With the dependency on importation, an advocate for ‘made in Nigeria’ products, Taiwo Sotunde, says the country has the required human capital to produce its needs.
The Made In Nigeria Entrepreneurs’ Community, MINEC, founder revealed this in an exclusive interview with ALL TIMES CONVERSATION.
We want a country that is not importing toothpicks, we want a country that is producing and not just consuming. We have enough human capital to produce all we need in Nigeria.Taiwo Sotunde
Read excerpts below
Conversation: Can we meet you Ma?
My name is Taiwo Sotunde, I am the founder of Made In Nigeria Entrepreneurs’ Community, I am also a Serial Entrepreneur, Business Strategist and Public Speaker.
Conversation: What was the motivation to starting your entrepreneurial and advocacy for Made in Nigeria?
I love creative works. I love when a new product is brought to life. I love the uniqueness and creativity of Nigerians and the culture of Nigeria itself. These led me to start my online PR business called Nigerian showcase where I promote strictly made in Nigeria products before I created a community around it that led to MINEC (Made In Nigeria Entrepreneurs’ Community)
Conversation: What was the turning point on your entrepreneurial journey?
The turning point for me was when I was having a conversation with my sister about creatives not being supported and applauded in Nigeria. This conversation led me to start the PR page for made in Nigeria products and creativ Yusufes (Nigerian showcase)
Conversation: Your Company (The Tai Brand) is known for providing bespoke luxury neckties for the classic man, what are your brand strategies for achieving and sustaining your corporate visions?
My major strategy is to keep inventing creative styles that will interest my customers.
Conversation: What are the company’s expansionary goals?
Our goal is to be the No 1 necktie brand in Africa and to stop the importation of neckties.
Conversation: In a very competitive sector of fashion and image management, what is the secret behind The Tai Brand’s growing influence in the industry?
It’s a growing brand, I will say so far so good; God, creativity and passion have been the secret.
Conversation: What challenges do you encounter running your business and how do you think government can help create an enabling business climate for SMEs in Nigeria?
There are lots of Challenges. Sourcing of raw materials, the issue of electricity and the general economic recession. The government should provide an enabling environment with infrastructures and they should also invest in creating factories like textile factories, packaging factories, leather and food processing factories so businesses can go on with ease and we don’t have to import everything we need before we can deliver a good product to the market.
Conversation: Do you think the Federal Government’s ease of doing business policies are effective and what can be done to improve the ease of doing business in Nigeria?
I will say it’s not effective enough. If federal government wants to discourage importation, they should create industries for us producers. Businesses spring up every day. Government can’t impose high tariffs on importation when we all know most businesses have one thing or the other to import to produce. Not that we enjoy importing, we don’t have certain raw materials here in Nigeria. Nigeria is blessed with natural resources but no one is processing it for direct use, even the oil we claim to have, we don’t process it here in Nigeria. An average Nigerian cannot set up a massive factory to produce for example Pouches or Plastic bottles or Clothes. The government should invest in infrastructures and factories before we can effectively chase importation from the economy. We want a country that is not importing toothpicks, we want a country that is producing and not just consuming. We have enough human capital to produce all we need in Nigeria.
Conversation: What moved you to establish the Made in Nigeria Entrepreneurs’ Community and what has been the impact?
Like I said earlier, I am driven by seeing people creating things. I believe when we have a community, our voice can be heard, we can achieve more and support each other because we all are facing the same challenges irrespective of the nature of our businesses. In MINEC, we organize soft skill business trainings for our members, we also organize conferences, seminars and trade fairs centered on Made in Nigeria products. The community has a trade fair coming up on the 12th of October, 2019 at City Park. We also seek the support of the government agencies to help us to achieve more as we want standardization of products and funding to be easier for members.
Conversation: The quality of Made in Nigeria is a basic issue affecting our local products, what must we do to produce exportable quality products?
For me, we have a lot of quality Made in Nigeria products. The issue of the quality of made in Nigeria goods is just a perception every Nigerian has to change. I also implore regulatory agencies like NAFDAC, SON and NEPC to make procedures for standardization more flexible and less expensive because their licenses help to build trust for made In Nigeria brands.
Conversation: How do you navigate your business, advocacy and plethora of engagements?
Hmm. Well I will say it’s the grace of God. I am a very driven lady. I am also result oriented so it keeps me awake when I know that something needs to be done.
Conversation: What is your advice for other young people out there striving to make it without the platform or opportunities?
There is no platform anywhere, you create your own platform, you set up your own stage and bring out your voice from the crowd. My advice for young people is to find their unique voice and keep pushing till its loud enough and nobody can ignore.
Conversation: What are your daily work routines and how do you manage stress?
I have a 9-5 job, so I have a very busy schedule. I manage stress by prioritizing tasks and not procrastinating. If I remember something now, I do it immediately.
Conversation: Thank you so much for your time.
You are welcome