“I have a fashion school. I train people and I train them because the economy is not that friendly to people now.”
When talking about the league of celebrity designers in Nigeria, Jimmy Taiwo, the CEO of Jimbrooks Nigeria Limited, sure stands tall, having built his business from a rather humble level to what can be labelled a topnotch business outlet which also has a fashion school.
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In this interview, the economist turned fashion designer, captures the pros and cons of the fashion industry, while also confessing that it is very lucrative, except for the attendant militating challenges.
I have a lot of customers and I deal with them based on their classes and social status.
I make clients mostly through referrals. When people wear my designs to occasions, others see it and like. I must confess that most of us small scale business owners are thriving in business through word of mouth. I have met people who told me they only saw my designs on their friends and they loved it and decided to contact me.
We have some of these fabrics in Nigeria. We also have some we need to get from abroad.
As we know, in this part of the world, our people are only after money. We don’t care about our name. Truth be told, most of the fabrics in Nigeria are of low quality, except for the Ankara fabrics that are made in Nigeria. Most of these normal fabrics you see are all imported. Atiku material too is imported. Even the adire fabrics are not of good quality, except for few of them. Abroad, people pay close attention to details and snore that the best is produced. They painstakingly ensure that people have a value for their money and that’s what makes a Whiteman stand out from his Black counterparts. Adire is our main fabrics that we have in Nigeria and that’s the only thing I can say we are improving on. You can never compare fabrics made from abroad to the ones locally made here.
It is a very lucrative business. That is why a lot of people are into it. It is good because it is less capital intensive. You can start it in your house and you don’t have to start by renting a shop. You can start in your room. You can even use the table in your room for cutting and deliver to customers. All that matters is your finishing. Once your finishing is good, it would bring back more jobs for you. Nigerians love to look good and are always ready to pay for such services once it is topnotch. It is a business that is very profitable and that’s why so many people are going into it. Let me confess to you. I have been enjoying it. Even now, I don’t even stress myself like before. I have a lot of customers who wear my designs and bring others.
There are three things in the world that won’t ever go down. They are food, clothing and shelter. People sew every day. There is an adage in Yoruba that says “the sky is wide enough for all birds to fly without colliding with one another”. Everybody needs clothes and needs to look good. It is a necessity, just the way you need food and shelter too.
As a country, we need to start producing fabrics locally again. When our textile industry is resusciated, we won’t need to import fabrics again. We have all it takes to achieve this as a nation. When we order fabrics, the cost is so high that we won’t have any option than to charge customers high too so that we can at least have something to fall back on. The other challenge we face is about power supply. The power holders are really doing their job by holding back power indeed. We have to be on generator almost every day. I spend not less than N6,000 on fuel every day. Now, multiply that by the number of days we run in a month. Isn’t that enough to pay me comfortably? If N6,000 is all I make daily, imagine what that means for my income.
As far as I know, none of the policies of government is to our advantage. When importing, we have to buy the dollar and at a ridiculous exchange rate. That’s a very big deal right now, as you may know too. Travelling out now has become a big challenge for us. We simply order and wait till our goods are sent to us. Sometimes, you get into ‘one chance’ of ordering something and getting something entirely different. In such situation, what do you do? Nothing! You just make do with what you get. You can’t travel back to fight the manufacturer. That’s the hurdle we sometimes go through.
I have a fashion school. I train people and I train them because the economy is not that friendly to people now. We have made sure that the training school is not expensive for people to be able to afford. I feel for many of them because I was once a graduate and I made up my mind that I was not going to work for anyone. I decided to start my business. Most of these graduates don’t even have a source of livelihood, basically because their parents are not well to do. I had that in mind and in the first instance, that led me into starting the fashion school.
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Government should look for people like us who have growing businesses and give us huge loans and grants so that we can in turn employ the unemployed youths. Yes, I am aware the Bank of Industry is saddled with such responsibility but to what extent do they fulfil that mandate? I think if at all they grant such loans, they only do to people around them. I can’t argue less than that because the country needs people like us who have the capacity to train and employ more people. Having grown our businesses from the scratch, we can absorb as many people, if we are given soft loans. We can bring people together and impact the same knowledge we have in them, and even beyond. This will greatly improve on the economy so much that we will even start exploring to other countries. More so, government should find a way of regulating all SMEs such that we can harness the synergy. If you give us soft loans and expect us to pay back in two years, there is no how we will default, and that would greatly help the economy.
I have attempted to get such loans from banks. All you get back is nasty, like telling you to go bring documents of your father’s house or something. That is so crazy. A businessman should freely have access to loans, especially when banks and other relevant government agency can see that you are really doing well as a businessman. That’s really a big challenge for us in this country.
Paying back the principal with the interest should not be a problem. It just doesn’t have to be ridiculous. You don’t get so greedy to the extent that you are charging all of the borrower’s profit as interest. If you need the money for purchasing fabrics or machines, that should be all of the concern of the banks or lenders, not wanting to know all about your business.
Today, you see TM designs everywhere and you don’t have to see the CEO behind it. That’s the level I want to get to. Right now, our designs are already in Europe and the rest of the world but I still want a situation whereby I will have offices of my own in the UK, Canada, US, and so on. So many Nigerians are there and always calling me to come over there but I can’t relocate now because I already have a big cut in the Nigerian market. This country is not that bad still. I can equally have sales representatives who take Jimbrooks’ designs around the world. I can have factories everywhere around the world too. Also, I can’t leave the numerous trainees I have just yet. I want to keep training people so that they can also benefit from the system.
Ayo Alonge: [email protected]