In keeping with my promise to showcase and highlight other entrepreneurial adventures besides opportunities available in the Road Transportation sector, one can pursue while still keeping his/her nine to fives, I have decided to write about TAILORING. Infact, I am actually surprised that I hadn’t written about this earlier, because I am totally surrounded by tailors, some who do it solely as their means of livelihood and those who work at their day job, while supplementing their income with tailoring.
Though, my write-ups are usually “tailored” to fit the worker who also wants to be an entrepreneur, investing some of his/her salary into the business, till it grows enough to be sustainable, i.e. the point at which that worker may resign from paid employment to become a full time entrepreneur, it is also made to include those who may just simply want to give it a go as a job/employment option rather than gallivanting about town in search of nonexistent jobs, at a time even conglomerates are downsizing, owing to the harsh economic climate worldwide.
In my visit to Nasarawa State in North-Central Nigeria recently, I got talking with a tailor in Lafia, the states’ capital. She had learnt to sew after her secondary school as she wasn’t sure she could go on to university, but as fate would have it she did have the chance to pursue further education, not because she was sponsored, but because she was able to pay for her tuition from the proceeds of her tailoring business, and even after graduating from Nasarawa State Polytechnic continued with the business, with EMPLOYEES (on contract) and APPRENTICES working with her.
Before I met her, I had known another lady that works at a bank, and learnt sewing as well, collecting sewing jobs/contracts from colleagues at work and from friends, which she works at at night after work and at weekends in her home. In my first offering of the ENTREPRENEURSHIP SERIES (ENTREPRENEURSHIP SERIES (I): STARTING UP | madukovich’s cogitations https://madukovich.wordpress.com/2014/08/06/entrepreneurship-series-i-starting-up/), Musso, a contributor told of how a colleague at work learnt to sew, and thereafter developed a client base from fellow workers, meeting his domestic bills from proceeds even before salaries were paid.
I cannot emphasize any further, why a business like tailoring is ideal for the “nine to fiver”, as well as for s/he who opts for self employment from the onset, than I have so far done, and that is besides the fact that it is one small business the employee can start without seeking for funds outside of his/her earnings, as it is usually within the earnings of a salaried employee to set up, even if not at a go, but over time, of religiously setting apart a certain amount monthly till one is able to procure all that is needed.
The only challenge may be the cost of renting a space, especially if one intends to set up shop in a highbrow area, this isn’t advisable though for the “nine to fiver” in the early days though, but will become necessary when the one is on the verge of leaving paid employment, and has garnered a few staff and apprentices.
The lady I met in Lafia, Nasarawa State, has her own shop, directly in front of her home. She started sewing years back with her parents in their home. Now she contributes her quota to the upkeep of her three children, and is totally responsible for paying rent for her shop as well as the costs of running her business, without any input from her husband who caters for other needs of their family. Because of the epileptic power supply, she has her power generating set connected to her house such that while she uses it to supply power to her shop, she distributes same for her children to stay indoors, watch TV when they are on holidays or in the afternoon when they return from school.
Presently, her shop is small though with intention to acquire the adjoining shop, whose occupant had intimated her of his desire to move to a place closer to where he just moved house to. If all things go as planned, she intends to use the space to display her finished products. She is a success story even at her very low level compared to the big names in big cities like Abuja (with huge political clientele) and Lagos (Nigeria’s fashion capital), yet she can because the fashion industry is a big ocean with enough space for sharks, dolphins, small fish and even plankton, without the slightest possibility of one ruffling the feather of the other, though jealousy and envy sometimes exist, as with many relationships involving humans (and I heard a fair deal of those in my conversations with her, though not what I intend to dwell on here).
For those interested in making this career move or adding Tailoring skills to their CV, especially with the aim of reaping financial benefits thereof, it isn’t difficult to join. Usually, all one needs is just a year of learning/apprenticeship under the tutelage of a Tailor/Proprietor even a “maestro”, this period may be longer in the case of a “nine to fiver”, where such trainings can be during the weekends only, and with the secondary school student who may come after school. The subject of this write up has under her care, two employees who had graduated under her tutelage, after training for a year, and served for six months. Another five currently serving, of which two are secondary school students who have to go to school in the morning. Even this informal learning atmosphere serves as another means of raising funds to run the business, as the proprietor doesn’t pay salaries at all, rather she gets paid from her employees who are on contract, earning between twenty to thirty percent of their jobs (depending on the magnanimity of the proprietor) while the rest goes to the former. The Apprentices also pay between =N=15,000 to =N=20,000 for the one year they will be under apprenticeship.
