From childhood Ugochukwu Michael acquired the skill of tailoring. However, he pursued his education. He graduated bagging a degree in Economics, and even got an award as the Best Corps Member during his NYSC days. With such feat he expected that different governments and private establishments would employ him. However, after one full year of no white collar job offer, he was jolted back to reality. It dawned on him that the initial expectation he harboured was like building castles in the air. Spending one year doing virtually nothing, he became penniless and was gradually getting enmeshed in penury.
It was at that point he decided to fall back on his dress skills. And to Ugochukwu’s amazement, his fortune improved. Today his fashion, brand Asandrea Collections has not only become his meal ticket, but fledging company that has empowered many others.
Ugochukwu’s story typifies the high entrepreneurial sense and creativity of many youths Nigeria is blessed with. The light-skinned tailor hosted PETER AGOH and IJEOMA NWOSU recently. He told his story from a jobless youth to a successful tailor.
How did you start your journey into tailoring?
I started making clothes when I was just five years old. I leant from my aunty, who is a fashion designer in my house back then in the East. She taught me how to sew buttons unto clothes. From there, I started designing dresses with thick brown papers.
But you didn’t continue to be her apprentice?
No! I went to school. I later studied Economics at Nnamdi Azikiwe University, Awka and served in Taraba State. I was awarded the best corps member certificate during my service year. So I told myself not to settle for any degrading job. But after my service year, I searched for job for one year with no result. So, I told myself that instead of wasting time, it would be of great help to go back to do what I know how to do best. I was broke to even start up my venture.
With no money to start up, I approached a neighbour in 2011. I told him I know how to make clothes, and that he should allow me make his clothes. He doubted my ability at first but decided to give me a trial. He asked me to come back in three days for my advance payment. That was how I took my first step in entrepreneurship. After making the man’s clothes, he loved them so much. So he called me to make more for him and his wife. That was how I got my first customer.
After the second design, his friends noticed his improved dress sense. They started asking for his tailor. He then introduced me to more of his friends, and that swelled my clientele base.
Having decided to go fully into making dresses, I went on Facebook, and uploaded pictures of my designs. And before I know it, I started getting calls from America and Europe ordering for my wears. I didn’t believe foreigners could trust me without nursing fears that I could dupe them. The first western union I got blew my mind. And now I have clients in different parts of the world.
My growth amazed me because I started this business with zero capital. Even the sewing machines I used to design back then were borrowed.
Did friends ridicule you when you wanted to start tailoring business?
Yes! They did. It seemed weird after studying for four years in the university, and then a year in the NYSC, you come out and say you are going to be a tailor. So when I started out this business, I must tell you, some of my friends will come and say, ‘you say na cloth you wan dey sew, na wa for you’. They mocked me directly and indirectly.
But now, many of them have been forced to eat their words. When they saw me in different glossy fashion magazines, they started commending my works.
How did you handle the mockery?
People would always talk. But their mockery was not a problem because I knew I was going to get out something from the venture I have started up. I was out to create value with my venture. And I silenced them with my success because when they saw people and even celebrities wearing my dresses, they all turn round to commend my resilience.
What lesson have you learnt from that?
Simple! Many people would try to pull you down but don’t be discouraged. Believe in what you are doing and the sky would be your starting point.
You started your business with zero capital, can you tell us exactly how much you are worth now?
(Laughs) I can’t tell you exactly how much I’m worth but I can tell you that I am very comfortable.
Is it proper to say, you are millionaire now?
Well, by God’s grace.
As an economist if the World Bank offers you a job in their economic team, that would pay you three times what you earn as an entrepreneur, would you dump your business for their offer?
No way! Passion cannot be bought. When you’re paid millions but don’t have passion for what you do, trust me, you won’t be a happy man. I didn’t start up my brand because I needed money; I started up because I have passion for what I do.
How do you cope with competition?
It is only small minds who fear competition. The Nigeria fashion market is too large. In fact it’s so big that even if two million tailors start up their businesses, they would not still meet demands of people.
What is biggest dream?
One of my biggest aspirations is to design clothes for the president of Nigeria. That would make me very happy because it would avail me the opportunity to come close and share ideas with him on how to meet the needs and expectations of Nigerian youths. We need to create some avenues for empowerment through fashion industry. There are so much untapped potentials in Nigeria’s fashion industry.
What success tips can you share with the youths?
Many of our young ones just want to make it big. Wants to make millions overnight, but it is not that way.
So I always encourage youths, no matter what you are doing, be the best of who you are. That is my advice to the youth. Believe in yourself, define what you want. If you are good in singing, go for it. If you are creative strive and explore it.
We have a lot of people in the fashion industry, but for you to break in, you need to show creativity, you need to show guts and that is what has been working for me.
Then seek out your talent and make it work for you. Define yourself, define what you can do, it’s all about creativity. You will see yourself succeeding.
Source : SunOnline