My name is Chimezie Leroy, Creative Director and founder of MezziLeroy, a bespoke footwear line. I am also a model and currently signed under BETH Models Africa. I studied Industrial Relation and Personnel Management at the University of Lagos.
My parents were Customs Officers and due to the nature of their jobs, they were transferred a lot. I grew up mostly with my siblings in Lagos while our parents were away, but I think that helped me ‘grow up’ faster. I learnt to do things myself and a sense of independence from an early age.
MezziLeroy is majorly a footwear line. We are into the production of shoes, sandals, slippers etc. We commenced production in September 2016. The name MezziLeroy is a fusion of my surname and first name, Mezzi from my surname Chimezie and then Leroy which is my first name.
Production of footwears
Every pair of a MezziLeroy footwear is produced locally here in Nigeria at two factories here in Lagos. All raw materials are sourced locally too. We believe in maximising the untapped abundance of raw materials the country is blessed with.
The Made in Nigeria project
The made in Nigeria project is a welcome development, a needed fresh air. It has brought an awakening to the potentials in this country. Nigeria is a country blessed with rich human and natural resources. However, with the economic recession and steady fall of the naira, we need to wake up and grow and patronise our own. We need to look to exporting finished goods and not just natural resources as this would contribute greatly to improving the economy, reduce unemployment, strengthen our currency.
Membership of manufacturing associations
No, we are not yet a member of the Manufacturing Association of Nigeria however plans are under way to join and we look to being part of the association before the end of the second quarter of the year.
The effort the government is putting into supporting young business like ours is duly commendable, but there is always a room for improvement. One major hindrance that young business ventures face is one of financing. The steady increase in cost of production is a major threat to the growth of a lot of small businesses. If the government can bring up ways to subsidise sourcing and purchasing of raw materials or some other aspects of production like power, that would go a long way.
Then again, over the years the term “Made in Nigeria” has become synonymous with being inferior. At MezziLeroy, we try to buck that trend by producing top quality footwear that can compete comfortably against foreign competitors. However, if the government can clamp down on the importation of foreign brands like they have done with some products already, that would propel citizens to buy locally made goods, which would directly help in the growth of young businesses like ours.
I am a huge huge lover of football. I remember walking to school as a kid so I can use my transport fare to buy sport newspapers every day. I got so consistent that the vendor later started giving me the papers for free. I also love music. My friends say I am the best non-practicing DJ because I never pass on the opportunity to play at family gatherings and friends parties. When I am not working, I am either practicing on my laptop with my Virtual DJ app or listening to music.
I love working out. I feel the benefits of being healthy and having a sound mind can never be overemphasised, so I go the gym at least 4 times a week. I also enjoy cooking; I try improving my culinary skills by watching videos and I practise a lot.
Splurge on shoes?
Shoes happen to be my weakness. Before I started my own footwear line, I had over 20 pairs of shoes. My mom would always complain about the fact she thinks I spend way too much on shoes. Hey mama, I have my own shoe line now!
We are really happy about the progress the brand has made in four months. Since we commenced production, we have been able to feature and also retail at the Heineken Lagos Fashion week 2016, courtesy Sterling bank. We also featured at the Sterling bank Trade Fair in 2016. All honour and grace belongs to God because without him, nothing is possible. So it’s been a steady growth.
In five years, we are looking to opening stores across major cities in Nigeria and Sub-Saharan Africa, and also be part of charity campaigns across the country as part of our cooperate, social responsibility. There are plans to reinvest certain parts of the profit from the business into training less privileged kids in skills that can help them engineer a better future for themselves. There is a lot we are working on. God willing, things will go as planned. In summary, we plan to become a leading footwear brand in Nigeria and Africa, better the lives of children while at it, and look towards exporting and breaking into the European market.
Who says we can’t compete against the likes of Zara, Balenciaga, Balmain in the international market? As long as you can dream it, you can achieve it, that’s what I believe.