Feminique

My dream is to make women financially independent, says female shoemaker

Ms. Precious Njaka is the Chief Executive Officer of Perfect Basic Skills. She’s a Nigerian woman and has been shattering the glass ceiling in the shoemaking world. Shoemaking has long been a venture associated with and dominated by men, but not anymore. Njaka, who studied Business Administration and Management at the Institute of Management and Technology, Enugu, has dared to tread where most women would have shied away. She’s passionate about empowering women and youth in her communities, who are denied access to education because of poverty, early marriages and the patriarchal nature of the society. She’s further aiming at equipping women with skills to establish careers in small and medium businesses. She’s also desirous of enabling women to be financially independent and contribute to economic development.

According to Njaka, she did not embrace the shoemaking world just for the financial rewards. She explained that she went into shoemaking in order to create a customized personal identity for individuals, as well as contribute to national development by passing on the knowledge to others. She also wants to make Nigeria the bedrock of shoemaking manufacturing in Africa. She said: “It’s normal to expect financial rewards in any business in the form of profit, but that is not the major reason for taking the shoemaking path. I want to contribute my quota to nation building by reducing unemployment in the country.

The way to reduce unemployment is by engaging creative minds in apprenticeship and to customize personal identity for individuals. My greatest achievement so far is the impact I have made in the life of others. I have trained many people who have gone ahead to set up their own shoemaking companies and are already doing well in the business.” Njaka is shaping things and ready to shake the international market with her creativity and ingenuity. She said that she was grateful to God for where she was today, but that was not yet her final target. She added: “I wish to shake the international market such that shoes will no longer be imported into the country, and you know what that will mean for the Nigerian economy.”

Speaking on the challenges women entrepreneurs face, especially in the shoemaking sector, Njaka said: “One of the major challenges is getting investment. It amazes me that in this generation of ours, some people will tell you that they don’t or cannot invest in a shoemaker because she’s a woman. Some creative people find it difficult to buy machines and manufacturing materials. Another major challenge is clients. There’re some understanding clients and there are some that choose not to understand. It’s not easy dealing with difficult clients.” Njaka’s company is known for making shoes for males and females. She revealed that she has been in the business of shoemaking for over five years.

“I’ve been in this business for five years now and it’s quite encouraging. I get daily income from making new shoes and getting orders from retailers. I’m satisfied with my choice of business, and I will not quit for anything else. Rather, I’ll employ more workers to increase my output, which will help me in actualising my dream of owning a big company because I’m managing a small corner for now,” noted Njaka. Operating in a male-dominated circle does not usually come easy, but Njaka has remained undaunted. She insisted and repeated the popular mantra, that “what a man can do, a woman can do it better.” She stated: “I have passion for shoemaking and I love what I do. I don’t believe shoemaking is exclusively reserved for men.” Njaka recalled that when she started pursuing this passion, her family had tried to discourage her, but she stayed true to her decision and passion. The family eventually accepted her decision and is now happier with her. She said: “Initially, my family members couldn’t understand why a graduate like me would want to be a shoemaker. But I insisted on going for it because I believe so much in it. It also allows me to have my way and I’m making money from it.”

While stressing that time management was important in achieving great feats, Njaka, a mother of three, said that since she did not have a maid, it became vital for her to know how to manage her time. The woman, who also has a shoemaking academy, which she founded five years ago, added that nothing would be achieved without discipline in time management. She said: “I give attention to my family and the business as well. It’s not easy, but I’m coping. My shoemaking academy started about five years ago. I started out on a dual mission; to make shoes, and to train people on how to make shoes.

The overall aim is to reduce shoe importations and empower the next generation to make footwear brands that can compete in the international market.” She advised women, who wish to attain the height that she has attained, to be persistent and never to be discouraged. She added: “My advice is that women should be persistent and never to be discouraged. Before you know it, you’ll get to the highest peak with determination and constant making of new styles. Just be creative and never settle for less.” Speaking about her clientele base, Njaka noted: “Location helps a whole lot in building a rich clientele base. For now, I’m managing a little corner and I have neighbours, passers-by, boutique owners and l also get recommendations from existing clients as my client base.

The early days of the business were very challenging. Financing the business, mastering the skill and gaining clients were the odds that usually plagued young shoemakers at the onset. But thanks to determination, I was able to push through each seemingly tough phase which is now really paying off from all indications.

I also make bags.” Asked what keeps her going, the shoemaker replied: “Encouragement and positive clients’ feedback; those are my greatest reward in the business. I love seeing my clients smile and happy after collecting their products. Nigerians are now accepting and respecting women in male dominated fields. You need to see the way people hold me in high esteem, especially when I showcase what I produced or when I introduce myself as a female shoemaker at gatherings.

That’s part of the profession that I love the most.” Njaka has successfully crafted countless numbers of shoes for her clients across Nigeria since she started. She appealed to the government for constant supply of electricity and financial empowerment. Her words: “The government has not really done much because many talented people are out there wasting their talents because of one challenge or the other. I appeal to the government to ensure constant supply of electricity and financial empowerment.”

 

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