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Entrepreneur produces quality face masks to reduce spread of Covid-19

Chukwubuike Nnoli is the chief executive officer of Zubnol Investment Limited, a start-up that manufactures quality face masks to reduce the spread of coronavirus.

The Awka, Anambra State-based manufacturer, has the capacity to produce 10,000 to 20,000 face masks every week. He is originally a producer of interior decoration products, supplying them to retail stores, open markets and several outlets. But he now makes face masks to support the fight against Covid-19.

“When you look at how the coronavirus is spreading so fast in Lagos, Kano and many parts of the country, you will agree that something has to be done, and fast too,” he tells Start-Up Digest.

“This is our own contribution to the fight against Covid-19. Our face masks are different from many others because they enable you to breathe well and are good medical prescription products,” he explains.

It takes Nnoli fewer than five minutes to produce a face mask. High quality machines are handy, with staff members ready to work overnight to meet supply targets.

Nnoli says that one major difference between his products and others is that they are fully sanitised and sealed per pack before being supplied to customers.

“This helps protect hundreds of Nigerians from being infected with Covid-19,”he says.

He is collaborating with a partner in the industrial capital of South-East Nigeria, Aba, to enable him meet imminent higher targets.

“What we have done is to give value at affordable rates,” he says.

He says Nigerians can place their orders through the Growing Business Foundation or directly.

He believes that entrepreneurs in the fashion and design need cheap funds currently to enable them make quality face masks.

“Everybody is now producing face masks, but the quality you see every day is questionable,” he notes.

“Face mask production is an industry on its own and it requires special skills. Few industries with the capacity to make high-quality ones need funds,” he says.

Before now, Nnoli had been a producer of throw pillows, bed sheets, baby duvets and embroidery products.

He says that the industry is a gold mine and has yet been fully tapped. But he admits that Covid-19 is hurting the industry.

“Only few people are going to hotels now. The economy is shrinking, so many of our customers are not in the right shape,” he explains.

But Nnoli says post-Covid-19,  creative minds should consider entering his industry to swoop on opportunities in it.

“Yes, there is money in the industry, but the money is for those who are creative and dynamic,” he says.

“It is not for the lazy. The industry needs innovation and people who can break with the past,” he explains.

Nnoli’s basic business is to buy raw materials, which can be in unfinished or semi-finished forms, and turn them into finished pillows, bed sheets and duvets used in homes, offices and hospitals.

His products are basically categorised into Exclusive, Dulux and Premium.  Similarly, the duvets are classified into categories A, B and C.

 Zubnol Investment Limited started in 2011 with N190,000. It was then Zubnol Ventures.

 Just like many start-ups, the business faced challenges ranging from poor market access and lack of funds. However, things turned around in 2016 when the business began to gain traction. In February 2018, Zubnol Ventures transformed into Zubnol Investment Limited after acquiring machines that would enable it to sew pillows, bed sheets and duvets at the factory.

From N190, 000, the business has now grown to over N3 million, supplying products to over 10 outlets located across the country.

“Our target is to capture the local market and the West African market,” the entrepreneur tells Start-Up Digest.

“One of the key feedbacks we get is that our products are well designed and durable,” he says.

“We are in many stores already and demand is already overshooting supply,” he discloses.

According to him, Nigerians need to patronise more locally produced goods to grow the economy and create jobs.

“I am not expecting Nigerians to patronise made-in-Nigeria products just because they want to be patriotic. The truth is that locally made products are good enough and better than what we get from Asia,” he states.

Zubnol is planning to export textile and internal decoration products to the African market and redefine the interior decoration industry, but he knows he needs funding and more machines.

“Going into export requires some capital outlay. You will require a lot of funds. We need N10 to N20 million to acquire some more critical machines. The creativity is there, the innovation is not lacking, but we need cheap and long-term funds,” Chukwubuike says.

 “Our target is to satisfy the burgeoning local demand and then export to earn foreign exchange. This, with God, will happen soon,” he asserts.

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