She shares her story of her journey as a cobbler and entrepreneur.
Can you give us a brief description of yourself?
My names are Nkiru Emodi Iyabo. I am a creative cobbler and I hold a degree in Accounting from the University of Benin in Edo State. I go by the brand name Home of Theresa Wears (HOT Wears).
You studied accounting in school, what made you decide to ditch accounting for cobbling?
I love good quality leather footwear. I finished from UNIBEN in 2010 and after school it was difficult to secure a job. I did not want to stay idle so I thought it wise to start a business to earn some money, but did not know the type of business to go into so I asked myself, what do I spend my money on? The answer was leather foot wear. So I decided to go into buying and selling of leather shoes. Not only did I not have a job I also did not have the capital to start up a business. I talked to several people about my business idea, and also to ask for a loan. Majority turned me down saying I should go get a job first and work for a period of time before going into a business... Out of the many I met with, one man saw the business idea from a different direction and said it was good and nice and he was happy I knew the kind of foot wears I wanted to buy and sell. But he also advised me to make the shoes rather than just buy and sell.
Has cobbling always been a passion or was it something that came after?
No, not really all I knew was that I loved shoes and so when the man gave me that advice, I was so interested and ready to learn. He inspired me because he had been into the leather business for over 30 years. I went to enroll at a nearby cobbler’s shop that had been in the business for 22 years and started learning from him. As time went by, I discovered the whole idea of creating something out of nothing was a beautiful process.
Cobbling can be a really grueling job. How were you able to adjust to the demands of the job?
The first 3 months were challenging because I went outside my comfort zone. I had bruises on my hands, my finger nails got broken, I got nauseated using chemical gums to work, at a point I wanted to stop but I would remember the words of wisdom the elderly man gave me and encouraged myself . My mantra became ” I can do this” As time went by I started discovering some hidden talents I never knew I had, I never knew I could sketch, I saw myself doing things I normally would not do on a normal day the passion and love for creating and designing foot wears grew. The first design I created was a sketch work by me I was super excited and that was how I started sketching before creating and designing foot wears. This made me fall so deep in love with creating and designing that I couldn’t bring myself out of it. If a white collar job had come at that particular time I don’t think I would have accepted because I won’t be able to cope, I have fallen so deep with creating and designing that I now have no interest for white collar jobs.
How many years did you learn the craft before you were able to start up?
I had the idea in 2013, but officially kicked off in 2014. You know they say talent is one thing you can’t take from a child. I brushed my gift out in 3 months. This was in July 2013 through to October when I made my first 13 pairs of slippers and sandals. Though it was challenging and difficult in some ways the creative process kept me locked down.
How many employees do you have? Or do you do it all alone?
We have four employees, including myself.
How excited are you about the buy Nigeria to grow Naira campaign, and how do you think it will affect the business?
I am very excited and grateful to those who came up with the idea. If not for them people like me wouldn’t be recognized. Because over the years I have noticed Nigerians prefer foreign goods not minding the cost. This is because Nigeria products, are seen as inferior in quality, but that perspective is changing now with more people producing good quality products.
How can clients can get your products? Is there a shop we can visit, or do you only do orders and delivery?
I don’t have a shop yet; I produce from home, based on the orders that come in for now. Prospective clients can view pictures of my work on Instagram @hotwears
What advice do you have for aspiring designers and cobblers?
Never give up on your dreams. Never give up on yourself. Don’t allow fear to rent a space in your mind because everything you want and is on the other side of FEAR. Be courageous, be determined and stay focused.