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Start with what you have, improve as you go along – Agunbiade

Start with what you have, improve as you go along – Agunbiade

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Chief Executive Officer of Ayo Naledi Designs, Ayotunde Agunbiade, 29, speaks with NIKE POPOOLA on her passion for jewellery business

What is your educational background?

My name is Ayotunde Agunbiade but a lot of people call me Ayo Naledi. I’m the first of three kids. I graduated from Covenant University in 2008 where I studied Banking and Finance. I worked with the United Bank for Africa for my National Youth Service Corps programme. After my service year, I worked as a customer service personnel with Fidelity Bank and Sterling Bank before quitting to start my own business.

How would you describe your business?

I am a professional goldsmith/jewellery maker. My company, Ayo Naledi Designs, specialises in the production of personalised jewellery and accessories. All our jewelleries are made to order from precious and semi-precious metals and stones.

Our customers seek jewellery that is both useful and unique. So with a combination of expertise, technology and global trends, we help them create beautiful memories. I always say that at Ayo Naledi Designs, it is more than just jewellery.

Why did you decide to do this kind of business instead of looking for a job with your certificate?

From drawing and painting as a child to designing jewellery as an adult, I have always been very creative and art inclined. I knew from a young age that I wanted to make things.

I made ankara bags and accessories and I even dabbled into cloth making too. However, as the years progressed, I found my hands and heart leaning more towards jewellery making. I started with beaded and wire jewellery before I progressed to using precious and semi-precious metals and stones.

It was not difficult convincing my parents that I wanted to pursue a career in jewellery making. I got all the financial and moral support I needed and I will always be grateful for that.

Did you do any training to enhance your skills?

Oh yes, I initially took a couple of one-day classes after which I was an intern for a few months. Last year, I also took a short course in the United Kingdom. I have also learnt a lot on my own along the way. There is really no end to the learning process. For every day that I spend on the job, there is a lesson to be learnt.

What are the challenges you encounter in this business?

As an independent jewellery maker, operating in an industry that is already saturated with so many options, I have had to work hard to establish the brand identity of Ayo Naledi Designs.

Jewellery making is also not a cheap venture. There are so many tools and equipment that are essential to easing production processes. Funding is a common challenge for most young businesses but I have taken it a day at a time. In addition, most work supplies, tools and equipment have to be got from China, United States and the UK.

I still try to find work-life balance but I have not done so well in that aspect. In spite of all these challenges, I am happy with how far Ayo Naledi Designs has come and I am excited about the things to come.

What are the things that motivate you despite the challenges?

Passion for what I do has helped me stand firm by every decision I have ever taken, even during the roughest storms. I feel so blessed to have grown a business that involves something I love doing.

Being a jewellery maker has been a lot of fun and seeing a completed piece of jewellery is an amazing feeling. Staying motivated can be tough but I also have an amazing support system in my family.

How conducive is it doing business in Nigeria?

Being a business owner in Nigeria comes with unique challenges. The cost of doing business keeps rising and business owners desperately need the government to provide an enabling environment for our businesses to really thrive.

From the provision of stable electricity, to getting credit, to creating and implementing good policies, there’s a lot to be done by the government to ease the heavy burden on Nigerian business owners.

How should locally-made goods be supported by the government to become internationally competitive?

The government needs to first truly acknowledge and appreciate the importance of locally-made goods. Efforts should also be made to provide infrastructure and funding options.

When government policies and the right infrastructure are in place, local production is stimulated; cost of production is reduced; factories are able to turn profits, maintain high standards and stay in business. For every local production, certain standards should also be set and enforced by the government.

What advice do you have for young entrepreneurs who don’t have the required capital to start a business?

I have been there and the truth is that there won’t be perfect situations. They may not have all the capital needed to start, or have a fantastic website or a brick and mortar. I will say start anyway; then, you can improve as you go along.

Pastor Sam Adeyemi’s book, Start with what you Have, helped me a great deal.

If you need to keep a day job for some time, do that. Have a business plan and try to reach out to family and friends. Avoid unnecessary expenses and maximise the use of social media. Will it be difficult and stressful? Yes. Will it make a great success story if done right? Yes.

Where do you see your business in the next five years?

Ayo Naledi Designs is young and there is still so much more to achieve. Focus over the next few years will be on showcasing the brand to new audiences around the world and also entering new markets.

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