The Inspirational Story of uncommon Nigerian Entrepreneur -a must read

Vodi Fashion Designer

The Entrepreneur (1): Vodi’s Big Dream

A graduate of Geology from the University of Maiduguri, Seyi Adekunle hails from Ile-Ife in Osun State. Upon completion of his degree programme in 1999, Seyi was posted to Akwa Ibom State for his National Youth Service Corps (NYSC) assignment. It was while teaching Physics at Slawd Peters Technical in Etinam Local Government as a youth corps member that he made friends of some young tailors in the town and out of curiousity he picked interest and started to learn the trade. With time, Seyi mastered the craft and also saw an opportunity to make money to augment his NYSC monthly stipend. That was how he started making boxer shorts for his fellow corps members who became his first set of customers.

When he completed his NYSC, Seyi came to Abuja to look for job. Although he kept thinking that he could venture into the tailoring business full time, he held back because he knew his parents would never approve of such an idea. His father in fact, kept sending him contact details of people he should go to for job placements and he wrote several job examinations in the process.

The turning point, however, came in 2002 when at the final interview session of his employment into NUB International Bank (one of the seven banks that would later merge to form Unity Bank during the banking consolidation exercise), the Managing Director asked about his passion and he told a long story about his cloth making enterprise. With the session concluded, the Managing Director said: “Congratulations,  but if I were you I wouldn’t take this job. From what I can see, your other creative talent can take you to the very top.”

With the banking job secured, Seyi collected his letter of appointment and reported at the training school. But he felt no fulfillment, especially with old acquaintances sending to him messages to provide them with new boxers and shirts. With that, the words of the bank MD kept ringing in his mind such that before the training exercise ended, he decided to quit in pursuit of what had become his passion. At that point, Seyi didn’t have a shop, he had just a Ghana-must-go bag with which he was going around but he found fulfillment in what he was doing. He would travel to Aba, buy the materials, sow them and would come to Abuja to sell.

Popular Nollywood actor-Femi Branch in VODI Designed attire

Popular Nollywood actor-Femi Branch in VODI Designed attire

In choosing a company name, Seyi remembered a Fulani friend in school whose name was Vodi, which she said means beauty. He decided to adopt the name for his business. But it was tough at the beginning as Seyi was branded a stubborn and prodigal son by his parents who felt disappointed that he would leave a bank job and “loaf around.” So for two years, he didn’t go home. But with tenacity of purpose and discipline, Seyi’s business was picking up and after a while, his dad learnt that he had bought a car. That told the old man that his son was serious and he finally gave his blessing for Seyi to follow his dream.

When I spoke to Seyi last year, he had just started a five-year plan (from 2014 to 2019) with one of the projects (now almost completed) being an automated dry cleaning outfit that runs 24 hours. The idea, according to him, is because “there are people especially politicians whose business meetings extend till late hours and most often need dry cleaning outlets at odd hours. We want to provide such people with the opportunity of getting these services provided to them round-the-clock.”

The second project is the training school for which Seyi has already acquired a big expanse of land in Jahi, Abuja. It will have capacity for a thousand tailoring students. “The idea is to train young Nigerians who have interest in fashion. My dream is for Nigeria to be the hub of fashion in Africa, because considering the quality of our manpower, economic endowment and population we shouldn’t give such lead to Senegal, we are more creative people. For instance, VODI should be able to mass-produce uniforms for schools, the army and other institutions, and in a year or two this project would have been completed by God’s grace.”

Popular Nollywood actor-Femi Branch in Vodi Designed Cloth

Popular Nollywood actor-Femi Branch in Vodi Designed Cloth

As ambitious as the project sounds, I have no doubt in my mind that Seyi has the capacity and temperament to pull it off. But what does it take to succeed? Two things according to Seyi: Discipline and integrity. “You cannot survive the fashion industry without those two. Integrity in the sense that you have to live up to your words and at all points I try to uphold that; discipline because you cannot afford distractions. I come to work every day with the same zeal as I did the first time I started this work and I am usually the last to leave.”

The foregoing does not in any way tell the complete story of VODI and the sacrifices that Seyi Adekunle has had to make along the way, especially in the days of small beginning. But the message I want to pass is simple: if you don’t dare, you don’t win. Seyi may have studied Geology thinking he would work in the oil industry but he saw an opportunity in the area of fashion and grabbed it with both hands.

In starting this series, the idea is to encourage young people not to depend on government jobs that are, in any case, no longer there, but to ask themselves some salient questions: What are my talents? What are the needs around me that I can deploy those talents to meet and make money from? What am I passionate about that can become opportunities for self-actualisation? I am sure there are many interesting stories out there of young men and women who started out like Seyi Adekunle with nothing but their dreams and who have become not only successful entrepreneurs in their chosen fields but also employers of labour. Those are the people I intend to seek out as I continue this series so that they can share their stories with me for the benefit of our society.

 Vodi Tailors Contact Address:
No. 44 Madeira Street, Maitama, Abuja-FCT.
Or
No. 43 Madeira Street, Maitama, Abuja-FCT.
Or
Samsung Plaza, By NITEL Junction , Ademola Adetokunbo Crescent Wuse 2,Abuja
www.facebook.com/pages/House-of-Vodi

Credits:Olusegun Adeniyi,Thisdaylive

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