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A female shoe maker and her passion

Published by The Nation on Wed, 10 Oct 2018


With a flourishing shoe-making business, techie-turned-entrepreneur Chidinma Emodi Chukwuemeka seems to have taken the footwear industry by storm. DANIEL ESSIET reports.The Footwear Academy Co-founder, Mrs Chidinma Emodi Chukwuemeka, is a an entrepreneur with a speciality in brand and digital marketing.Though she studied Zoology at the University of Nigeria, Nsukka, she is passionate about helping brands and people succeed.Mrs Cukwuemekas marketing career began at JPNX Nigeria Limited, a telecoms firm. In 2016, she moved to a Lagos-based tech firm, which specialises in enterprise mobility soft wares. She resigned to run her digital marketing firm.In July last year, Chidinma and her husband, Mr. Bentley Chukwuemeka launched Footwear Academy for training those interested in footwear production and sales.Their vision was to enable shoemakers in Africa, starting from Nigeria, produce exportable products. The academy has pitched and participated in various local and international startup contests. They have won the Proudly Made-in-Aba Hackathonwhich has a grand prize of $50,000 from Ford Foundation.They also took second at the Open Mic Africa startup Pitch competition organised by Techpreneur Africa and MIT Legatum.Explaining what inspired her interest in shoemaking, Chidinma said: My husband came up with the idea of starting a footwear academy. I simply expanded it. We partnered and kick-started the business right from our living room.She said she eventually bought the vision, resigned from her work and joined her husband in building the academy.Initially when they started, Chidinma said they were not getting enough financial support. But, today, things have changed as they are getting patronage from Nigerians interested in made-in-Nigeria products.They manufacture sandals and shoes. The shoes are sold throughout the country through various e-commerce sites. The brand has become a successful and sustainable national enterprise.Asked how much they started the business with, Chidinma said: We started with N500, 000which was invested in sewing machines, filling machines, office furniture and shoe-making supplies.She said the business has eight workers.An ambitious lady, Chidinma is pursuing her dream of building a global brand. For instance, she said: When we started last year, our first two customers rejected the shoes as soon as they received them. It was so discouraging, but it made us better. We put in extra work in our finishing and invested a lot of money on buying quality shoe making materials. Now, our shoes are being exported.Chidinma is optimistic about the local footwear industry, considering the growing awareness about the latest trends and consciousness among consumers. The demand for footwear products, she said, was increasing daily.She said: Footwear is an exciting industry with lots of opportunities for growth and expansion. Nigeria imports over 20 million pairs yearly. This proves that there is a lot of unharnessed potential in industry.Indeed, with an increased contribution in household income and change in spending patterns, the footwear sector is said to be experiencing a boom.For Chidinma, the market holds promises. The easy availability of varied styles, she said, is also increasing brand loyalty among customers.Noting that Nigeria is a price-sensitive market, she believes that consumers would not hesitate in paying more for quality, innovation and technology.Her advice to young entrepreneurs is: Save a lot of money for rainy days. Businesses are rarely profitable between years one and three. Do a lot of research and start small. Stay focused and consistent. Eventually, the world will listen.
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