With just his transport fare and a pair of hand-made footwear for sale, Yomi Awoyemi relocated to Lagos with the hope of breaking grounds and exploring opportunities. Yomi already had one of his relatives as a prospective buyer, so when he finally sold the item, which was of satisfactory quality, he got four extra orders, courtesy of his relative’s referrals. From there, word about Yomi’s hand work kept spreading and that was the beginning of his fashion exploitation in Lagos.
How it all started:
Many years ago, Yomi, as a child has always been interested in observing the act of sewing from many tailors especially from a particular tailor whose shop was next to his mother’s. He always got so fascinated when observing those who make footwear around the area where he grew up in Ibadan. Gradually, Yomi’s passion for the art grew, and so did his zeal to turn his knowledge of making fashion items into a profession. For starters, he delved into clothing and footwear making while studying History at the University of Ilorin.
“I was a student by day and engaged in fashion business adventure at night and sometimes all through weekends,” Yomi recalled. “I loved my craft and I also needed to make enough money to pay for my school fees and other expenses so I worked twice as hard. There were times I had to travel to Ibadan and Lagos from Kwara state to purchase materials required for my works on Friday in order to meet up with client’s deliveries which became increasingly high. Meanwhile I had exams starting on Monday.”
Despite the challenges, Yomi juggled his way through University, graduating with a second class upper credit. He had not only paid attention to his lecturers, he closely observed the History of Nigerian fashion – a move that later shaped his business brand into producers of indigenous clothes with a fusion of western style.
After graduation, Yomi’s grades became history, but not his passion. He still wanted to focus on defining people’s Fashion image – thus his move to Lagos. Prior to his relocation, he had exhausted his savings during his NYSC and had run out of products. Nonetheless, he was positive that Lagos would make him great again.
“I knew Lagos would expose me to more clients and I was determined to make that happen,” he said. “The dream for most of my schoolmates was to get a job in a bank or an oil company, but mine was to become an entrepreneur. So even when I got a job offer from an IT company, I turned it down irrespective of my friends and family’s advice to accept it. The focus for me was not to earn money, it was about fulfillment, and creating fashion images was what I found joy in.”
Now the founder of Yormages Concept – a fashion brand, Yemi is a commercial producer of unisex clothing, footwear, bags, wallets and other fashion accessories. He also has a shoe workshop and various retail outlets across Lagos.
Asides the regular challenges faced by a typical Nigerian Fashion Designer, Yomi says producing Made-in-Nigerian clothing will thrive better in a more favorable business environment.
“Some Nigerians look down on our products because they are Made-in-Nigeria. The truth is we make customized footwear that can match the standard of some foreign products, but some people still prefer imported goods. Lack of industrial infrastructures, power supply and favorable government policy are also really affecting the business as well. We will do better in an improved working environment,” he says.
On the brighter side, Yormages is soaring above his challenges with the amount of good traction to his retail stores on several online platforms, especially the SMEMarketHub.
“There were places we couldn’t have gotten our products to if not for the SMEMarketHub,” he enthuses. “Now we get orders from people across Nigeria and its environs and this has boosted not just sales but our online presence.”
Presently, Yormages is not where the founder wants it to be, but Yomi is positive that with consistent production of good quality and affordable products, the brand will continue to thrive irrespective of all.
“Yormages Concept can be found on Instagram, Facebook and Twitter. With an average of N40,000 you can afford a well-tailored Yormages kaftan or tunic. A pair of leather sandals starts at a price of N6,500 and a pair of Yormages shoes goes for N15,500 at a minimum. You can check us out anytime.
Drawing from his experience as a typical Nigerian Hustler, Yomi caps his story up with these words of wisdom.
“The essence of starting a business is to meet a need and serve others. In doing so, you get your reward,” he says. “If you are not happy to render a service, even if it’s for free, then you don’t have passion for it. Passion is what will make you persevere when the business faces the rocks, because it surely will someday.”