Why Enter Shoe Manufacturing Business?
Yinka Olamiti, a lawyer who resides in Ogba, Lagos, says the business of shoemaking in Nigeria is becoming a lucrative one. “Nigerians today have increasingly shown keen interest in locally produced shoes and are beginning to purchase more of them instead of foreign-made shoes or second-hand imported shoes. Because of locally manufactured shoes, people can now change their shoes more affordably. This is especially true of women who want a different pair of shoe for every dress in their wardrobe”, he says.
Okwuchukwu Udeh is the Managing Director of Udeh Shoes, located in Lawanson, Surulere, Lagos. He says, “In the past people saw locally produced shoes as inferior shoes. Now, local shoe brands compete well with shoes made in Italy and other European countries. This fact may not apply to the super rich individuals, but the middle class, who constitute the majority among consumers, currently engage robustly in this growing trend. Shoe making is a low risk business and elementary knowledge of business teaches that if you are selling something that people need, you will always have an entire human race worth of potential customers”.
Mr. Femi Omole, CEO, O’tega Shoes says, “The market is big considering the fact that everyone needs to wear shoes. The demand for shoes is a continuous cycle. People need to change their shoes and come to think of it, no one can have only one shoe. Some people are shoe lovers and they can have over 10 pairs of shoes. I think I can categorically tell you that 50% of male folks now patronize local brands and the number keeps increasing on a daily basis. So, the market is very large. If you sell or produce what people need and you do it well, you would never lack patronage”.
How They Started
Monalisa Abimbola Azeh is the Chief Executive Officer of Mona Matthews Shoes. She is also a trained lawyer who has practiced for 17 years. She says, “I had attempted this business twice. I started and stopped and started again. The first time I made shoes was because I didn’t find what I wanted in the shoes that were available.
My feet are not the standard size type of feet, so it takes some kind of specialization to make my shoes. When I was much younger, I could find shoes that fit me even if I travelled abroad but as I began to grow I discovered that I couldn’t find my size even overseas. In fact on a particular trip I couldn’t find a shoe to wear so I just bought some slippers. But I came to realize something - that some people, most especially our drivers, house helps; youngsters were actually wearing real leather and the so called ‘elite’ were wearing synthetics because most of the people selling shoes in Nigeria were going abroad to bring in shoes made in China.
“The elite will buy from the boutique, shoes made in China; while their drivers, cleaners, messengers would go to a local shoe maker and have them make shoes or pam sandals from real leather or buy from a second hand market, real leather used shoes from abroad. After my observations I realized two things, one, that there were shoemakers in Nigeria who actually make real leather shoes that an average human being could wear. I also realized that we have real leather in Nigeria.
So I started asking questions: Where can I get a shoemaker? I eventually got one but when I told him I wanted to make shoes, he said he doesn’t make shoes for women; but as a person I don’t take no for an answer. Reluctantly, he agreed to make the shoe for me. I was just glad about the fact that I would be wearing real leather and something that fits me. But when my friends saw it, they were asking me where I got the ugly shoe I was wearing? They told me of someone who could make something better and who apparently had been making ladies shoes and was disposed to the intricacies of making women shoes.
Having found the right person all I then needed to do was to design and he would make them for me. When I started wearing the shoes made by this other experienced guy, friends began to ask me again who made these shoes for me, saying that they like it and they wanted it and I knew it was genuine interest - so I made for them. I also made for some family members and colleagues. There was really no vision for it then because it was a side thing at that time. But when orders started coming in and the shoemaker started messing up, I just put the whole thing aside.
“Time went by, I changed jobs, changed my church and I got another job. Before I knew it, orders started coming again and I knew it was time to do something with my life but I just didn’t know what to do because I studied Law and I had run my own chamber successfully before I got born again and started working in church. And because I also love music and have done quite a few things in that direction it was a real dilemma: should I go into music or do the shoe business?
“So I had to meet my pastor and told him I wanted to move on and he asked me what I wanted to do? I told him my options, and he asked me to seek the face of God - so I did and I heard God said to me, “Go and make shoes”. Of all the things I could do I was wondering, why shoes? But because I knew God had spoken to me, I had no doubt in my mind and that was how this whole thing started.
“One of the female pastors met me one day and said she heard I was leaving and wanted to know what I was going to be doing and I said I was going to be making female shoes. She was my very first customer, she gave me a deposit to go and start the job. That was how I started. It wasn’t as if I saved for it. My passion and my creative mindset launched me”.
Omole says, “My starting was by God’s divine intervention. I was one of the bankers that got laid off during the banking crisis in 2009. I had worked as a banker for about 8 years before I was told to go. When we were asked to go, initially, I didn’t see losing my job as an unfortunate incident or challenge because I felt I could easily get another job because of my experience. But after several attempts without getting a job, the reality dawned on me. So, one day, I sat myself down and was thinking of something else I could do to feed and maintain my family. I was just thinking about the everyday things people make use of and that was how the idea of shoemaking came.
“So, I went into the market and did my own personal research. I was already familiar with shoe materials because that was the business my father did. He was importing them so I knew exactly what and what I needed and where to get them.
