As part of its interview series of young Nigerian entrepreneurs under 30, Jennifer Anzaku, Founder and Creative Director of Stitcher House of Fashion and The Baker.
The 26-year-old graduated from the University of Nasarawa, where she studied Philosophy and Religious Studies.
She speaks about her businesses, motivation and other matters.
PT: Jennifer, at what point did you decide you would like to be an entrepreneur and what were your goals while choosing these businesses?
Jennifer: To be honest, after graduating and passing out of the NYSC programme, I did not really bother job hunting.
I knew all I wanted was to accomplish my pending goal of building a brand and being a fashion designer, which I had to put on hold because my parents felt it was necessary to finish my undergraduate studies before starting up a business.
I am the Founder and Creative Director of Stitcher House of Fashion, where I create and design high-quality, decent, customised, Afro-centric made-to-wear, exquisite unisex clothing pieces.
I am also the founder and creative director of The Baker, where we specialise in catering services, baking outstanding cakes and varieties of small chops.
My goal was to create designs that are wearable for all women and men. Designs that would make the wearer feel happy and confident.
I wanted to do this with affordability as a watchword. I also wanted to connect with people in an inspiring way.
PT: You did not bother job hunting? Was your family in support of your decision?
Jennifer: My family had no issues with me starting up a business. They were just very clear and specific about me starting up after I graduated because they wanted me to focus on one thing at a time, which I completed successfully, and afterwards, I started my fashion business.
PT: That is great to know. It’s remarkable that families are now encouraging the youth to pursue their entrepreneurial dreams. So, why fashion?
Jennifer: One of the many reasons I chose fashion designing was my love for fashion, which grew as I grew older.
Colours, art, and styles always intrigued me, and fashion designing had a way of satisfying my creative fancies.
It’s a career where your creativity, imagination and your ability to understand different styles, patterns and colours play an important role in your growth.
Also, I think the scope for fashion design is huge and wide. There are so many options to choose from. Once I was done with my basic studies of fashion at Perfectfitbysisters Fashion school in Abuja, one of the very important things to me was self-employment.
I always wanted to be my boss and wanted to work in liberty.
It’s a very challenging yet exciting business, which makes it a fun job to do. Also, the work culture is pretty good. You get to travel, meet new people every day and explore new cultures. I have always had people around me, and even strangers, who, when I go to events and at school, liked and appreciated my creative fashion sense and were ready and willing to patronise me when I was ready to start my fashion brand.
All this made me choose fashion design as a business.
PT: Interesting, Jennifer. So, how long has this business been running?
Jennifer: My fashion business has been running for two years.
PT: What were the challenges you faced, starting out?
Jennifer: I honestly did not know where to start when I was ready to put my ideas in motion.
I had imposter syndrome, which is the fear of not being good enough. At this point, I felt people preferred patronising well-known brands. I was scared of making mistakes and not being an expert.
PT: How were you able to overcome this? You enrolled in some online classes during your NYSC, which included customer service and relationship management. Did this help?
Jennifer: During my NYSC, I enrolled in online classes and at the end of my session I got my certificates in Human Resource Management, Customer service and Relation Management, General health safety and environment and Health Safety and Environment.
To overcome this challenge, I had to subscribe to an advanced class at the fashion school I attended for my basic fashion studies. This stretched me and gave me more insight into fashion designing and the business and everything I needed to be more confident in my brand and to stand out.
PT: It’s great to know you are over that phase, Jennifer. Were there other challenges you encountered?
Jennifer: The other challenge I faced was limited resources and later on, my workload increased and I was the only one handling the business. I had to scale up. I got a bigger space, and I had to get more machines and extra hands to make the production faster and meet my customers’ needs.
PT: Speaking of expansion, there are some business-tailored loans from the Central Bank of Nigeria and some other financial institutions. Have you thought of considering these options?
Jennifer: I do not subscribe to funding my business through loans. I would prefer grants, my savings or support from family and friends. I am not comfortable with the idea of having to pay back something.
PT: What is a typical day like in your world?
Jennifer: On a typical day with no pending distractions, when I wake up, I say my prayers, you know, have my breakfast, do my house chores and get ready for work.
Some days, I just wake up and all I want to do is go about my work, doing what I do best, especially when I have unfinished work and I’m running out of time.
Other days, I go to the market to restock used sewing items needed for work. Sometimes, I intentionally do some deliveries myself in order to meet up with my customers, interact and get feedback on my services.
PT: You studied Philosophy and Religious Studies at the University of Nasarawa. However, you have been running the fashion business for at least two years. How were you able to bridge the gap between what you studied and what you are practising?
I am a risk taker, hardworking, focused, and passionate. I have a high passion for fashion, art and baking.
PT: What advice would you give to people who would like to venture into this business?
Jennifer: The fashion business is a challenging, yet exciting business. It has its highs and lows. So, you need to fall in love with the destination and not the journey. For you to become good, you need to enjoy the process that leads you to mastery.
Also, another key factor to hold on to is consistency, regardless of the big sale days, big wins, small sale days, small wins and no sale days. You have to deliver and not give up. Keep striving to be the best and do better.
PT: You are 26, running a business in Nigeria. What would say your experience has been like so far?
Jennifer: Running a business is hard work in any environment, but it’s even more challenging in a tough economy like that of Nigeria, with the constant change in the prices of goods, fuel scarcity and lack of electricity. It takes a lot of determination and learning, and I think it only pays off in a long run.
To succeed in running a business in Nigeria today, you would need to be flexible and have good planning and organisational skill.
PT: How do you balance customers’ satisfaction and personal well-being?
Jennifer: I do not take more than I can deliver at a time. I try to manage the orders I take. Especially in the baking business, I do not take on so many orders so that I can deliver, because I do not like to disappoint my customers. I also try to create time, now and then, for rest.
PT: Where do you see your business in five years?
Jennifer: In the next five years, I see my business as a global brand to innovate, produce the best value products for customers within and outside the country, and to also enhance the quality of life for our business employees and customers.
PT: What advice do you have for the youth seeking wealth the wrong way?
Jennifer: Doing things the right way might take a longer time, but it will also take you farther. You don’t have to play people to make acquire wealth or you end up disregarding yourself and integrity.
There are many ways to be of value and make all the money you want. You can learn a skill. There are a lot of skills to learn. In doing this, you would need patience and understanding that it’s a gradual process, but surely, you will get the best result if you put in the hard work and pray about everything.
PT: Thank you so much for sharing your business strides with us.
Jennifer: Thank you, too.