David-Chyddy Eleke writes that Nancy Chidebe is one young lady who is making a living off her passion for making quality shoes for different social strata, which has earned her the sobriquets ‘Shoe Diva’ and ‘Minister of Leather Craft’
Many young ladies would prefer a white collar job to putting their skills to work, but not Nancy Chidebe; the principal designer at Nancy Shoecraft, a shoe making industry located at Ekwulobia in Aguata Local Government Area of Anambra State. She does not only make shoes but belts, bags and other items that could be made by playing with leather. According to her, she derives pleasure designing and creating new things and that’s what lead her into becoming a craft woman.
The young graduate and mother of one on a first encounter is quick to introduce the source of her living to anyone she meets without feeling shy, and usually refers to herself as the Shoe Diva. “I am the CEO and Principal designer of NANCYSHOECRAFT LEATHERWORKS, a shoe manufacturing company with its office at Ekwulobia in Anambra State, Nigeria. I am an Associate Member of Chattered Institute of Entrepreneurs Nigeria,” she said.
Even though she is an entrepreneur, she is also a wife, mother and teen coach who is determined to create an impact in the society even with her Distinction in Office Technology and Management from Federal Polytechnic Oko, Anambra State.
On how she ventured into shoe making, she said, “From my childhood days, I have always had a flair for creativity. Nothing gives me more pleasure than designing, and after my one year mandatory National Youth Service Corps, I told myself I could make a living from making shoes, instead of going around looking for job.
“Minister of Leathercraft – is a nickname I love to be addressed as. After NYSC, I studied Leatherwork Production and Craftsmanship at St Davids Shoe Academy Lagos (www.stdavidsshoes.com). That was few days after my white wedding. I kind of did my honeymoon in a shoe factory. That’s how much I love crafts.”
Speaking about the quality of her shoes, Chidebe said her company is not unaware of the fact that they are people of various financial attainments in the society, and that determines the kind of shoes they wear, which is the reason she makes shoes for all level of people.
“I know that Nigeria is made up of people of different categories, so I make shoes for people of all levels. My dream is to get to a level where people of all background and level in the society will come into my showroom and would find shoes fit for them, no matter the quality they prefer to wear.”
Initial Funding, Equipment Challenge
Chidebe said she started her shoe making company about five years ago. To be sure that her products met the taste of the people, she first started by producing for family members and friends to try her products, and once they did and certified them fit and durable, she went fully into commercial production.
“There are various materials for production, and the durability depends on the materials used and their cost too. We ensure we give people the best, and to do so, we require finances. When I started five years ago, I didn’t start big. We encountered financial challenges, and we had to meet other existing manufacturers to liaise with them, but importantly, we were determined to continue. We do not have all the equipment we need for smooth production, as such, some of the things that machines could do for us, we use manual strength to do it.
“If we have the right sponsorship, we will get the kind of industrial machines that will make our work more efficient, and our products even better. Also, we cannot continue to use our home as a factory and showroom, we have to get a place, and all these need money to be achieved.”
“I started an initiative called NANCY’S GIRL CHILD CRAFT (NGCC). I am a mother, and I have a girl-child. The idea is to empower our young girls with a craft. I believe if I had started this my journey in craft since I was a girl, I would have been doing more wonderfully and perfected in all aspects of the leather craft,” she revealed.
Nancy said she is happy today that she does not only earn a living from her craft, but was now giving back to society by training other teenage girls. She stated that she is not looked upon as one who is the the wrong profession, and that her confidence in her work has made some mothers to bring and register their children with NGCC, just to acquire the skills required in shoemaking.
Though Nancy alluded to being highly patronised by the society, she thinks that she has not reached the level of patronage that she seeks. “I have numerous customers, who cut across people from all walks of life. Hon Nonso Smart Okafor who is the member representing Nnewi North State Constituency is one of my patrons, and he has also confirmed the quality of the shoes I make.”
Hon Okafor who also spoke on the quality of shoes made by Nancy Shoecraft said, “What I am very happy about is that these shoes are made in Nigeria, and not just Nigeria but made here in Anambra. I patronise Nancy Shoecraft, her products are good, affordable and durable. This one I am wearing (showing his shoes) was made by Nancy Shoecraft, and I have been wearing it for quite a long time. For me, I think it is inferiority complex for one to believe that shoes made here in Nigeria or Anambra can not be good enough. We should be proud of our own and support local production the best way we can.”
To cope with the problem of low finance, Nancy has made a good job, managing her business, and family. She is not just the producer of her products, but also a marketer. To be able to juggle the responsibilities perfectly, she has a part of her home made out as the factory, with diverse machines that aid production, while a part of her living room has been made into a showroom, with shelves and showcases where her products are sampled.
To ensure effective marketing of her products, the mother of one also runs www.nancyshoecraft.com, from where she advertises her products and gets orders to deliver her products. She believes that before long, she would move to a bigger place that will accommodate her dream machines, and aid her to produce for a larger spectrum of patrons.