While sampling, I realized that another challenge would be the finishing. If you check some Nigerian made shoes - and not only shoes, other products - their finishing is always very poor. So, I had to source for good shoemakers. I got about 10 of them and after testing their skills, I selected just two and they are still the ones working for me till today”.
Mr. James Livinus, is the CEO of Yakason Global Best Ventures, manufacturer of Yakason Shoes. He says, “After my secondary school education in my native Kaduna State, I was waiting for admission and during that period, I got to know about a school that offers a course in footwear technology. So, I applied, and fortunately I was given admission and I took Shoe Production - footwear manufacturing as a course, which I ran for over two years.
This actually led me to gaining a lot of interest in shoe production. So, when I left school, there was no big industry that could really accommodate us, but I had been picking some of the little machines - like the filing machine, lasts, among others and I began to sell myself to people around - about my capability. Later, I worked with Total Nigeria Plc. I produced a shoe for one of the staff after which many others began to order. After that, I was no longer living on my salary, as I was selling my shoes and saved a lot of money.
“Later, I met with a Director of National Directorate of Employment, NDE who saw a footwear I made and thought it was an Italian shoe. When I told him it was produced by me, he was really surprised and said I shouldn’t have been wasting my time in that company. He gave me a note to a director of NDE in the Southern part of Kaduna, where I come from. Getting there in 2002, I was enrolled into a training on how to run a company and write a business plan. I was thinking everything would be okay after that move and got lots of promises from the government, but nothing eventually came out of it.
“That disappointment actually prompted me to give it a thought that I could start my own shoe manufacturing company. So, in 2004, I registered a company and in January, 2005, I received the certificate. Immediately, I discovered that there is a local shoe manufacturing company in Lagos, so I came down to Lagos and luckily enough, as I came down, I was slated for an interview and at the venue, it was one of my lecturers that was slated to take me. So, I was given an employment immediately, and I continued to improve myself - after four years I left there.
I had run through various departments, leaving there as one of their designers. From there, I moved to Lennards Nigeria Plc to become the Production Manager between 2010 and 2011. Immediately, I left that place, the Federal Government came up with a programme known as Youth Enterprise With Innovation in Nigeria (YouWiN), which is a Business Plan competition. I enrolled and with God by my side, I was picked as one of the winners. So, with the little machineries I previously had, joined with the award prize won in the competition from the Federal Government, which was about N10 million, I kick started my own shoe manufacturing company - Yakason Shoes”.
Mr. Badmus Idris is the Creative Director of Captain Bosbain- a shoemaking and accessories outfit. He says, “We basically make shoes, slippers, sandals, and belts for men and ladies locally. I started the business about five years ago, while I was in the university, and since then it has grown much bigger than I originally envisaged. I started as a merchant and as the years goes went by, I decided to focus on designing my own shoes which comes so easy for me, and it has been so exciting and fun”.
Mr. Femi Oladipo is the Creative Producer, BFEM Manufacturing/Services Ltd - an indigenous shoe manufacturing company. He says, “Actually, I started in 2009, first by retailing; then later I went into production with about eight (8) boys. Our production is on a weekly basis, producing at least 50 pairs per week, which amounts to 200 pairs per month. I believe what motivated me into shoe production was the fashion trend of Nigerian men, because when I started, I actually started with men’s shoe designs before I delved into women’s designs.
I believe we have issues with what kind of shoe to wear alongside our outfit in Nigeria. So, I stepped into what I think is suitable for men to satisfy their fashion needs. In my own case, I didn’t actually go to school to learn shoe production, but I learnt it from a friend, who is also a shoemaker. Well, I started by buying from him to resell, but in the course of buying from him, I did help him out in coupling the shoes before taking them to the market. So, it was from this guy that I learnt the rudiments of shoe manufacturing, as I studied another course entirely in school”.
Equipment And Capital Needed
Omole says, “The major equipment one needs are sewing machine (industrial or manual), filing machine, scissors, adhesive gum, pliers, hammer, etc. Raw materials include soles, lining, and leather. I always preach that one should start small but to start the business with almost all the necessary things needed, one can budget between N80, 000 to N100, 000”.
Livinus says, “Startup capital is really an essential issue. Like me, while I was in Total, I was able to get Roughing machine and Last - a replica of the feet. I am encouraging those without work out there and are waiting for a particular cash to flow in; if they have about N20, 000, they can get the Roughing machine for about N14, 000 or so, get Last and training for them to start with producing pam sandals, which every Nigerian wears.
So, gradually as they are producing that, they are building their experience and getting more challenges that will really push them out to move higher. Also, through that, they can move to see someone who will feel happy with what they are doing and will like to invest. But if they want to start only after they have all the required mechanized machineries, definitely, it will cost them nothing less than N15 million.
“Meanwhile, before a shoe will be produced, the Last must be used, if not, it will not come out very well. For instance, if we are to produce for someone size 42, we will therefore make use of Last of size 42”.
How Important Is Training?
