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Passion Sustains Business — Familoni by younginfopreneur: 8:46pm On Dec 13, 2015
In this interview with MOTUNRAYO JOEL, the founder of Meloni, Labake Familoni, 27, talks about her dream business Tell us a little bit about your business My business is called Meloni. Meloni is a fresh and vibrant clothing line aimed at clothing young and not so young Nigerians with proudly made in Nigeria apparel. We aim to provide our customers with the best quality the fashion world has to offer. Meloni is founded on the principle that women want to be both sophisticated and comfortable in whatever they wear. So, no matter where you find yourself – at work, at a Saturday “Owambe” or just a casual hang out with friends, we continually strive to make you look classy and elegant while you remain proudly Nigerian! How did you get trained for the business? Searching through the Internet, I sought to educate myself as much as I could before I enrolled for a course at a fashion school in Lagos. After I completed my training there, I did not want to be a local champion, so I took another course at a stitching academy in London. Ever since the completion of these courses, I have taken several online classes and constantly update my knowledge on different trends and sewing techniques. I also train myself a lot on the job, which really is the most fun part for me. Have you always been entrepreneurial? I would say yes, but not to a very large extent. Prior to the starting up of my business, the closest I was to being an entrepreneur was when I was in the university. I made Valentine hampers for two years and that was it. You know how everyone plans to run their own business sometime later in life, when all the stars align. I used to be on that boat. I studied economics at the University of Lagos, graduated with a second class upper degree and also went for a Master’s degree in economics at Central Michigan University in the US. I worked for about a year in Houston before I decided to move back home and started working with one of the big banks in the country. I realised after about a year with the bank that I could do so much more with life. I was not happy with the monotony of the job and always found myself day-dreaming during meetings about how I could possibly sew my boss’ dresses if I had to. This was after I had commenced a part-time fashion course in Lagos. When my dream was becoming too distracting, I had to decide one day to take the plunge, leave paid employment and follow it! That was how I found myself living the life of an entrepreneur. What inspired the creation of your business? I have always loved to create things with my hands. Even as a kid, I loved to draw, knit, paint, braid my hair (and other people’s hair as well) etc. I also grew up around sewing machines because my mum used to make teddy bears as a hobby when I was a kid. So I naturally knew how to use a sewing machine. Having said that, I realised during my time in paid employment, if you don’t want to wear the mass production clothing at Eko market, you’ll have to travel either to the UK or US or know someone who shops there and sells here to get something really nice to wear to work. So, I saw a need or can we call it a problem. I wanted to be able to design amazing dresses that the young and the older would be proud to wear to work. Based on the type of upbringing I had, I believe there’s nothing termed unachievable. At least, give it a shot! Nigeria is currently at a place where economic growth can greatly be driven by flourishing small and medium enterprises. I realised this and decided that the time to start was now; not when I’m 40, not when I have children to nurture. I also had a dream of making ready to wear clothing that makes people find it hard to believe that it really was handmade; in Nigeria. In a nutshell, I knew that with God on my side, this business had no choice but to prosper and that inspired its creation. What were the main challenges you faced early on in your business? Garment production done the right way is very time consuming. Upon the inception of the business, it was easy for me to handle the number of orders I had all by myself, but over time and as orders increased; I had to begin to employ tailors and seamstresses. Anyone in this line of business would know that the turnover of employed tailors is very high – one minute they’re with you, the next they’re gone. I also found that it is very difficult for the average Nigerian tailor to pay attention to details and do things the right way. They’re always very eager to cut corners and do shoddy jobs. Apart from that, limited variety of fabrics, tools and some types of machines, erratic power supply among other things pose a challenge to the business. I have to get some of the tools I use from the US because they’re not available here. Yes, I still encounter these challenges. How much did you use in starting the business? I started the business with about N150, 000 which I used to purchase my first set of Industrial Machines and some other tools and equipment. Are young entrepreneurs in Nigeria receiving enough support? Yes, to a large extent. However, we still have a long way to go. First of all, we need to understand that the fact that a person has earned a B.Sc or M.Sc does not mean that they must have a white collar job. How about they work for themselves and build something even greater than what any job can offer them? Education opens your level of reasoning no matter your course of study. You’re expected to take it up and apply your knowledge to whatever comes your way in an innovative way. The way an educated tailor would sew is very different from the way an uneducated one will. Most people who want to become entrepreneurs are either afraid of the unknown or they are afraid that their family members would not support them because it sounds better when they say “my daughter works with that prestigious oil company”. Thankfully, I have extremely supportive family members and friends who I am eternally grateful for. My parents and siblings are my greatest cheerleaders, supporters and motivators. My father is a university chemistry professor. You’ll be shocked to learn that he constantly plans my business with me. My mum always looks ahead and helps with my business strategy as well. This is just the story of one lucky girl. There are many parents out there that force their children to remain in paid employment. I understand their fears, but they need to understand that you can only get so much fulfilment working (slaving) for another man’s business, but when you are building your own business, it is a legacy that remains forever if you’re successful at it. I believe that once society changes its mind- set, we will definitely begin to see more support for young entrepreneurs in terms of recognition, access to finance and patronage to their businesses. What is your best piece of advice for unemployed graduates? I believe to some extent that unemployment is a choice. I say so because Nigeria has a lot to offer in terms of opportunities. We’re a developing economy that still has a long way to go. There are so many gaps and problems that are crying out for solutions. We need to be able to examine our immediate environment and see how we can tap into a problem in a way that earns us income. You also have to be true to yourself. Do that thing you can do for free without being paid – follow your passion. Your passion is what will keep you going when you face challenges along the way. Life is not all about working for another man’s company. This is not to say, we can all be entrepreneurs. Instead of waiting endlessly for that employment letter, begin to develop yourself in a way that you can add value to the economy and even become an employer of labour. If you could go back in a time machine to the time when you were just getting started, what would you do differently? I don’t think there is anything I would have done differently because my experiences and challenges have only made me stronger. You know what they say – experience is the best teacher. What I would rather have told myself is to be patient and watch God grow my business because when I first started, there were so many times I felt I should just go back to the safety of paid employment. Today, I can hardly meet the number of orders I receive and I can only thank God for that. Do you think that entrepreneurship flow in the blood or is it something that can be learned? I believe we all have it in us; we just need to dig deep to discover that thing we can do that brings out the entrepreneur in us. I had to train myself to be able to build up what I want in the business. It is a constant learning process and I enjoy every learning experience. What are your plans for the future? I have many plans. I hope to one day own a big garment construction factory where my clothing would be produced and also, other designers can come in to get their designs produced, just like it is done in developed parts of the world. Copyright PUNCH.

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Re: Passion Sustains Business — Familoni by Nigeriatraining: 6:05pm On Dec 15, 2015
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