Inneh Onyeka Samuel, also known as Psamy Yayo is a Carpenter by Profession and currently hold the position of Managing Director at Andin Furniture Nigeria Limited. Popularly refered to as ‘Furniture King,’ he received his early education at the illustrious University of Benin Demonstration Secondary School (UDSS). Those formative years at UDSS instilled in him not just knowledge but discipline and a deep hunger for learning. Following that, he pursued his bachelor’s degree in Soil Science at the University of Benin, setting the stage for my academic and professional journey. However, his quest for knowledge didn’t end there. His curiosity led him to the United Kingdom, where he achieved a Master of Science degree in Soil and Environmental Science from the University of Aberdeen in Scotland, broadening his horizons and shaping his worldview. In this interview with Ifeoma Okeke-Korieocha, Samuel takes us through his journey to building a furniture empire.
Transition from soil science to furniture
Working as a Soil and Environmental Scientist in the United Kingdom was an enjoyable experience. I found it particularly fascinating to engage in Soil and Environmental Pollution Control, where I conducted remediation work on contaminated soil sites across the United Kingdom and Europe. Additionally, I was involved in conducting analyses and remedial activities for several affiliated companies dedicated to cleaning up the oil spill in Ogoni Land and several contaminated sites around the Niger Delta Region of Nigeria. While it was undeniably enjoyable, I couldn’t say that I felt completely fulfilled. In fact, it was during this period that I realized it was time to take a courageous step and pursue my true passion, which is furniture manufacturing and interior design.
Founding Andin Furniture
This journey began in February 2013, and I must admit, it was incredibly challenging. I found myself in a town where I had few connections, and no one knew who I was. Breaking into an already saturated market, teeming with competitors, was an uphill battle. I had to contend with well-established furniture production companies and furniture importers. In this region, attracting clients primarily hinges on a delicate balance between price and quality. I spent countless days meticulously analyzing my target market, their specific needs, and the existing price structures of my competitors. I also delved into their product delivery processes and quality standards. Abuja, being a rapidly developing city with numerous ongoing real estate projects, was my chosen battlefield. I saw an opportunity here, and I was determined to seize it.
Building Andin Furniture
My strategy involved frequent visits to construction project sites, where I often waited for extended periods just to get a few minutes with project managers or building engineers. It was during these interactions that I showcased not physical products, but rather images of past projects I had completed back in Benin City when I was still working in my Father’s company. Some listened attentively, while others were less receptive. Nevertheless, I remained steadfast in my determination and undeterred by any setbacks. Our company specializes in manufacturing ‘custom-made’ furniture (wood and metal), furniture installation, offering interior architecture, and interior design services, and expanding our reach by exporting our products internationally, beyond the borders of Nigeria.
Transition to entrepreneurship
After completing my first degree, I initially joined my father’s company in an administrative capacity. However, my time abroad in the UK made it evident that my true passion lay in transforming both commercial and residential spaces. Upon realizing this was my true passion, I took the decisive action to pursue this. I nurtured this inner vision and eventually made the decision to return to Abuja, Nigeria, where I established a furniture-making factory.
Overcoming early challenges
In April 2013, during a visit to a particular construction site, the project manager looked at me and remarked, “Young man, the market is already saturated with big companies. Nobody will pay attention to you and your iPad.” I left that site with a mix of frustration and determination. However, my frustration was not aimed at anyone in particular. Instead, it fueled a burning motivation within me to succeed in my chosen field of furniture production and interior furnishing, where I could transform interior spaces into breathtaking, functional works of art.
Securing first projects
I continued my relentless pursuit, moving from one construction site to another. My primary marketing strategy involved reaching out to end-users at the source which is at the construction sites. Fortunately, after some time, someone extended their kindness and lent an ear. They gave me an opportunity to prove myself by creating a kitchen cabinet for a private residence. It was a breakthrough moment; I had secured my first job in Abuja after four months of unwavering hustle and determination.
Embracing family’s legacy
To provide some context, my father had undergone formal training as a furniture maker, and in the early 1970s, he took the initiative to establish his own metalworks furniture company. As a result, my upbringing was deeply rooted in the world of furniture craftsmanship and the intricate operations of furniture production facilities.
