How Ginika Okafor abandoned law for footwear making
Ginika Okafor is the creative director of Yili footwear, a footwear brand produced in Nigeria. Ginika went into this business despite being a graduate of Law from the University of Leicester, the United Kingdom.
She decided to venture into production of quality footwear after making unsuccessful efforts to buy quality leather footwear produced in Nigeria.
Ginika realised thereafter that she could produce footwear locally for herself and for commercial use, rather than put so much effort into trying to buy it abroad. She knew that Nigeria had quality leather that could compete with others from abroad and she wanted to be part of history.
“I couldn’t find quality footwear when I moved back to Nigeria. I wanted to make something because I knew that we had quality leather in Nigeria. I wanted to use what we had to start something good, and in doing this, people will not have to travel abroad to get good footwear,” She told Start-Up Digest.
The young entrepreneur said that she started her business as a part- time enterprise two years ago with N6000, which she used in making a pair of shoes. Today, this business has grown into millions of naira.
“I got my startup capital from my NYSC allowance. I started small, I was a part-time producer, but I started fully this year. I did my first two pairs with N6000 and I re-invested the profit I got from my first sales. That was how I continued and the business grew. I never had an investor or partner who financially invested into the business,” she said.
Speaking on her experience so far, she said, “It has been interesting so far. We have had a lot of reviews, but the story has been more positive than negative. Our footwear is colorful, it can be spotted from afar and we totally love what we are doing. We work with local artisans and in doing that, we provide employment,” Ginika explained.
When asked what it takes to produce footwear, Ginika said that producing a quality product requires creativity, and knowing the best place to source raw materials. She further said that being persistent, consistent, and optimistic has a great significance in the business because there are so many competitors out there that are big and can chase small players out of the market. According to her, there are also good artisans in Nigeria and it takes patience to find them.
“We also have people in other countries who want to stock our footwear in their stores. We have had customers reaching out to us, saying they love our brand and they need more. So we are working towards exporting Yili footwear and ensuring that it is available all over Africa and across the world,” she stated.
“Technology has been one of the best resources we have because when we first started, we had limited finance so we had to work with what we had then. Thank God for social media that has really propelled us. A lot of our customers are from the social media. They see our products and they place orders,” Ginika proudly said.
The young lawyer said that she sources her raw materials across Nigeria because she is always in search of the best local materials.
“We source our materials all over Nigeria: some from Lagos; some come from Kano; some from Abeokuta and other places. We use locally sourced materials and our sales have been good. People are always glad about what we do because a lot of them are in need of slippers but they don’t know where to find quality slippers. So once they see us and realise that we make all sizes, some feel very relieved as they have had challenges getting their perfect sizes”.
Ginika said that her challenges hover around sourcing the best raw materials, and power.
“There are good leather materials, but the best are sometimes scarce. During dollar crisis, some of the prices increased 200 percent. It also cost us a lot and we had to increase our prices. Power supply is another challenge as I have to turn on the generator to produce because there is no light. This increases the cost of production and air pollution always,” Ginika, whose factory is located at Iyana Oworo, Lagos, explained.
On her long term-plan, the lawyer-turned-entrepreneur said she wants to set up a big factory and have Yili in every part of the world, but she wants the brand to be known in Africa first.
“This is a brand that provides employment and can compete with national brand. We want to ensure that people are aware of made-in-Nigeria products and be proud of them. We want to ensure we are in different parts of the Africa,” she stated.
Ginika said the business has gone past its one million naira short-term target, pointing out that it grows organically as the more orders they get from clients the more they invest and produce.
The lawyer’s advice to the youth is to be creative and persistent. “Good things take time. There is always a price to pay, and in building, you have to persevere, show patience and know what you want, regardless of the challenges. Never be too quick to expand; just take one good step at a time and your business will let you know when it is time to expand. You can pick up any skill. There is really no excuse being at home doing nothing.”
Big Read |