Upon embarking on the factory-building project, we were faced with the fresh challenge of a double-allocation controversy, which meant we didn’t have a land on which to build our factory. We were confused, discouraged, just name it. But thank God for my mum, she’s a diehard believer, A never –say-die kind of woman, always self-motivated. She wrote to the Minister applying for a factory land (you would think the Minister is her brother) but she’s fearless and can bring water out of a rock. To cut the long story short, the Minister approved and we were allocated another land. Now the testimony here is THIS, we lost a 2500 square meter land to later receive a 20 -hectare Land (talk about things working out for your good!)
Shortly before we started, I had to go to Ilorin to get a hands-on experience on how to engage and run a manufacturing company. Which wasn’t fun! I had to leave my hubby and go with our 3-month old baby. It was stressful and challenging at the beginning, but the whole experience was worth my while. I garnered a whole lot from that experience working with all the various departments in the factory.
While at the factory in Ilorin, I toured the southwest states with the marketing team to touch base with both perspective & existing clients. There, I learnt that signing on a new customer is easy but keeping them is the Real Deal. (Moral of the story: having a solid clientele base is key)
I was back in Abuja after 3 months of training in Ilorin and our business was geared for take off. Our intention was to cater for Abuja and environs but little did we know that 9years after, we will be in 33 states of the federation producing with fully automated European machines. Only God could have done this because we knew little or nothing about the business we embarked on but God gave the grace.
We operated a loss in the first year of business, my experience in the early stage revealed to me the big divide between theory &reality: you know how you want to put to use all the tips you learnt in your MBA class and you later realize a lot more is required to pull through.
In our 2nd year of operation, we broke even and by the 3rd year, we made profit …pt4
By the 4th year, we started consolidating; we were fully represented in about 18 states of the federation, so the next step for us was to upgrade our machines. Why Upgrade? We couldn’t meet up with demand anymore; machines started getting more problematic which also affected our final output.
We discovered the European market was the place to go for high tech machineries but we didn’t have enough money to buy the machines, if we use the money we had, it will mean that a part of the business would suffer: we won’t have working capital neither will replenishment of raw materials be possible. Moreover, the European machines are 100 times more expensive than what we were used to. Obviously going to the bank was our best bet: now, which of these banks won’t give you a “cut throat” interest rate? Bank of industry!! Let me also point out here, at this point, other commercial banks were eager to give us leverage: you will wonder why, because Banrut was now visible… Visible in terms of, presence in the market, good business structure etc. (in business communication, the more visible you are, the more credible you are perceived). This brings me to another salient point: A lot of our banks don’t want to partner with startups, why? They don’t trust you (Bitter Truth), they want to be sure you have the structure to pay back. The banks want to see your stake in the business before partnering with you.
We installed our fully automated machines in the 5th year. Now, I thought getting these machines will reduce the number of workers needed on the production floor, (hmmm… was I wrong). We needed to increase our staff strength because the output had now quadrupled. Let me say something on employment for startups: pouching seems to be the natural, easiest and reasonable thing to do but it is not sustainable. My take is for you to invest and build your own team. Am I saying your team won’t fail u? No, but you earn loyalty by investing in them.
At this point, kindly allow me to advice that, as your learning curve in manufacturing, it is expedient for you to learn and make your mistakes with basic simple and affordable machineries before upgrading to the high tech, complex ones even if you can afford the latter.
To be continued… 😊😊