, and that’s also when my numbers grow the most. But personally, putting them first actually leaves me feeling a lot more fulfilled in my job because I love sharing information. Having an audience is one of the biggest privileges I’ve ever had in my life, and I try and honour that every day.
Where is your favourite place that you’ve travelled to?
The turquoise coast in Turkey is magical. I can’t wait to go back, and when we eventually get to travel again I really want to partner with a travel agency to turn it into a group tour that I host so some of my followers can come with me!
When did you discover your love for fashion?
A love for quality fashion (over quantity), is in my blood. Both my grandmothers we seamstresses and my mom and her four sisters have the most epic OOTD photographs from the 80s that I’ve ever seen. My mom always pushed me not to be like everyone else and it stuck. Also, I’m a typical libra so I gravitate towards all things beautiful and creative.
What has been the highlights of your career thus far?
Going to New York Fashion Week with TRESemmé was a real pinch-me moment and seeing my first solo billboard go up in Canal Walk mall was indescribable – I’ve been one of their faces for three years now which is still so crazy to see myself all over the place!
Can you make big money as an influencer? If yes, where does one start?
You definitely can. Let’s put it this way; for a whole year before I quit my day job in 2015, I was earning double my salary in a fraction of the time I spent in the office. You’ve got to know your end game and work on your brand as a business accordingly, the kind that serves its audience. This is essentially what my eBook is about! It’s 91 pages of sharing how to build your media kit step-by-step, how to shoot your shot with brands, how to create value-based content that your audience wants from you and so much more.
Your ultimate advice for a newcomer entering the South African influencer scene?
Create content that adds value in the form of education, humour or that shares valuable insight on relevant topics. Don’t be afraid to lean into your vulnerability online. The digital space started changing a long time ago in the way that audiences don’t just want to see you slay and flash things anymore, our feeds are already saturated with that. They want great information, they want to laugh, they appreciate insecurities and imperfection now. Be conscious of the world we live in and the impact you can make.
How can Booked. Busy. Verified. help aspiring influencers?
It covers everything from how to run your brand as a digital business, how to build the best media kit and collaborate with brands, how to stay booked and busy, how to shoot better photographs and videos, how to grow your following and build an audience that has your back, it shares healthy and positive mindset habits for social media, what to post when you don’t know what to post, huge mistakes I’ve made so you don’t have to, paid apps I’ve used and the free alternatives to them and so much more. Above all, when applied, the kind of concepts it drives home will teach you how to have a brand that has a longevity to it.
How do you think that the influencer space will change during this period of quarantine?
With the decrease in certain product needs, we’re seeing a rise in others that make staying home more comfortable, for example, personal care products, food, digital products. For brands that are able to sell and operate in this time, it’s actually a great time to spend on influencer marketing posts because screen time has gone up tremendously, and creators are seeing a huge spike in engagement since non-creators aren’t posting as much. With fashion, travel and other non-essential items, I think budgets will definitely below, maybe even non-existent, but marketing spend is still going to be important for them to get back on their feet and stand out if they want to survive. Things will definitely be very different and strange, influencers are probably going to have to lower their rates in many cases. I think we’ll figure out our new normal, but if there’s one thing we’re good at doing, it’s adapting.
You can get your copy of Booked. Busy. Verified at shopfashionbreed.com for R700.
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