Blessing Sule: The innovative female furniture maker
‘Whatever a man can do, a woman can do better’ is becoming increasingly popular in a fast-paced, competitive, entrepreneurial world.
Blessing Ohikhena Sule, the chief executive of AASIS Resources Nigeria Limited, is a graduate of Computer Science from the University of Benin. Blessing also holds an Ordinary National Diploma (OND) in Accounting from the Federal Polytechnic, Bida, Niger State.
But that is not the whole story. The Edo State-born entrepreneur is today a furniture maker and is not ashamed to be addressed as a carpenter.
Like all ‘never-say-die’ entrepreneurs, Blessing started with almost nothing, which goes to buttress the point that there are several success drivers other than money.
“I started with bed sheet, throw pillows, curtain while in school with just N2000,” Blessing tells Start-Up Digest.
“And after graduating, I started with a loan of N30, 000,” she discloses.
Blessing says she was motivated to set up her own business few years ago because she always wanted to force herself out of poverty.
“I have always wanted to be my own boss. I grew up with all men and have always wanted to better my life to kill poverty. One thing I know, for sure, is that if you don’t build your business, someone will employ you to build theirs,” she says.
The entrepreneur has always been in love with arts and believes that she will go places with it, despite not yet making it as she would want to.
She also feels that furniture-making is not an exclusive preserve of men and that there is a lot of money to make from it.
She urges young Nigerians not to be ashamed of making furniture, as there is more to gain from it than lose.
“Well, I don’t think a particular profession is for men alone because women are naturally incubators. Whatever you give to them, they will multiply, give in their best and produce the best,” she states.
Through her work, Blessing has courted customers from various spheres of life, including bank workers, civil servants, friends and family.
The social media has also greatly helped her, having been marketing her furniture products via Facebook and other platforms, while also putting her handbills on church bulletins.
In terms of what is trending in the furniture industry, Blessing says it is what is called ‘Strictly Antique’.
“The pressure is off when it comes to only pairing antiques with pieces from the same period. No one will be interested in designing an entire space, let alone an entire home, with a strict period in mind. While it’s great to have a period as your start-off point, you don’t have to adhere to it exclusively. It’s more aesthetically intriguing to create a look that cohesively mixes of elements from the past and the future,” she says.
She states that patronage of locally made furniture is slow owing to consumer preferences and petty considerations.
“Family and friends do patronise me, but you know you need big contracts to make it. Sometimes you don’t get that because you don’t know anybody. My handiwork is a testimony and I can handle big contracts,” she says.
She states that funding is one big factor that can boost her business.
“Well, I know with the sum of N10 million, expansion will be fantastic,” she says, adding that banks hardly give loans to small business.
On where she wants to be in five years’ time, Blessing says she sees herself owning a big factory.
She adds that she received some training at Alibeth Furniture in Lagos before starting the business, urging youths to do the same before jumping into businesses.
“I was a sales person at the factory, but my boss would always tell me to go and see what the boys were making. That was how I started furniture-making,” she discloses.
The entrepreneur, who has three workers, says she is open to partnership with investors.
She advises the government to support small businesses with cheap funds, stressing that such will go a long way in creating more jobs and boosting the Gross Domestic Product (GDP) of Nigeria.
”My husband is very understanding when working. That is why I have got to where I am today. I have a balance between family and business,” she explains.
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