It Takes Passion To Do Creative Business-Itoro | Independent Newspapers Limited
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It Takes Passion To Do Creative Business-Itoro

Posted: Jun 3, 2016 at 12:59 am   /   by   /   comments (0)

Celestina Utoro is the founder and CEO of Katina Ventures and Designs. In this interview, she tells Ikechi Nzeako and Nkasiobi Oluikpe that she established the outfit in order to promote creativity as well as Nigerian and African indigenous fabrics, and also to encourage arts and craft. Excerpts:

Why are you in this business, I mean designing using Nigerian and African fabrics?

I am somebody who loves creativity; I am a very creative person. So, what I do is adding value to fabrics. Our latest job is made “easy adire” fabrics that can be used at both homes and offices.

So, I like to turn things, add value to it and make it very innovative in such a way that the end users will appreciate and use it.

Our goal is actually to promote Africa and made in Nigeria. We want to see how we can grow the economy and create employment. Presently, what we are looking at is access to the market, how to encourage people to patronize made in Nigeria so that local indigenous craft artisans who make these products can earn a living and live well. If you don’t patronize these products, their survival will be difficult. So our goal is to promote artisans and the use of made in Nigeria products by Nigerians

For how long have you been in business?

Talking of African indigenous fabrics, I have been in it for about three years, but I have been in business for over 15 years.

Who does the designs for you?

It is a collective effort; I am also into designs as well. So, we bring the designs together to ensure that it comes out very well. And it’s collaboration, we add value and share knowledge among ourselves, it is teamwork. Because of that we are able to bring out the best in every product, before bringing out to the public.

How has the Nigerian market been? What are the challenges you are faced with and how have you been able to overcome them?

There are challenges in the market. First and foremost, the issue of power supply; 30% of the earnings go into buying fuel to power the generator. You can imagine running on petrol to do your business and it is not affordable. If you factor this into the cost of your products, your customers will be telling you it is so expensive. You know they will not understand.

Sometimes, you know because you just want to sell, I just sell at a loss and get by. At the end of the day, you are not moving forward. So, I think power is the critical thing that government should really look at. If power were to have been available, a lot of us will save that money and use it to better our products.

The Bank of Industry is saying that money is available, have you made attempts to get any low interest loan from them?

One thing about the Bank of Industry is that you have to come as a cooperative or an association. They don’t give loans to individuals. It is a good development, although now they are saying that they have a sector that deals with micro industry, from N5,000 or N5million upwards. But somebody has to come as a guarantor. You know a lot of small businesses have issues with guarantors. And you know when they give you all those conditions you don’t even bother coming back any more, you just move on. And really, a small and medium enterprise cannot move without intervention funds. You cannot use your money to run your businesses alone.

You still need intervention funds so that you can really make progress. That is why SMEs are not really doing well in Nigeria because the same money that we are making, we are using it to take care of ourselves. Even though we know we have to separate ourselves from our businesses. But what would you do when you find out that you are not making enough profit to be able to meet your needs, you now touch your business money. But if you have intervention fund, it helps. You are able to separate yourself, pay yourself and make plans and projections and you work towards it.

But if you don’t have money and you are struggling to live, it is difficult. A beautiful idea that will create employment to people will just die.

What is your advice to young people who want to come into business?

They have to learn the skills; secondly, they should go for entrepreneurship training before they start so that they can have the full knowledge. Entrepreneurship is not an easy task; it is a journey but not a destination.

It is very tough; sometimes you may want to give up. If you don’t have that passion and determination to move on, you won’t be able to make it. You have to really convince yourself that is what you want to do. As I tell people, entrepreneurs are not made they are born.

Not everybody is an entrepreneur. Some people are entrepreneurs, some are not, after a while, they will give up and go and look for paid jobs. So they have to be very sure of what you want to do.

Thereafter, they should go the skills so as to more about whatever it is they want to do, they also need mentors to advice them when necessary.

I have spoken to many entrepreneurs, you will discover that at the initial stage they have the passion, but after some time, it disappears. What has kept you going in this business?

I have a very burning desire because I believe in my products. Any time people come to see what we do, they tell me, you are on a goldmine and I know it. That alone keeps me going. Besides, when I am doing my business, I am always happy because I know that I will get to the top, its just about reaching the right people for the products. And you also need money to package, advertise and brand.

You also need money to pay your staff and several other overheads. You know good things don’t come easy. But if you don’t get those entire requirements, especially, ability to pay up your bills, you might be forced to give up.