Esho: Proud Nigerian Shoe And Ornament Designer
Gbemisola Esho is a creative entrepreneur and a change agent operating in the creative sector. She manufactures fashion, health and lifestyle products such as footwear, bags, and decorative ornaments for individuals, home and office spaces.
Her shoes, bags and ornaments that come in amazing bright and unique colours are appreciated and celebrated by people with exquisite fashion taste. Her company, which started in 2008, came out of her determination and belief that good things can come out of Nigeria. This has been her inspiration.
Although it makes her happy whenever people praise her creativity, wondering if the products are truly made in Nigeria, it equally makes her sad, as it brings home to her foreigners perception of the country. This, however, further motivates her to continue projecting Nigeria positively, rather than giving up on her motherland.
As a young business woman, Gbemisola’s one dream is to carve a niche for herself in her line of business, knowing that good jobs, opportunities and innovation contribute to building a better society, while improving the country’s economic growth and development.
“I am never impressed by myself. I am an undying optimist and believe nowhere is unconquerable,” she said.
When she stumbled on the art, she saw in it an opportunity, hence, her decision to fill the gap.
“We design and create footwear to suit our clients’ specific needs. We also design a ready-to-wear range. To do this, we create shoes for different kinds of feet shapes. Given the fact that nature has endowed mankind differently, some people have very narrow feet, while others have wide feet. Some are flat footed, while others have very high arches.
Another attraction was the ability to meet people’s needs and being able to give them quality fashion pieces that meets their needs and aspirations.
“Of course, starting the business didn’t come easy, especially raising capital and coping with the initial challenges of start-ups. At first, it wasn’t easy coping on my own, but personal savings, loans from friends and family support put me on the business right track,” she reminisced.
Running her own business is something she has always dreamed of. And she is thankful that it has been a smooth ride so far, despite the occasional hitches.
“We all know the difficulties involved in operating in the Nigerian business environment. The cost of doing business is really high in the country. There is also the issue of inadequate infrastructure and the challenge of starting out, getting known in the industry, selling yourself and your services, as well as convincing others that you can do it,” she explained.
In her view, though there is the tendency for clients to want to look at the big names in the business, but it is crucial to make a lasting impression by doing a good job once given an opportunity to showcase one’s business and services.
“That is what brings them back. So, an aspiring successful businessperson or entrepreneur should offer quality job, consistent service and also deliver value. Once that is done, you are in business.”
Challenges have made her stronger and better. Her gratification comes from being able to meet a customer’s needs, as customers differ when it come to desires and preferences.
“Usually, not customers are satisfied with one’s services, but that’s good because it creates room for improvement. And I am not afraid or unwilling to improve and even learn something new,” she said.
On what it takes to be a female shoe designer, she said it is important to be observant.
“You must have the eye and must be someone that can imagine things. You must also be able to put things together. For instance, you must be the kind of person who can see a pair of shoes and understand how they made them just by looking at them and not have to wait for someone to sit you down and explain it to you,” she explained.
She believes that one must also be someone stylish to succeed in the business.
“If someone asks you for advice on dressing, after you have styled the person, what comes out must be beautiful and trending and able to meet his or her heart desires,” she said.
Her unique selling point has been her ability to churn out high quality proudly Nigerian customised and ready to wear footwear. She is particular about quality, which she believes must be blended with taste to bring out the best. She also lays emphasis on meeting the yearnings of people with big feet and producing shoes with health benefits. These have been her guiding principle since she started the business.
“It is gratifying to know that through the business, we have so far created jobs, and we are feeding families, reducing poverty, helping in skill development, enhancing creativity and innovation. It is contributing to the GDP and national development”.
Her business exploits enabled her emerged the recipient of Sterling Bank’s MTE winner in 2014, as well as a business plan competition AGDC Business Competition in 2015 among others. Gbemisola said she is open to available skill development that could help her develop and manage her business better. Hence, she is always up to date in record keeping, skills planning and generally making connections in the business.
“Young starters need to be educated about entrepreneurship, particularly their area of interest. Finance is key, but you will have issues, if you make finance the first thing in business. Because if you get finance that is not structured for your type of business, you would have issues,” she said.
She is of the opinion that an aspiring entrepreneur needs to understand the business intricacies first, while getting the needed entrepreneurial training before starting, else he/she will be prone to costly mistakes that people make in business.
She is particularly happy that many of her dreams have become visions, goals and milestones today. Although she acknowledged that she is yet to achieve all that she has neatly laid out for herself, yet, she sees herself as having set her hands on the plow with no desire to look back what so ever.
“As an entrepreneur, my specialty and expertise lies in my unique blend of old and new. It is my ability to produce standardised proudly Nigerian products. So, I see myself as a bridge builder between the ancient and modern.
“As a business entity, our strength comes from the innovation we have brought in and our deliberate ability to turn waste to wealth. The basic challenge is infrastructure deficits such as power and the availability and high cost of machinery, even skilled labour, which is sometimes lacking”.
On how to address these challenges, she advised that practitioners in her industry must not be discouraged by perceived challenges. Rather, they must be focused. As a nation, she advised that there is urgent need for the upgrading of existing infrastructure, and the reviving of tanneries.
On mentoring, she advocated the appropriate mentoring of youths. This, according to her, would encourage them to be industrious and versatile.
“We need to mentor the young to become people that can positively impact society and build systems and processes that would bring about a strong society. Mentoring will reduce the risk of going astray and joining bad gangs,” she explained.
She is a repairer of the bridge and restorer of paths to come. A product of a mother with a fighting spirit, she said: “I believe that potential and talents can be carefully and systematically harnessed for national development.”
No wonder that Gbemisola sees herself as the change agent, who uses her skills and talent to affect generations coming after her. Thinking of those who have affected her life and career positively inspires her greatly. That is why she would be forever grateful to Mrs. Onikepo Akande, whose presence alone makes one want to do all and be all, Mrs. Oluwatoyin Adedoyin for her unlimited grace and strength, Mrs. Yinka Ogunde for her objectivity and ability to help people see things for and by yourselves and Peju Alatise for her ability to help in harnessing your energy, focus and balance.
She firmly believes that Nigerian women can help themselves by educating, skill acquisition and development.
“Women need to collaborate more with one another. They need to continuously train and upgrade one another. Older women need to encourage the young ones through training and investing in the young. Yes, Nigeria can become the land of our collective dreams, when we build systems, processes and institutions that are not prejudiced by status, race, gender or societal pressures,” she said.
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