In quality, design and patronage, Nigerian cobblers are making exquisite pieces that are competing favourably with footwear manufactured in other parts of the world. It is a growing trend that experts say will continue. This SuccessDigestreport details how anyone can start a promising business in this sector, grow it substantially and make lots of money consistently.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?