I’m Mary Olorunfunmilola Olusomoka. I am a shoemaker and I love to be addressed as such and not a shoe-cobbler because to my understanding, a shoemaker is actually a skilled artisan, who makes shoes from the scratch with pure leather while cobblers. On the other hand, cobbler only repair shoes; they don’t make shoes from plain leather and they don’t make shoes from the scratch. I produce highly decent, handcrafted and quality footwears for both sexes. I am the first child from a family of five. I’m from Ado Local Government Area in Ekiti State, Nigeria and a graduate of mass communication. I am the CEO of MJFootwears.
As a kid, I had always wanted to become a lawyer, but while growing up, I wasn’t pleased with the profession anymore, so I decided to be a journalist. My journey of being a journalist started when I gained admission into The Polytechnic, Ibadan, to study mass communication. This continued till when I finished my National Diploma (ND) and did my one year Industrial Training with Spes TV, which is an online television service, being managed by the Directorate of Social Communications of the Catholic Archdiocese of Ibadan. After my IT, I obtained the Higher National Diploma (HND) admission form to continue with my studies, but I wasn’t offered admission that year, so I decided to keep myself busy by looking for a job that could fetch me money.
In the course of working, I wasn’t pleased with the way my boss treated staff members, so I decided that I will go into skills acquisition so as to become my own boss. I went through the available skills list, I drafted out and ticked shoemaking, considering the fact that I love shoes and females do not really go into it. I started my shoemaking business five years ago, as an apprentice. I went through apprenticeship for about one-and-half years before I could start producing on my own because I was schooling outside Ibadan, so I only come back to my boss during holidays. However, I choose this business because everyone needs a footwear; I knew it would be a business that would have a steady market, coupled with the fact that am a female; I know I will surely make it in this business because shoemaking is not really female work for we only have few females doing it, which makes us unique.
As a business student, I chose something that would meet the needs of people in terms of quality and priceless shoes to match any occasion. Initially, people looked down on me as a roadside shoemaker and some referred to me as a cobbler. I didn’t allow that to weigh me down because I know I will surely make it in life. Notable persons like Zaraman is a shoemaker just like me as well as Giuseppe Zanotti, who are international brands. We also have the likes of Itele right here in Nigeria, just like myself. So, I continue to deliver good quality products consistently with hard work and creativity. I believe that I will get there and surpass these brands. However, what I really enjoy about my business is that apart from being a source of income for me, it’s dynamic and a unique job that gives an opportunity to showcase my skills and creativity in many ways because shoemaking deals with creativity as we have so many designs and one needs to be very creative to be able to give customers what they want and be able to meet with predominant trend of designs. Am so passionate about this business. When I see my clients put on my footwears and are happy, it gives me joy and great pleasure. Nothing matches the joy of knowing that my clients are happy with my work. I must, however, say there is no successful business without one or two challenges. My own challenges started since when I was still an apprentice. It was not easy for me as my parents were not fully in support and a lot of challenges from friends because of my decision to go into shoemaking, but I thank God for where I am now.
One of the major challenges am facing now is getting investors. It still amazes me that in this our modern age, some people will tell you they can’t invest in shoemaking because of some reasons best known to them. Some will say they can’t invest in you because you refused to have an affair with them. Other challenges include unavailability of soft loans, high cost of materials, constant power failure, preference of Nigerians for foreign brands to locally-produced shoes. This actually gives me a source of concern, as they always expect to find faults even when there is none. It appears some Nigerians don’t appreciate what is being produced in our country for they prefer getting what they can actually get here by leaving we that are hustling with little or nothing to show for it.
Price differentials in foreign and locally-made shoes is another issue while a lot of foreign shoes are mass produced with less quality, ours is simply handcrafted, customised and with better quality, depending on the design preference and financial capacity of the customer. Another challenge is clients, customers have various needs and its almost impossible to satisfy all their needs all the times. There are some understanding clients and there are some, who are the other way round. My little advise for young and unemployed people in Nigeria is to look beyond the white-collar job and don’t have the mindset of being an employee; look for a need, value to create, and fill that up, for it may eventually be the big break needed. More importantly, creativity and consistency is key. I am sure we are now better informed that a shoemaker is quite different from a cobbler. In few weeks to come, more write-ups on entrepreneurships would be posted here. From me, its bye for now.
Olusomoka can be reached via; firstname.lastname@example.org, @