In this interview with IFEANYI ONUBA , the Managing
Director, Chèz Stephaniée, Miss Stephanie Sani, 28,
speaks on why she left her lucrative banking job to
start up a fashion designing outfit
You left the banking sector which people consider
lucrative to start your own business. What informed
I studied French at the Ahmadu Bello University
Zaria. After school, I went into the banking sector
working with Access Bank. While working in the
bank, I discovered that the job I did demanded
much from me.
Sometimes you discovered that the volume of work
was so huge that you had to work using about 20
computer applications all at the same time. So, you
must be able to multi-task to be at your best.
Sometimes, the computer system shut itself down
owing to the number of computer applications
running at the same time. This tells you the
magnitude of work that we did on daily basis.
So one day, I said to myself that I put so much
effort in this banking job and what I get at the end of
the month is not commensurate with what I am
putting in. So I thought that if I could channel my
energy into my own personal business. I would be
able to succeed considering the fact that I had
always been good with doing things with my hands
such as making of hair and clothing.
So based on this, I decided to set up this fashion
designing outfit. It wasn’t an easy decision because
a lot of people were surprised that I would leave a
banking job to set up a fashion outfit.
How were you able to raise money to start up your
While I was working, I had some savings that I
made and I was also able to raise some money
from family members who supported me in starting
up the business.
There should be a form of grant or loan that the
government can make as a scheme for young
businesses like this. It is not that there isn’t; but it’s
difficult to get funds from existing schemes.
Financing is an issue because it is not everybody
that can get family to back them up and let me tell
you the truth, everything I started my business with
was exhausted at some point. The capital has to be
a running capital. You don’t expect to get anything
for the first six months and so you will have to keep
on going back to that capital to run your business
So financing is a major challenge because you have
to borrow money from firms and friends to keep the
business going. Some people give up after six
months. In my own case, it got to a point where I
had to close my business for three months, not
because I wasn’t making anything but I wasn’t
making enough as all the avenues where I could get
loan from had been exhausted. So I had to take a
break, and then look for other strategies to get
So I am back in business right now. I am thinking of
hiring university graduates because what we do is
not a market woman’s job. We want to employ
people that studied fashion design, and I am looking
at hiring qualified people.
How long have you been in this business?
It has been two years unofficially but one year now
What are some of the challenges you have faced
since starting up this business?
One of the challenge I faced is the expectation from
people in the sense that people always depend on
you for them to look good. They don’t want to hear
what challenges you are facing; they just want to
come at the end of the day to get what they have
Another challenge I face is in the area of capital to
run the business smoothly. If you are young and
you have a business idea without the capital
support; then it will be difficult to actualise that goal.
Even if you are able to raise the capital, the issue of
poor electricity supply is another major setback. So
it takes persistence for your business to survive in
a country without constant power supply.
Even if you are able to have a back-up generator,
fuelling it becomes another challenge because it will
add to your operational cost and most of your
clients would not want to pay more because you
don’t have power to run your business.
Take for instance a month ago when there was fuel
scarcity in the whole of the country; it was
extremely difficult for us because as a
businessman, you would want to naturally hike the
price of what you are offering but the customer
would not understand.
Transportation is also a major challenge. Because it
is not possible for me to do everything alone, I
employ people to work for me. But you can see that
majority of the roads in Abuja have been barricaded
by security agencies and it affects free flow of
movement from one point to another.
In terms of management, what strategy do you use
in managing your business?
It’s been hectic because I do almost everything. I
go to the extent of following my clients to the offices
and their homes; take their measurement and sew
designs for them. I show them catalogues. Most
times people are always busy and they don’t have
to come to you so you will have to go look for them.
Who are your target clients and how do you get
When I started this business, I made a promise that
I am making clothes for everybody. I don’t want to
make clothes for only high income customers or
low income people. I want to make clothes for
everybody regardless of their social status because
this is one of the best ways I could have impact on
What advice do you have for graduates looking for
paid jobs rather than starting a business?
First of all, focus on what you love doing. Then,
don’t give up. If there is something you love doing;
then continue along that path. If you don’t love what
you are currently doing, then leave it. That was why
I left the bank because I didn’t like what I was
So if you know you love what you want to do, then
focus on it regardless the challenges that you face.
When I wanted to leave the banking sector to start
my business, people discouraged me but the same
people now are happy and impressed with what I
am doing. If you believe in yourself, just focus and
don’t give up.
Culled from Punch.
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