By Ayo Alonge
Jimmy Taiwo, the CEO of Jimbrooks Clothing, a bespoke fashion startup in the country, believes that as profitable as the fashion business is, the moribund textile industry poses a big challenge on the business.
In this interview, the designer bares his mind on competition, profitability, challenges and government policies.
I have a lot of customers and I deal with them based on their class 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.
As a country, we need to start producing fabrics locally again because once our textile industry is functioning, we would not need to import fabrics again. We have all it takes to achieve this as a nation. Today for instance, because we’re importing fabrics, the cost of our finished products has continued to increase due to exchnage rate disparity. Such costs are usually passed to customers so that we can at least have something to fall back on. The other challenge we face is poor power supply.
Truth be told, most of the fabrics in Nigeria are of low quality, except for the Ankara materials that are made in Nigeria. Of course, most of these normal fabrics you see with our designs are all imported. Atiku material for instance is imported too. Even the Adire fabrics are not ALL of good quality, except for A few. Overseas, people pay close attention to details and ensure that the best is produced. They painstakingly ensure that people have value for their money and that is what makes a whiteman stand out from his black counterparts. Adire is our main fabrics that we have in Nigeria and that is the only thing I can say we are improving on. You can never compare fabrics made from abroad to the ones locally made here.
Potential and profitability
Fashion business 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 is why so many people are going into it. Let me confess to you also that 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 other customers.
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 far as I know, none of the policies of government is to our advantage. When importing, we have to buy dollars 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 the materials or 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. 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 fulfill 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 business 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 the economy so much that we will even start exporting 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.