• Friday, June 21, 2024
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‘Staying in business means meeting the needs of people’

 Tolulope Adebukola is the founder and chief executive officer of Pawprint Limited. She is a graphic designer and an entrepreneur. In this interview with JOSEPHINE OKOJIE, she reveals what inspired her to establish her graphic business and what entrepreneurs must do for their business to be sustainable.
Tell me a about yourself?
My name is Tolulope Adebukola, I graduated with a degree in Biochemistry. Today, I am a self-taught graphic artist. Thus, I create brand merchandise through paper printing & fashion.
Pawprint has 3 trade names- Blingshiki, The Rhinestone Company and Addict by Pawprint.
What inspired you to move into the business?
I started designing as a hobby. My love for colours and art led to the establishment of Pawprint Limited in 2008 during my national service corps. In my quest to improve my skills in sketching and making designs, I looked online for graphics design resources in corel draw & photoshop which have now become my everyday work tools. I was excited at every new order, no matter how small, as this gave me the opportunity to brush up my design skills.
My mentor, Bayo Adeyemo of Puzzles Group played a vital role in this as he constantly encouraged a novice like to provide printing services for his company. I received briefs from other clients who saw items I had produced for Puzzles Group to create paper print merchandise like stationary, logo designs, calendars, greeting cards, goody bags amongst others for them.
Along the line, I got a scholarship to study entrepreneurial management at the Centre for Entrepreneurial Management, Lagos Business School. This scholarship was sponsored by Goldman Sachs to train 10,000 women entrepreneurs.
During the program, it dawned on me that printing was a seasonal business and it was time for this venture to transcend from a hobby to a sustainable business. This gave rise to a decision to expand my product offerings through textile printing.
Soon afterwards, an opportunity arose through the Ministry of Finance, the YOUWIN initiative of which I was amongst the first set of beneficiaries. I had participated in a business plan competition to expand my printing business. We were able to set up an apparel making factory where we design, sew and print on essential clothing apparel especially; Tshirts & Aso-oke.
Would you say the YOUWIN programme helped your business?
Absolutely! I do not think I would have come this far if I had not benefitted from the programme. I not only received funds, I was tutored on my business journey.
What are the challenges you have faced since starting your business?
There are many challenges. Poor power outrage which has increased production cost. Another major challenge is the inconsistencies in the forex rate. This has reduced our profit margins drastically.
 What was your initial start-up capital?

I started my business with no capital. In printing, when you get a contract, your client pays you upfront so you are able to do the job. I had nothing when I started and now my business has grown tremendously.

How would you say your business has grown since starting and who are your targeted clients?
This growth has been as a result of being able to proffer a wide array of products over the years. We are able to print on paper and textile. We also offer rhinestone printing which has become very popular in recent times. This allows us to provide for corporate and individuals. Our products include Aso-oke, Tshirts, stationaries, Bling services etc which are of high standards and comparable to jobs done outside Nigeria.
We have a new product called ‘blingshiki’. The growth has been as a result of the fact that we have products for everybody; thus, constantly making sales.
Most SMEs fail 5 years after starting. What has kept you for 7 years?
When I started off as a printer, I realise that printing was seasonal. I decided to go into designing for clothes. The business has survived 7 years because I increase my product offerings. I am in the same line of business but I keep increasing my products to meet everyone’s need.
What is your advice to other entrepreneurs, especially the young ones that want to venture into your kind of business?
Most people are in business because they have a passion for that service, knowing this, if you must continue to stay in business, you must constantly create products that will meet the needs of the people.
I decided to start designing for clothes because people wear clothes every day and this has increased our cash flow. Now, I make clothes, throw pillows, picture frames, and sculptures, using rhinestones/blingbling crystals for my clients especially on Aso-oke & T-shirts. I keep introducing new products and expanding my market base.