Broom Business: For Cleanliness And Good Profit
It’s A Product Every Home Needs
HAS anyone wondered what sweeping our compounds and large open spaces would be without the use of the traditional palm frond brooms? The long or short fibre brushes might do the job, one may say. But Okonkwo, a broom seller holds a different view. He believes that fibre brushes and the palm frond brooms do the same job in different ways.
According to him, the palm fond brooms are unique and could be put into other uses apart from sweeping. “They sweep the corners of any building or house better than fibre bushes. No matter the level of our technology, these brooms can never change, because they are cheaper, natural and environment friendly.
“When they wear out one can throw them away with no part of it constituting danger to the environment. And like any by-product of a plant, they decay because they are not made with toxic substance,” he said.
Okonkwo, who inherited the business over 30 years ago from his parents, disclosed that palm frond broom business is a very huge one and involves a lot of people in the chain.
“I started selling brooms in 1984, I left school. I married my wife, built a house in my village and trained two of my five children in tertiary institutions. The business gives money because it is a product every home needs,” he said.
Confirming that the business is a money spinning venture, Emeka Anyawu, said the trade involves two things; knowing where to get the broom in large quantity and at a very cheap price, and where to seller them at a good price.
“We go to the villages, pay people to cut palm fronds and make brooms from the leaves. We also go to schools in the villages to buy off what the pupils brought to school, as their craft works; through this means we get regular suppliers. Though, supplies from school come at the end of the term or session, they make good sales because we hardly dye most of them. The pupils do that, may be to earn high marks.
“Getting the quantity needed, we tie them into smaller bunches with raffia thread or plastic tapings and sell to buyers. The prices vary from one place to the other and no matter the location one is sure to make good profit. For each little bunch that goes for N200, I make N80 and multiply that into a 1000 in a month. However, this price differs from place to place; for instance the same broom could go for N300 or more at Ikoyi or Lekki. Only we make them look attractive and different from your every day broom by dying the head or handle with different colours and also add a pole to some, so that one can use them to clean the ceiling or high places in a house while standing,” he disclosed.
On what motivates him to remain in the business despite the introduction of electronic sweepers and the fibre brushes, Udo said if it is not rewarding, he would not have left his Abakaliki country home for Lagos. “The business goes beyond what you see. In fact, a potential seller does not just go into it. He needs to go through years of apprenticeship because the trade is in phases. You first must know how to preserve, then sourcing and then the distribution. If you preserve them badly, in moist places, they will be brittle and become unprofitable. So, one has to know the right temperature for it.
“The hover machines and fibre brushes cannot be compared to palm frond brooms. Unlike hover machines, which are powered by electricity, the broom does not need that and they are cheaper if you compare them’s in term of maintenance and repairs. Besides, the market is huge; I at times leave Lagos to Abeokuta and other states in the West to sell brooms. We make different brooms, the long ones for sweeping open spaces, the medium for the rooms, the short ones for ladies that prepare Ewedu soup and the extreme short for washing potties; and their prices are not the same. I make between N150 to N200 as profit from a bunch of broom sold. In a month I make between N80,000 to N100,000,” he disclosed.
On the reasons for adding colours at the heads or handles, James Iduma revealed it is part of the techniques to remain relevant in the market. “We add colours and sell them higher because people like flashy things. Also, we make the colours to be in line with the APC party, whenever we are in APC dominated state, so that party faithful can get their brooms from us,” he said.
On what it could take anyone to be part of the business, Tony Ajie noted that the start-up capital is very low; it is as low as N10,000, but the most important thing is having the patience to learn the tricks because it is not just any business one can just jump into.
“The level one wants to begin would determine the capital outlay. If you want to be on the street hawking or at particular junctions, it means with N10,000 to N20,000 one can venture into it. But if one wants to go to the villages or the remote areas to get them, then one would need a huge capital to buy the brooms from the people doing it and if possible commission the locals, who are mostly youths and women.
“I started by hawking, carrying brooms in a wheelbarrow from street to street, and gradually moved to travelling to Benin, Akure and other places with a lot of palm trees to get brooms. I sell more in the cities, despite fibre brushes. Some people believe no other item can sweep their homes cleaner than the palm frond brooms. On the average, I make N60,000 to N80,000 selling as a retailer and whole seller. The profit margin is high. I get the bunch for a very low price, sometimes N100, depending on the location and sometimes less and after retying each bunch, sometimes I make N2,000. And I do get such bunches in hundreds.
“The business is flexible and anyone that knows packaging would make quick money within a short time. I do not regret being in the business because it has paid my bills,” he said.
On some of the challenges encountered in the business, Bayo mentioned bad roads and weather as the major constraints. According to him bad roads make it difficult for them to sometimes go into the remote areas, while rainy season hampers the brooms making because it would be difficult to climb the palm trees for the fronds and also for the sun to properly dry the sticks. So, he is advising potential entrants to get the wares before the rains. But to overcome this, he suggested getting a mini-warehouse to store the products so that during the rains sellers and buyers would still have wares to sell and buy.