Struggles of a startup: The leather loving entrepreneur

It has only being a few months, but Anthony Adejinle is already staking claim for a decent share of the leather footwear and accessories market in Nigeria. Buoyed by a localized brand strategy and digital-driven customer engagement model, Mayowa’s brand, May Anthony, is fast resonating amongst the millennials in Lagos, with monthly record sales posted since its May 2016 launch.

Like every other startup, May Anthony—which deals primarily in the production of footwear, bags, belts or accessories—has encountered its own challenges, most of which have helped Mayowa to improve the overall business model. He shares more of this and the vision for his business in this interview.

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About May Anthony

May Anthony was launched in May, 2016 in Lagos, Nigeria. We are a lifestyle brand which produces and retails footwear & leather products. All our products are designed and handmade in Lagos, Nigeria from fine leather. We are dedicated to making quality & affordable pieces and customer satisfaction is our primary focus.

May Anthony pieces (whether footwear, bags, belts or accessories) are very practical in terms of price, styling, design and being wearable. They bear Nigerian names from the different tribes and ethnic groups to show we are a “one Nigeria” brand which caters to a diverse clientele regardless of ethnicity, tribe, religion or values.

Inspiration behind the name

The name was derived from two of my names: Mayowa and Anthony. 

A typical day at May Anthony

A typical day at May Anthony begins with responding to emails, social media and WhatsApp messages from customers in order to sort out orders and deliveries for the day. The next thing is to contact our logistics partners to schedule deliveries for the day. The third step would be the production of custom made (and out of stock) orders (if any). We also have to engage with our customers on our social media platforms all day.

Typical daily challenges in the footwear industry

As a brand, one of the major problems we face is sizing. A lot of our female customers are in denial of their actual sizes, so they simply tell you they wear a smaller size. However, when the product is delivered to them, they complain about the shoes being too small or too tight.

Greatest challenge/obstacle May Anthony has faced since its launch

One major problem we face like most Nigerian fashion business is the lackadaisical attitude of artisans. We have to set standards of the quality that is acceptable for our artisans and make sure that they adhere strictly to these standards.

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Why people choose to be entrepreneurs

From my personal perspective, I chose to be an entrepreneur over having a 9-5 job because of the passion I have for business. Being an entrepreneur comes with its uncertainties as well as rewards, I believe if you enjoy what you are doing and you do it very well; in due time you reap the rewards. That way you are having fun doing what you like and also making a sustainable living at the same time.  There is also that flexibility, I enjoy being able to work from the comfort of a room or café in any part of the world remotely and getting things done rather than the confinement of a traditional work space. I also believe that being an entrepreneur allows us become more creative, the hurdles of every day differ and we learn daily on how to solve problems even better.

The Fashion/accessories industry can help Nigeria

Nigeria is mainly dependent on the oil and gas industry as a major source of revenue, and with global oil prices nose diving, there is need for economic diversification. The global fashion industry is worth One Trillion Dollars ($1,000,000,000,000) and with the rise of many startups in the fashion/accessories industry in Nigeria, there is that opportunity of Nigeria to earn foreign exchange through the exportation of fashion products thus increasing the country’s GDP.

The influx of new fashion and accessories brands would also lead to a decrease in the importation of foreign produced clothing thus a reduction in the demand for foreign exchange. All these are would definitely help in reshaping Nigeria’s economy and strengthening the Naira.

Importance of support systems for SMEs and startups

I believe having the right support system for SMEs and startups is a very important factor in creating successful businesses in Africa, as it gives the average African entrepreneur faith in his/her craft or product. Mentorship and financing play a very vital role in the success of a business, having this in place increases the chance of businesses succeeding in Africa’s harsh economic environment.

Vision for May Anthony

My vision for May Anthony as an established, international brand is to be that brand that is being worn in every single state in Nigeria, with flagship stores in the main urban centers in Nigeria and Africa at large thus creating jobs, curating a lifestyle and putting Nigeria on the global fashion map.

 

Quick Fire Questions

Favorite business brand?

Zara

Favourite business leader?

Tony Elumelu

Most Inspiring Quote?

“If you really look closely, most overnight successes took a long time.”

— Steve Jobs

Most admired Nigerian Entrepreneur?

Mark Essien

Top Travel Destination?

United Arab Emirates, Morocco and France.