Michelle Ekure, promoting made in Nigeria with bespoke leather designs that stand out
I am the last child of 8 children born to Mr and Mrs Ekure. I was pampered at the early stages of my childhood, but getting into my teenage years I was more attached to my brothers and built stronger ties with them, so you can imagine the years of moulding being under the influence of your brothers. I behaved more like a boy and even in my university days, I still behaved that way but more refined appearance wise. This was the bedrock of my confidence that no matter what, I can deliver in this field and so I have been doing. Also, I will not fail to say that growing up in a God fearing way and modest upbringing has helped in keeping me humble, tolerant, hardworking and ready to put my hands in the mud, also being able to accept criticism and to value this gift God gave to me.
From International studies and diplomacy to shoe making, how did you make the transition and why?
Sincerely it wasn’t an easy decision to make, my initial path and approach to my career was finishing with my education and getting a job to help build my experience and boost my CV wasn’t forth coming, and then nepotism being the order of the day, I wasn’t getting anywhere. There is always that point in one’s life when you search your soul to find answers, and this I did diligently, sampling opinions from family and friends, but as usual, the fear of failure and trying new things was the emerging challenge I had to battle and like I said earlier, with the bravery acquired from my experience with my siblings and support of my mother, I took the first step which was learning the craft and found out that I was a natural at it, and continued polishing my skills…till date, I have no reason to look back.
The journey to shoe making
I started making shoes in 2011. I have been in the craft for over 6 years now, it was not so lucrative initially, especially not having a brand and just servicing the needs of friends and family members but now, I can say with the increasing awareness on Made in Nigeria products and the standard of my products, it’s becoming more lucrative and rewarding however, the major challenge of importing some of the basic materials has also found a way of limiting our profits, because I believe we are giving a tough competition to our international rivals but if we can produce these basic materials at good standards, we can sell to clients at good rates and squeeze out the international shoe companies.
Male or female shoes, which do you produce often?
I have more male orders but hopefully, with increase in orders from the females, probably after this interview, I will then have to say I do more of women shoes.
How are you holding through in a male dominated trade?
Gender has no role when it comes to chasing your dream and being artistic, but I think a larger part of my teenage years I acted like a guy so I guess it even tamed my fears and encouraged me, I am even more in touch with my femininity now than ever but when I am in work mode I don’t know what gender I am in touch with, and this has been my driving force, but more importantly, personal motivation has made me rise above my fears.
What any unemployed person needs to know
I will say that landing that dream job is good, but while waiting for it, have you discovered any skill or noticed anything you do and people like? if you start asking yourself this question, you are on your way to either discovering your gift or on the path to learning one, and sincerely our goal towards our career pursuits should not be money, because if it’s your driving force then you might be on a wild chase, greater fulfilment stems from using your talent or skill towards satisfying the need of the next man and the reward comes in all forms not just monetary.
The state of the economy and doing business in Nigeria
Jobs we seek were created not just by the Government but other people who sat to think, as a youth, I will say we have been conventional in our attitude towards the ever dynamic world, and the educational system did not help to do any better. The present economy actually was a blessing and a curse, a curse in the sense that inflation is high, living standards are terrible, government is paralyzed, but a blessing because it woke everyone up to the reality hence birthing creativity and business streams everywhere, so yes the present economy played a great role.
Yes the present economy has affected my business in both good ways and also negative ways. I will not stress much on this but I will say the poor economy saw the emergence of new policies on importation and other things and this had ripple effect, like I said in good ways being that importation of things that can be made in Nigeria became more expensive giving boost to made in Nigeria products but also the truth remains that we do not produce all the basic materials or machines used for production here in Nigeria and as a result, you spend more trying to achieve a high level product (like I do) and this has serious effect on your product price placement, and thus affects your profit. There is also the aspect of basic amenities still lacking and the high price to pay for it and a list of other challenges, but only your zeal and motivation can take you past all these and keep you relevant.
Advise to the government
Sincerely, the present government has done much to see that SME’s like mine get to grow, they have reduced the cost of setting up SME’s and that’s good, but also if I am to advise the government, I will say they have to give a critical view to these SMEs and notice that without the basic ingredients which they always promise election year to year, which is stability of power, good road to enable swift delivery of goods and services, incentives in form of price cut for basic materials needed for production by SME’s, we will only witness the birth and death of these businesses all over. So basically, the enabling environment should be immensely enhanced and this way, high independence on government and oil jobs will reduce and stability of several areas of the economy will increase diversity in revenue.
Yes I have mentees and trainees, I have been conducting series of a month to 3 months long tutorial on shoes, bags and belt production as the package permits to willing participants, though it comes at a cost. All learning comes at a cost be it time, convenience or money.
Skin types used for products
I use Goat skin, Calf, Leopard and other good animal skin and I usually get them introduced to me by my supplier.
I am creative so I cannot really specifically say what style but in being creative, you have to also keep abreast with trends and this has helped in moulding my creativity.
I will not say I am expensive but neither am I cheap. I will say I am affordable, depending on your taste for good stuff and quality product and that I believe I deliver. The prices for my products, Shoes for instance is usually between N20, 000 Naira – N50, 000 Naira and belts from N7,000 – N15,000.
I want to say to all the youths and even the older folks that going forward, we all have to remain hardworking and persistent on our pursuit for financial independence and over dependence on the government, acquire every necessary skill to be of service to our neighbour and from there, you can be unique in your own presentation of that service. We are all gifted but how deep have we searched?
I also want to use this medium first to thank God for giving me direction in life, also I want to thank my mother for being super instrumental on my journey thus far with her prayers and encouragement, Alibaba the comedian and media mogul for his help and immense contribution in putting me on the business map, Atuma Fidelis for his fatherly assistance and wise counsel to keep me in check and lastly Tammy Josh for his time and contribution in seeing that I do better in this craft always.
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