By Ayo Alonge [email protected]
Idris Soetan is a certified interior designer and the founder of Amaranth Interiors, a furniture startup which deals in the local production of home and office furniture items.
In this encounter, the entrepreneur who has attended a lot of leadership training programmes, bares his mind on the furniture industry in the country, while analysing its pros and cons.
The idea of establishing my own startup came up in 2002, a year after my graduation from secondary and I was seeking admission into the university. I did not meet up with the cut off at my first sitting in JAMB, so I thought to myself — instead of wasting time, I why can’t I apply as an apprentice in a furniture shop in Orile Iganmu, where I grew up? I was supported by my parents, and that was how I learnt furniture making. I even made side profit, as an apprentice. That was when I found out that the furniture business is a very lucrative venture. I would say my entrepreneurial skills started to be fully harnessed when I gained admission into the university in 2004 and then I joined a leadership and entrepreneurial organisation called Junior Chamber International on campus. Most of the members, way back, had one or two businesses they were running as an undergraduate. This really inspired me. I went for series of seminars on entrepreneurship organised by the organisation. There, I was able to meet with like minds and got few jobs proposal. I also got contract jobs from my faculty and school management. This plunged me into the registration of my business name in 2008 — Amaranth Interior Design and Decorations venture.
I was able to raise the initial startup capital through savings made from profit on jobs. Basically, the furniture making business does not really require a very huge startup capital for small beginners. All you need is getting basic equipment like hammer, plain jack, pinches, cutting machine, screwing machine. Gradually, as your business progresses, you get more heavy duty machinery, if you want to produce in large scale.
One of the challenges we face, at times, is funding a project. Sometimes, we get only 50 percent upfront payment while we need to source for fund to execute such projects. Secondly, we face the challenge of prompt delivery of products. Usually, we face a lot of challenges when there is high demand of our different products at the same time, because our workforce was not large enough at that time to execute the project.
We have been able to tackle some of these challenges by seeking assistance from friends and family for funds to finance some of the projects, and also employing more workers at an additional cost, just to meet up with delivery. At times, we need to work overnight.
Fundamentals of the business
Starting up a furniture and interior design business is a very easy one. Let me roll out few steps to be taken. The first is to have a basic knowledge or idea of the rudiments of furniture making. Learn how to take measurements too. Also, you have to learn the various processes of making different types of furniture — like beds, kitchen cabinets, leather sofa, fabric sofa, wardrobe, office furniture , and so on. If you don’t have the capacity for a one-on-one training, you can learn through Google or YouTube (11DIY). Next is for you to register your business name with the Corporate Affairs Commission (CAC). Get a space for your showroom after you must have done a feasibility study on the environment to determine the threats and advantages. Then, it is for you to design one or two pieces of furniture you wish to start up with. Call a carpenter to help in the production of this furniture. Since you already have a knowledge of types of materials and quantity needed, all you need is discuss on workmanship and supervise while work goes on. For a start, you need to make pieces of furniture that are affordable, to enable new clients get familiar with your products. Try to create a cordial relationship with clients so you can always get referrals. Make sure you offer quality and durable products. The furniture business, I must confess, is a very lucrative and profitable business. We have a lot of women who are making waves in the industry.
Competition in the business is not really a tough one because everyone will always have a niche for himself. In every single home, you must definitely find a piece of furniture, from luxury to common furniture. You get a bite of what you deserve, depending on the type of clientele base and publicity strength you have.
Amidst the pandemic
Patronage in furniture business, in the face of the pandemic, has been extremely low because of the uncertainty of the pandemic, but things have started being at ease now, except for the current rise in dollars recently which has made the cost of materials go high, thereby affecting sales.
I have considered taking a huge loan to grow up my business but I have been faced with series of challenges in applying for these loans. That has all efforts towards acquiring loans for business expansion somewhat futile.
The furniture industry
The furniture industry is an important industry for the economy. It has a lot of prospects for job creation and entrepreneurial development. It is an industry that uses domestic raw materials and it is labour intensive. Most manufacturers are small scale and medium manufacturers. The furniture business continues to boom as the demand residential and office accommodation grows across the nation. When people move into a new home, they need a bed to sleep on, wardrobes for their clothes, chairs, a dining table, sofas, kitchen cabinets and all kinds of furniture. Like households, offices also buy a lot of furniture too.
It is well known that small and medium business enterprises play a major role in spurring economic development. Government can promote and encourage SMEs through providing financial assistance. Normally, the challenges most felt when establishing and developing a startup are predominantly financial ones. It is very difficult for people to get loans.