the Managing Director, Chèz Stephaniée, Miss Stephanie Sani, 28, speaks on why she left her lucrative banking job to start up a fashion designing outfit
You left the banking sector which people consider lucrative to start your own business. What informed this move?
I studied French at the Ahmadu Bello University Zaria. After school, I went into the banking sector working with Access Bank. While working in the bank, I discovered that the job I did demanded much from me.
Sometimes you discovered that the volume of work was so huge that you had to work using about 20 computer applications all at the same time. So, you must be able to multi-task to be at your best. Sometimes, the computer system shut itself down owing to the number of computer applications running at the same time. This tells you the magnitude of work that we did on daily basis.
So based on this, I decided to set up this fashion designing outfit. It wasn’t an easy decision because a lot of people were surprised that I would leave a banking job to set up a fashion outfit.
How were you able to raise money to start up your business?
While I was working, I had some savings that I made and I was also able to raise some money from family members who supported me in starting up the business.
There should be a form of grant or loan that the government can make as a scheme for young businesses like this. It is not that there isn’t; but it’s difficult to get funds from existing schemes.
Financing is an issue because it is not everybody that can get family to back them up and let me tell you the truth, everything I started my business with was exhausted at some point. The capital has to be a running capital. You don’t expect to get anything for the first six months and so you will have to keep on going back to that capital to run your business smoothly.
So financing is a major challenge because you have to borrow money from firms and friends to keep the business going. Some people give up after six months. In my own case, it got to a point where I had to close my business for three months, not because I wasn’t making anything but I wasn’t making enough as all the avenues where I could get loan from had been exhausted. So I had to take a break, and then look for other strategies to get funding.
So I am back in business right now. I am thinking of hiring university graduates because what we do is not a market woman’s job. We want to employ people that studied fashion design, and I am looking at hiring qualified people.
How long have you been in this business?
It has been two years unofficially but one year now officially.
What are some of the challenges you have faced since starting up this business?
One of the challenge I faced is the expectation from people in the sense that people always depend on you for them to look good. They don’t want to hear what challenges you are facing; they just want to come at the end of the day to get what they have ordered.
Another challenge I face is in the area of capital to run the business smoothly. If you are young and you have a business idea without the capital support; then it will be difficult to actualise that goal.
Even if you are able to raise the capital, the issue of poor electricity supply is another major setback. So it takes persistence for your business to survive in a country without constant power supply.
Even if you are able to have a back-up generator, fuelling it becomes another challenge because it will add to your operational cost and most of your clients would not want to pay more because you don’t have power to run your business.
Take for instance a month ago when there was fuel scarcity in the whole of the country; it was extremely difficult for us because as a businessman, you would want to naturally hike the price of what you are offering but the customer would not understand.
Transportation is also a major challenge. Because it is not possible for me to do everything alone, I employ people to work for me. But you can see that majority of the roads in Abuja have been barricaded by security agencies and it affects free flow of movement from one point to another.
In terms of management, what strategy do you use in managing your business?
It’s been hectic because I do almost everything. I go to the extent of following my clients to the offices and their homes; take their measurement and sew designs for them. I show them catalogues. Most times people are always busy and they don’t have to come to you so you will have to go look for them.
Who are your target clients and how do you get them?
When I started this business, I made a promise that I am making clothes for everybody. I don’t want to make clothes for only high income customers or low income people. I want to make clothes for everybody regardless of their social status because this is one of the best ways I could have impact on the society.
What advice do you have for graduates looking for paid jobs rather than starting a business?
First of all, focus on what you love doing. Then, don’t give up. If there is something you love doing; then continue along that path. If you don’t love what you are currently doing, then leave it. That was why I left the bank because I didn’t like what I was doing.
So if you know you love what you want to do, then focus on it regardless the challenges that you face.
When I wanted to leave the banking sector to start my business, people discouraged me but the same people now are happy and impressed with what I am doing. If you believe in yourself, just focus and don’t give up.