Triumph over challenges
The kitchen space for our first project wasn’t expansive by any means, but securing that project felt like winning a billion-dollar contract. We eagerly embarked on the job. Leading up to this opportunity, I had managed to assemble a team of three skilled furniture makers. We had experience working on small “fix this and that” projects. Including myself, we formed a team of four. However, we faced a significant challenge – we lacked a dedicated production space, and I didn’t own a factory at that time. Moreover, we had only a handful of basic hand tools and no advanced machinery to speak of.
Resourcefulness and dedication
Fortunately, the market where we sourced our raw materials provided a solution. They had machines available for cutting plywood, and you could pay per board. So, we began our journey by preparing all our materials at the market, which was more of a ‘roadside’ setup. From there, we headed to the client’s apartment to complete the installation.
A turning point
Over the course of three days, we poured our hearts and souls into the project. Our team’s passion and dedication were unmatched. When the client finally laid eyes on the finished kitchen cabinets, he was not just satisfied; he was genuinely amazed. This moment marked a pivotal turning point for us.
Growth and reputation
In July, just a month after completing the kitchen cabinet project, the same client contacted me with an even more significant opportunity – furnishing an entire duplex. At this point, there was no looking back. From that moment onward, a steady stream of referrals started pouring in, all thanks to the exceptional quality of our work. Each new job became an opportunity for my team and me to push our limits and showcase our skills.
Commitment to excellence
We were determined to continually outperform ourselves, consistently striving for perfection and maintaining exceptionally high-quality standards, all while keeping our prices affordable. As a result, our reputation spread like wildfire. Soon, job requests and referrals began pouring in not only from within Abuja but also from outside the city.
Leveraging social media
With great enthusiasm, my team and I embraced the power of social media platforms such as Facebook, BlackBerry Messenger, WhatsApp, Instagram, and Twitter. We began showcasing vibrant photos and catalogs of our work. This experience opened our eyes to the immense potential of social media, which many entrepreneurs often overlook. Job orders started pouring in from unexpected sources and locations, reaching every corner and crevice. This newfound exposure allowed us to expand our client base beyond Abuja’s borders.
Global sourcing and design influence
At Andin Furniture, we don’t limit ourselves to local materials. We source our raw materials from Asia, Europe, and Africa, ensuring that our creations reflect the highest standards of quality and diversity. When it comes to designing our furniture, we consider a multitude of factors. The client’s preferences are paramount, of course, but we also focus on functionality and purpose. We stay attuned to the latest trends and styles, all while keeping an eye on maintenance and durability. Our goal is to produce furniture that not only dazzles with aesthetics but also stands the test of time.
Projects and philanthropy
Our portfolio is a testament to our versatility. We’ve successfully completed projects for state governments, federal parastatals, multinational corporations, religious institutions, non-governmental organizations (NGOs), and private individuals. This diversity underscores our ability to cater to a wide array of clients and project types. But our commitment extends beyond business success. We’re deeply involved in philanthropic endeavors. We run mentorship programs, donate furniture to those in need, and provide support to widows in our community. Giving back is not just a choice; it’s a responsibility we hold dear.
As we peer into the horizon, the vision for Andin Furniture is nothing short of ambitious. Over the next ten years, we aspire to evolve into a prominent global brand that transcends geographical boundaries. We’re on a mission to propel the “Made in Nigeria” brand onto the international stage. This vision encompasses not only global expansion but also technological advancement, social impact through employment generation, and an unwavering commitment to staying relevant in the ever-evolving world of design and craftsmanship. The journey ahead excites us, and we eagerly anticipate the growth and positive impact we can achieve in the years to come.
Life beyond business
Now, when I step away from the bustling world of business, you’ll often find me pursuing my other passions. Traveling is one of my greatest pleasures, as it opens doors to new experiences and broadens horizons. I’m also deeply involved in content creation, sharing insights and knowledge with a wider audience. I can’t help but be captivated by football and Formula One racing, where the pursuit of excellence and the thrill of competition are ever-present.
So, there you have it – my journey from the classroom to the boardroom, fueled by passion, dedication, and the unwavering belief that dreams can indeed become a reality. Remember, it’s the combination of relentless passion and hard work that holds the power to transform dreams into tangible achievements.