Entrepreneurship can be a bold and risky endeavor. You make the decision to start a business but you can’t be a hundred percent certain of the outcome. Yakub Nma Usman boldly tossed in his chips and took a risk. He started “Yaks Apparels” in 2016 with less than one thousand naira. A year later, “Yaks Apparels” has become a notable brand that was recently featured in Business Review Afrika. The company has a Nigerian clientele where men and women come to purchase Yakub’s stylish shoes.
Yaks Apparels is indeed a business success story but Yakub says shoemaking is not just a business to him. He tells me he had a passion for shoes since he was a child. Yakub grew up in a suburban area of Lagos called “Amukoko” where he had a neighbor who was a shoemaker. He was always keen and interested as he watched the shoemaker at work.
I recently sat down with Yakub to discuss his drive to start his own shoe company. We discussed entrepreneurship and his aspirations to continue to keep bringing style and creativity to his business.
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How did you decide on the name “Yaks Apparels” for your business?
“Yaks Apparels” was coined from my first name Yakub. Usually, people prefer to call me “Yaks.” I thought why not create my brand using my name? Then, I decided to include the word “Apparels” to it.
It’s been said you started your company with less than one thousand naira. How were you able to start your business with less than one thousand naira?
Once you make up your mind to do something, even money can’t limit you. When I made up my mind to start my shoe line, I had just one thousand naira on me. Then, I went straight to a cobbler near me and asked him if he thought the amount was sufficient. He said, “yes of course.” He volunteered to let me use his shop, machine and some of his materials. I made a sample and that’s how I started.
Though you started your business October of 2016, you’ve made great strides, having a staff of workers and being featured in Business Review Afrika. What would you advise other entrepreneurs who are facing challenges and setbacks as their starting their businesses?
The determination and God almighty is key. My advice to those who aim to start or are already in an existing business is be determined. They should also be focused, consistent and goal oriented. Once you set your mind to it, absolutely nothing can hold you back. What’s important is taking that great step, and with God almighty, everything is possible.
You’ve said a goal of yours is to be able to purchase modern shoe making machines which will enable you to produce in bulk. How are you working towards achieving that goal?
Yes, every business has its challenges. Mine is having the funds to get a larger space and also purchasing shoe-making machines. My move towards that is saving up, sourcing for investors and trying to obtain government loans. I am also open to temporary partnerships with fashion houses where I can showcase my shoes alongside their clothing lines for sales and promotions.
Why should customers purchase your footwear as opposed to purchasing a product from the U.S. or Europe?
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I know my work and brand is good or should I use the Naija slang “Splufik.” You know people mostly feel that because something is made in Nigeria, it’s not good but that is not true. We have good products here if people take the time to look.
I have had to buy a few shoes from abroad before. Trust me when I say I regretted those shoes. I take my time to make sure my end product comes out beautiful and durable. To get the value of your money is usually my mindset when I’m making shoes for my customers.
Let’s patronize made in Nigeria, it’s the only way we can improve and encourage each other.
You’ve said good shoes speak volumes about one’s appearance. How would you describe your own shoe style for a professional and social setting?
I’d describe my shoe style as simple, casual yet classy. Whatever the event might be, I don’t overdo it. It’s always appropriate.
My shoes are available in different styles and colors. They can even be customized depending on anybody’s choice of fashion.