Kenechukwu Okafor: The creative footwear maker
Kenechukwu Chibuikem Okafor is a Mechanical Engineering graduate of Landmark University, Ilorin, Kwara State. He is the founder and CEO of Ezra Footwear, a start-up shoe manufacturing business.
Kenechukwu was inspired to establish his business by his parents and his love for leather products.
The achievements of his parents motivated him on a daily basis and, in 2016, he decided to establish Ezra Footwear to realise his dream and prove that locally-made shoes can compete with imported ones. He is also the founder of Ezra Farms.
He started his business with his entire savings and it has gone relatively well for him, as demand for his products has grown. He tells Start-Up Digest that he sources his raw materials from local markets across the country and also imports some. “We source most of our materials from local markets most times and also imports from Indonesia,” the footwear maker says.
Kenechukwu is once a winner of the Entrepreneurs Organisation, Global Students Entrepreneurship Awards (EOGSEA) in Nigeria and he represented the country at the global finals in Germany.
Answering questions on the challenges facing his business, Kenechukwu says that rising cost of raw materials has remained the major issue, adding that prices of materials needed for production of footwear have doubled over the past three years.
He states that this has increased his production cost with customers not wanting to pay more despite rise in costs. He further says that his inability to meet with huge demand for his products is a big issue, calling for funds for expansion.
The young entrepreneur calls on the government to improve the ease of doing business in the country so that cost of production can decline and the country’s products will become more competitive.
He notes that the footwear industry has the potential to diversify the country’s economy away from oil and earn huge foreign exchange for Nigeria.
The young entrepreneur says that the country has what it takes in terms of raw materials and the needed skills to become a footwear manufacturing hub in Africa.
When asked about his expansion plans, Ekenechukwu says, “I have scheduled a lot of expansion plans which I have already started working on through the help of my parents who have been supporting me from the beginning. Currently, I am making efforts to secure more machines for production and also expand the factory space.”
“I also intend to start training other youths on footwear manufacturing. I am saving towards achieving all these within the shortest possible time,” says Kenechukwu.
On his advice to younger entrepreneurs, he says, “My advice for other entrepreneurs out there is that we all go through bad days. I have been through a lot of bad times. What matters is not how hard you fell but how you got back up.”