Livinus says, “Well, it is obvious that shoe production needs training and at times retraining and the experience that has been gathered through the training is possibly what will really help one to establish properly. For instance, before I joined FAMADS, I had an encounter with a white lady in one of the shoe universities abroad through email and when I asked her how to establish a good shoe manufacturing company, and she told me to get a shoe manufacturing company and work there - even if I’m not paid - to understudy the system of operation. Definitely, it is not easy to make it in shoe making without training.
“As testimony, when we started after the getting our YouWin grant, the first set of experienced workers we employed just worked for a while and left at once. So, with this, if I wasn’t really exposed enough to stand in the gap before prowling for new workers, the company would have suffered. But immediately the old workers left, I was working day and night to face the pile ups of the job. So, shoemaking definitely needs training”.
How Do You Source For Materials - Imported Or Locally Sourced?
Azeh says, “All our materials are locally sourced, most especially our major raw material which is the leather, Nigeria has one of the best leather in the world. Our materials are all sourced here; we don’t import anything on our own. But in the embellishment is where my creativity comes in because I can embellish shoes with anything. This is what makes Mona Matthews, Mona Matthews”.
Livinus says, “Well, as Nigeria is, we are blessed with raw materials, as we have lots of tanneries operating in Nigeria and they are producing us the leathers we use. Meanwhile, the tanneries are in Kano and once we give them the specifications, they give us what we want - that has not been a challenge. Though, we have still not been able to get it directly from the tannery, we buy from middlemen, because one needs to drop some millions of naira before they start dealing with you directly - that has been a challenge to us.
Also, we don’t produce and stock, but we produce based on demand. I can say this is our season - from September when children are going back to school, but we have not been able to meet because we did not have enough raw materials. So, what we do is that, if you are able to deposit some cash for your production, we will then buy raw materials and produce”.
Oladipo says, “Raw material is one big challenge in the shoe manufacturing business in Nigeria, because right now we don’t make do with our own locally made leather - most of the things we use are imported from China and Europe”.
And Who Are Your Market And How Do You Promote Your Product To Reach Them?
Azeh says, “Our target market is really easy for us to define. They are people who demand and recognize good quality shoes. We also deliberately design shoes for people with large feet because we realize that that segment of the market is underserved. We let our shoes speak for us, we focus on consistently producing high quality so our customers are our brand ambassadors, they tell other people about us.
“We also hold events when we have a new collection, a new piece of our work and we also attend exhibitions where we showcase our work. We also try to maintain a presence on social media so we have a page on Facebook; we are currently upgrading our website and have also begun the process of engaging our audience more via Twitter and Instagram”.
Omole says, “I promote my shoes via the social media. People that have me on their BlackBerry list and also my friends on Facebook can testify to that. Right now, you can also get my shoes to buy on Jumia. There was a time I was always going to offices to sell my shoes but I don’t do that anymore. My shoes now sell themselves. My customers are now the ones that help me tell their friends about my shoes. Because once their friends see their footwear, they would want to know where they purchased it and when they tell them it is locally made, they are quick to collect my contact details”.
Livinus says, “Well, until recently, as regards military style boots, we were selling to [one of the largest private security companies in the country, a household name], but for some reasons, we decided to drop their order. We as well sell to private schools across the country.
For instance, we have a production at hand that is going to Kaduna State and there is another one to follow suit, which is going to Ondo State. We have customers in Warri, Port Hacourt, Sokoto, Abuja and Ibadan. We also believe that, very soon, we will get [contracts to supply the military], as we have designed a product that can really serve them. The Police Force is well in our target list with a product we have at hand that can satisfy them and compete with international products. We also have our websites there to showcase our products”.
Idris says, “Our customers range from children to adults (both men and women). The medium we use are exhibitions, social media platforms, and online market places. Our partnership with Konga, Jumia and Dealdey has been encouraging and very effective. Also, our turnover has increased and we’ve been able to reach a larger audience”.
Oladipo says, “My target market has to be the businesspeople, those who are in the corporate world - like I sell to bankers, lawyers, among others. Our resellers have only one issue to deal with, which is the issue of where the shoe is from. For instance, some of our clients sometime ago told us to label our shoes as “Made in Italy,” as some customers won’t buy made in Nigeria shoes because they believe it is not of high quality.
“So, what we do is that, we basically tell our customers that this our shoe is made in Nigeria, therefore the manufacturers to be on ground for after-sales service. Meaning that whatever issues you have, in the course of using our products, we are always on ground to attend to you. Also, customers can give us their specifications - if you want your shoe to have your name, signature, initials or you are giving it out as souvenir, you can tell us. Here, you can see the manufacturer, not that you have to travel to Paris or to Italy.
“About our marketing strategy, we have channels used to distribute our products and one of it is by giving it to our wholesalers who sell to the final consumers. We have them in some strategic locations on Lagos Island, in Ikeja, Yaba, among other locations. We also visit companies like the banks and other corporate places”.
What Are Your Major Challenges And How Have You Overcome Them?
Idris says, “Firstly, as a local designer it’s been very difficult to propose our products to some clients. Reason being that, some of them are used to foreign brands and are not ready to shift their taste or choice of brand. It takes a lot of convincing and assurance. Local acceptance is still a major challenge we face every day. Gradually, we are getting there”.
Culled from: successdigestonline