Sophia Onyeuka is the Chief Executive of Sophie Couture, a fast growing startup with a couple of branches in Lagos. In this interview, the graduate of Banking and Finance from Imo State University talks about the challenges that greet the fashion business in Nigeria, while also clamouring for government’s intervention.
My passion and love for fashion made me venture into clothing business. As a matter of fact, I had always wanted establishing a fashion store right from the age of nine.
I was able to raise seedcapital for my business by getting orders from people around me like colleagues from previous place of work; sourcing these clothings locally for them, thereby saving up profit I got from the sales, little by little. First initial capital I ever had was N400,000 and this was used to rent my very first ever store in Lagos.
The challenges we face in business are quite numerous. First is inconsistency in exchange rate and high rent fee. There are also the challenges of inconsistency in shipping and clearing fees. Another is lack of constant electricity power which has now made one getting a store where service charges are applied in order to have uninterrupted power supply. These and many more are the challenges we face in this line of business.
Challenges are bound to happen in business. First, I go back to the drawing board to think deeply from the root to see what has actually made challenges to occur. Then, I try as much as possible not to allow it happen again by implementing a plan B.
Things I hope to change about our business
Yes, I wish to have my own factory in the nearest couple of years where I can produce clothes, shoes, bags in my own brand name locally here and have it sold globally. Things I wish to change are the fact that I need to always source my clothings and accessories from other part of the world, which makes me be on air travelling monthly.
There happens to be a huge competition as new entrants come in every day. But what makes us stand high above all other at Sophie couture is the fact that we sell luxury items for less. We give customers value for money. We go the extra miles to offer good customer service, hence ensuring that our customers are happy when they shop from us.
International best practices
There happens to be a lot of work to be done here in Nigeria. Abroad, government has made things easy for them; hence, making basic necessities needed for them to have smooth sailing of their businesses. But in Nigeria, the reverse is the case. We citizens have got to provide everything all by ourselves. This happens to be a great challenge as compared to what is obtainable in the Western part of world.
In the next five years, I am hoping to have the store name Sophia Couture in all 36 states in Nigeria. I am also hoping to venture into the male section part of fashion in less than five years. I have also enrolled in an interior decor school, as this also happens to be a great passion for me.
I encourage them, give advice as to how to go about it. Now, technology has made things easy. You literally do not need capital to start up a business. Right now, social media like Facebook, Instagram, Jiji, OLX happen to be platforms where any person hoping to start up a business without capital can kick off from. All they need do is to open a page with their business name, source for pictures from sellers, and then post. Once they get orders and a customer pays, they get it from vendors and then deliver and keep their profit. I happen to know some young individuals doing this and cashing out really big.
Government can promote and encourage SMEs like us by granting loan facilities. Government should also try to regulate the dollar hike (foreign exchange volatility)a bit for entrepreneurs and that is very key too.