Photo Credit: Will Toms
We are back with our Blogger Of The Month series! This month, we are featuring my longtime friend, Abu Fofanah. Abu and I met in college at Penn State, and became friends instantly. He is, without a doubt, one of the most hardworking and driven people I know. As an athlete, entrepeaneur, intellectual, supporter, and friend, he does it all. His outlook on life, and many achievements, made him the perfect candidate to feature as the Stef Health Tips August Blogger Of The Month. We sat down with Abu to get more into his world, read the interview below!
1. Who is Abu Fofanah?
Hi or Ciao! I'm just getting back from Italy, so I'm getting used to speaking English again. My name is Abu Fofanah and I just graduated from Penn State Schreyers Honor College, as well as Istituto Di Moda Burgo, the fashion design school in Italy.
I love learning and reading new things. I've just finished one of my favorite books called Blockbuster by Anita Elberse. I also love to travel. Over the last few years, I've been fortunate enough to live and study in India, London, Paris, and Milan.
The story of my life has been one of "rags to riches". But not riches in terms of money, but intellect; not rags in terms of clothing, but war. My family moved here during the time of the war in West Africa -- referred to as the "Blood Diamond War". Since then, I've made the most of the cards I was dealt, and I'm still trying to get the best hand in life.
2. Why did you start MoAp?
MoAp, or Motivational Apparel, was a company I began during the summer of my freshman year at Penn State. The idea came from helping out at the Special Olympics and learning from those athletes first hand, "Life has no limitations except the one's you make". I come from a family of athletes and I myself, am an athlete as well. Being around the kids from the Special Olympics has made me realize that they're just like everyone else.
From that slogan, I began making and selling shirts that focused on inspirational messages on comfortable athletic wear. I would also give a percentage of the proceeds to the Special Olympics. The more shirts I sold, the bigger and bigger the messages became; and that's when MoAp was born.
Throughout my time running the company, I expanded from 1 person to hiring up to 16 employees (all while a student at college taking up to 27 credits a semester). I had to learn how to delegate fast! The company had a lot of success, gaining support from individuals like nine time Grammy award winner John Legend, actor/rapper Common, and former US Representative Gabrielle Giffords.
3. What is your ultimate goal in the fitness and fashion world?
Since arriving from Italy, my goals have changed. I studied women's fashion design in Italy. It was great learning about a new market, specifically the luxury market. I also attended many business lectures about the business of fashion and the different industries. With a Strategy and Operations background, this helped me tremendously in understanding sourcing and the making of a product from beginning to end.
My ultimate goal in the fitness and fashion world is to create more 'flexible' products for the 'woman' or the 'man' that are in these two worlds. With the rise of fitness, I believe there should be more flexible clothing and accessories that allow individuals to transition from work to working out. Second, I want to be able to give all women the aesthetics to look and feel good in all settings. Now more then ever, there are more and more women that are in executive roles, or even CEO's. But why do they have to dress like a man to fit in to be respected? Why do they have to carry a briefcase to make a point that they belong? I want to provide comfort to this type of women so that she doesn't have to lose her style just to fit in; she was born to stand out.
4. What is your latest project?
Currently, I've been working on the relaunch of my personal website at www.AbuFofanah.com. This website provides a blog, that journey's my experiences of becoming a predominate figure in the fashion and tech world. It covers topics such as my personal experiences of being a minority in fashion, and attending fashion week. In addition, the blog features my ongoing work with Macy's as I've been consulting for their Fashion Incubator program in Philadelphia.
The website is a hub for positivity. It's for the fashion lovers, the individuals wanting to learn how to begin a start-up or the process of one, or even the individuals that want to know how to build their own platform. Most of the content is free and soon I'll be providing e-books and lessons.
5. Tell us a bit about your experience in Milan.
Milan was extraordinary. To be honest, I don't even know where to begin. If I had to tell you how Milan was in less then 140 characters, the tweet would go something like this: "Good food, good wine, and good women" :).
Here are two pictures, taken by me through my visit in Venice when I was living in Milan.
6. What is your healthy philosophy?
I read a lot, and I've really taken to the Greeks philosophy of mind, body and spirit. They believed perfecting all three is the purpose of life, and if one could achieve it, then they would live a great life. Most of my life, I've been an extreme athlete. My body was great. It still is great now, but with less break downs. Before, I thought I could eat whatever I want, but as I became older I realized it was counterproductive. When I dropped the snacks, and unhealthy eating habits, I began 'feeling' a lot better, which changes everything.
In all honesty, It's hard for me to sit still. I'm the type of person that is always "on-the-go". I read almost all of Stef Health Tips advice that she puts out, and I get the tweets and newsletters sent straight to my phone. When that happens, it's easy to stay up-to-date, and making excuses become harder.
7. What has fitness done for you personally in your life?
Fitness has allowed me to focus. Working out is the only time I'm able to forget about the rest of the world, and it puts me in my zone. Fitness is just me and the road, or me and the weights. With all the stress and pressure, in addition to all the crazy things happening in the world and around me, having that escape is crucial.
8. What is the best piece of advice you have ever received?
The best piece of advice..hmm.. I actually heard it last week from a good friend of mine. She told me, "You control your own timeline, you control your own happiness". That really hit me hard because it was exactly what I needed to hear. It's so easy for all of us to get caught up in everyone else, that we forget about the most important person.
Connect With Abu!
Interested in being a Stef Health Tips Blogger Of The Month? Visit our page here to apply.