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Monday, 26 May 2014

How I Built My Business With N10,000 - Eseoghene Odiete of Hesey Designs

While many young today use social media for negative vices, some it use as a tool to empower themselves and turn great ideas to businesses. Eseoghene Odiete is the CEO of Hesey Designs, and one of the winners of Google Africa Connected Competition. In her interview with the Tribune she shares about how she started her business with just  N10,000 and the benefits she is reaping today.

How were you able to use Google Search and YouTube to learn how to create handbags?
As a young entrepreneur, starting up was difficult. I started after the university and didn’t have an idea of how to go about running a fashion label. So I read up a lot of articles and business management books from the Internet. Books and articles on how to start and run a fashion label especially with little funds. I watched several bag production videos on Youtube and I used to follow, made a few errors and got better. After creating the first set of products, selling them became an issue. So I searched for different fashion blogs and sent each of them a mail about my designs. The response was unbelievable and I was in business. Today, not only is the business growing fast within Nigeria, I am currently receiving and processing orders from different countries.

How and when did you develop the passion for making handmade bags and shoes? What gave birth to Hesey designs and how much was your starting capital?
I have always been intrigued by the fashion industry, even as a child and have always wanted to build a fashion brand, that would promote the Nigerian economy. I passionately believe that trade not aid is key for Africa’s development. I decided to set up a fashion brand with a mission to promote Nigeria and Africa, so Hesey Designs was born and I started the business with my savings of about N10,000. I produced a few bags, sold them and used the money to produce more.

You once worked in a bank during your service year, why didn't you stick with banking?
Banking was never my thing; it was the best option I had at that time far away in Maiduguri, Borno State. I had a bigger vision and I had to follow through.

Challenges you faced when you started your business

First was fund. I had to make do with the little savings I had and grew from there. Also getting the products out. I couldn't afford a store, so I made use of the Internet. I sent emails to several fashion sites requesting that they feature my designs. I knew I had a great product but I needed to be known. So many of them featured the product with my contact. A lot of people started contacting me requesting for the product.

What has kept you going?
My vision; I had the end in mind. I knew what I wanted to accomplish and nothing was going to stop me. I knew things may not be the way I wanted it now, but things were sure getting better. At times when I felt bad and wanted to give up, I always remember why I started, looked at how far I have come and remember where I am going.

In about 22 months, what many people considered a hobby has become my greatest gift. I have grown a N10,000 business idea to one that can support families, to one that has impacted over 40 women; to one that has been recognised by great women. Bizwatchng named me one of 40 Nigerians entrepreneurs under 40. So when in doubt, I simply play all these images in my head and I realise that giving up is not an option anymore. 

How did you spend the $25,000 you won from the Africa connected contest?
Well, the money will be invested into the businesss. For the brand and also for the women empowerment centre. With the funds, we will be able to accommodate more women in the centre and also take our business to the next level.

How many people have benefited from your trainings so far?
So far we have worked with over 40 women and equipped them with the necessary skills needed to create beautiful, authentic African items that can set them up as entrepreneurs. These women have gone out to set up their own small businesses and doing pretty amazing things.

What was the reaction of your parents when you chose making hand- made bags?
Parents always want the best for their children. They felt bag making was not the best for me. Although all that is in the past now; they are extremely proud of their baby now.

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