When Adebunmi Olatunji Adeyefa told her family that she wanted to be a carpenter, they discouraged her. They thought she was being unrealistic by pitching her tent in a male dominated industry when she could have applied for a paid job or relocated abroad to live a normal life.
The Mass Communication graduate who has been nicknamed female carpenter by her clients told Inspire that being an entrepreneur in any part of the world is hard but being an entrepreneur in Nigeria is harder.
Tell us about yourself
I came from a polygamous home, a family of seven and the second girl. I had a very rough background as my parents separated when I was about three years old. I spent some time with my paternal grandmother before my mum was able to successfully take full custody of us.
I am a graduate of Mass Communication from Olabisi Onabanjo University and a trained carpenter. In all, I have come to realize that God reserves the toughest battles for the strongest and I am grateful He made me pass through that rough beginning to prepare me ahead for a greater and better course.
What inspired you to start your business?
I was inspired by several factors. The first factor is my desire to make quality furniture products accessible to the average Nigerian.
Growing up as a young child, I remember we did not have too many furniture products at home and even the very few ones that we had then were of a very low standard.
There was always need for us to do a repair on them frequently. I didn’t understand why basic furniture products needed in the home would be a luxury for an average income earner to have.
Another factor that inspired me to build a brand in the furniture industry is my desire to prove that there should not be discrimination between male and female as to who should dominate a particular industry. I believe any gender can operate in any industry and excel following the principles of business and work as it relates to such industry.
What were some of the challenges you faced starting out as a furniture maker?
Furniture industry is a highly competitive one all over the world, so starting out without huge capital made it challenging for us to gain visibility at first. I had to do a lot of work before I could be seen, heard and trusted.
Another challenge was finding a good and well equipped furniture school in Lagos State to attend for training. I had to resort to going for training and apprenticeship from the normal carpenters with lesser equipment. It was also time consuming as I have to learn majorly through observation.
From your response, it is clear that sourcing for capital was not easy, how did you get the fund to start your business?
I have known for a while even before starting my company that capital is not the first thing to look for when starting a business. I also have an understanding of the term ‘start where you are, with what you have’.
So, let’s just say I started my furniture company where I was, with what I had which literally means I started in my sitting room with my phone. Furniture business is capital intensive, and trying to start it in full force is like putting both legs into the river without testing its depth.
I started very small leveraging on social media to market, build and to grow our client base. I can boldly say that capital is not a discouraging factor when you have a burning passion, save up as much as you can, and leverage on the free tools that you have access to around you.
Did you face discouragement from family and friends when you told them what you wanted to do?
Yes, I faced discouragement from friends and family. Everyone around me thought I was just being unrealistic pitching my tent in a male dominated industry when I could have applied for a paid job or relocated abroad and just live a normal life.
Even when I tried convincing some of them, it did not work but I did not allow that bother me. I focused more on getting results and in the long run, allow my results do the convincing.
How long have you been making furniture and what have you learnt doing this business?
I have been in the furniture business for over two years and I can state that the lessons are numerous. I have learnt the importance of being persistent, focused, strong-willed to marketing, branding and believing in myself.
Would you say it’s easy being an entrepreneur?
If it is easy everybody will surely do it! The truth is being an entrepreneur in any part of the world is hard but being an entrepreneur in Nigeria is harder. It is not a child’s play. If you are not ready for all the challenges that await you in the terrain, then don’t venture into it. One needs strength to withstand the storm that comes with being an entrepreneur.
What high moments have you recorded in your business?
I have recorded several high moments. Top of it was when we got our first one million naira contract. It was like a long awaited dream that came through.
How do you advertise your business?
For over two years in the furniture industry and as a carpenter, I have leveraged majorly on social media as a reliable and effective advertising tool. Word of mouth is also one tool I consciously make use of. I talk about my business everywhere I go and I find it ridiculous for anyone that knows me not to be aware of what I do for a living.
Were there times you felt like giving up?
I felt like giving up several times. There were times when I felt like I couldn’t carry on again but one thing that has remained a source of strength is the assurance that it will be worth it at the end.
How profitable is making furniture?
Furniture business is highly profitable but not until you have been able to build the right clients who are willing to pay for the better value you offer than the road side carpenter. And as highly profitable as it is, it is also capital intensive.
Have you been looked down upon by some men because you are in male-dominated business?
Yes, I have. These scenarios of men looking down on me are from men who are in the same business with me.
What advice do you have for aspiring entrepreneurs?
In this journey of entrepreneurship, focus, determination and persistence are highly needed. Be sure to have all those and more before you make the final decision to go that route.
If you could change anything about your business, what would that be?
I will change how people price Nigerian made furniture products and would not mind buying imported furniture with huge money.
How do you source the materials you use?
There is a major market in Mushin Lagos state where we source for materials for production of our furniture products. Both local and imported materials are sold in that market and that is where I source for the materials I use.
As a determined woman, where do you see yourself in five years time?
I see myself as a leading furniture entrepreneur in Nigeria that has raised at least 50 young furniture entrepreneurs and is globally recognised.