Once one has graduated, and served s/he can decide to strike out to test the waters or work with one’s former proprietor (especially for GOODWILL purposes) till one is sure s/he could stand on his/her own. I am not going to speculate on the cost of getting acquiring a space for the business because of the variations involved, depending on locations even within the same city or state (even village), and I am not even precluding the fact that this can be done at home, especially by those who aren’t ready to quit their day jobs, and doing this part-time to increase their buoyancy financially.
Getting a SEWING MACHINE is already a given should you intend to career this path, and the manual one which is more reliable especially in Nigeria because of the epileptic power supply will cost about =N=22,000 to procure. It is of course more expensive to buy the fully industrial type especially for a starter and considering Nigeria’s power situation.
However, like I discovered in Lafia, there is an electric motor that can be attached to the Sewing Machine and connected to power, requiring only that the Tailor simply place his/her foot on the pedal without the movement that is associated with the manual sewing machine, making sewing faster and neater especially when there is “LIGHT”. The “motor” is also very useful for the handicapped tailor, especially those who do not have use of their legs anymore, where they can place a weight on the pedal and switch “on” and “off” the power when they want to sew, and when they are done respectively. This accessory (the Electric Motor) goes for about =N=1000 only and can easily be attached to any manual sewing machine.
A WEAVING/OVERLOCKING MACHINE is also key especially in a society like Nigeria, where the fashion trend dictates that clothes with designs weaved on it, attract attention thereby commanding a higher charge in costs and price at which they can be sold and bought. Tailors who have Weaving Machine(s) not only serve themselves, but other tailors who haven’t deemed it fit to buy theirs, or do not know how to use it; and have other tailors outsource their weaving jobs to them for a handsome fraction of what they are paid for their sewing jobs. The MANUAL Weaving Machine costs about =N=15,000 while the INDUSTRIAL/Electrical type costs =N=27,000.
When all of this is set in place for a capital of between =N=40,000 and =N=50,000 for the lowest range and multiples of that for the higher ranges, one can be said to be in the business proper. This is still without cost of rent, for reason I have aforementioned and the cost of training which varies from one place to another.
The lady I saw in Nasarawa charges between =N=1,500 and =N=2,500 per job (even more in cities like Lagos and Abuja), delivering at least two of hers’ daily, besides the 70% that accrues to her from her employees, weaving jobs outsourced to her, as well as fees paid by her apprentice. There is also money from sales of sewing and tailoring MERCHANDISE which with the right connections one can even be the source of supply of sewing materials to other tailors and just about other people who may have need of such materials, especially in remote areas like the place I visited in Lafia, where you have to get to big cities like Abuja or towns like Keffi to procure most sewing materials.
So you see, Tailoring is a very profitable business, so much so that a new ring of middlemen (mostly women) have developed, collecting sewing jobs/contracts from high net worth individuals and institutions like primary and secondary schools, and giving such to tailors who make the clothes and uniforms at agreed fees, while they cut for themselves part of the dough as fees for the connection. A few of them even have showrooms posing as FASHION DESIGNERS and COUTURIERS when all they do is just buy materials, have tailors in the hinterlands make them, and then move them to major cities to display even with models at big events, in Lagos, Paris and New York.
In big markets like Mandillas in Lagos, Nigeria’s commercial capital, tailors are on hand for a fee to make adjustments to readymade clothing purchased in the markets for proper fit within seconds, even make window blinds in record time of curtain materials just purchased by people at the same market, and such tailors make their living, pay rent, pay their children’s school fees, with change for investment and play from what many consider trivia.
This is my latest offering to you, another chance to financial emancipation that’s almost risk free, with lots of opportunity at self advancement, either for part-time as a nine to fiver or full-time as a means of employment. CARPE DIEM!
N.B. The Naira currently Exchanges to the American Dollar at =N=202/$1.