Wednesday, July 10, 2019 5:22 pm
Miss Mariam Julia Peter-Omale, a Kogi State, Nigeria, indigene, is the Creative Director of a fashion brand called ‘Jules House of Jars’, a subsidiary of Jules Colored Jars Limited. Her fashion outfit uses local hand crafted fabric, particularly Batik (what most people call ‘Adire’) to make or create simple yet classy fashion pieces or clothing for the modern woman. In other words, she creates what she called a unique blend of ‘trado-contemporary’ fashion pieces for the young modern woman.
She attended Federal Government Girls’ College, Bauchi (class of 2006). She studied Industrial Chemistry at the University of Jos and holds a post graduate degree in Peace Studies and Conflict Resolution from the National Open University of Nigeria as well as Project Management Certification from Almond Careers in the UK.
She explains, in this interview, the nature of her business, how she started, what motivated her, challenges she faced and other issues
How did your journey into fashion business start?
In 2017, I made a decision to quit my then job in a big corporate telephone company in a quest to seek more out of my life and try out several ideas I had at that time. This decision propelled me into the world of vendors and entrepreneurs and frankly I discovered a bit too late that I was in way over my head. I had one vision: to create a platform where local, mostly illiterate vendors and their handmade products would be showcased to a national and even international audience market. Over the next couple of months, I opened up an e-commerce site, registered a company, sought for vendors, sought for clients, sought for investors and basically ran from pillar to post expending loads of energy, time and resources and achieving very little in terms of sales and returns.
By the end of 2017, I had come to my wits end and decided to, albeit shamefully, close up shop/site and admit defeat. Yes, I had failed at my first attempt but it was at this time that I met a business mentor who in no uncertain terms, told me I started the process all wrong and I needed to concentrate on one major product from my platform. This advice led me to look critically at the business model I had established and identify my most viable product, which turned out to be Batik. By the end of 2017, I started my learning experience.
What did that initial problem teach you and how did you soldier on?
After failing woefully at my first attempt I decided to take redress and learn the processing from scratch and I started out by undergoing a yearlong learning process. I was fortunate to get enrolled in the Industrial Training Fund (NISDP) soft skills acquisition scheme in Lagos in a prestigious fashion school where I learnt how to cut, sew, and design clothing professionally. Afterwards, I went off to Osogbo for several months to also learn the art of creating batik designs on fabrics from the Nike Art, School. I will like to add here that though I am very grateful for the privilege to have been taught and learnt these skills, a major part of learning for me took place in the many hours, days, weeks and months of practicing what I had learnt on my own. In the many mistakes made and corrected, I went from literal cluelessness of hand crafts to where I am today.
Why did you decide to specialize in combining traditional with contemporary trend?
I am fortunate to have lived in different parts of Nigeria and interact with different languages, food and culture. Unfortunately, I have also witnessed several ethnic and religious crises in my time. One thing I have seen that stands out and unifies us a nation is our pride in our culture and heritage. Albeit this pride is dwindling and being relegated to the background these days. My brand is motivated by my desire to keep the memory and lifestyle of pride in our heritage and culture as Nigerians and Africans reflected in our outlooks.
I believe that we, especially the young generation of millennial, don’t have to lose all of our identity to westernization, I believe that our culture and traditions are still very relevant and I especially believe that in these times of migration and mingling with different parts of the world we can be both traditional and contemporary enjoying the best of both worlds and take a little bit of home in our luggage wherever we go. And these beliefs motivate the style, fabric, pieces and the operating procedures of the business. The added advantage of batik being a renewable Eco-friendly fabric also plays an important role in our business.
How do you manage the business in the area of human resources. What is your target audience?
Due to the demand, I now work with a team of local fabric suppliers. I have a full time employee. My team works according to designs and specifications. With the help and support of my team I’m able to keep growing the business.
I am able to attract customers by having a range of products that are both high and low end from hair bands to dress pieces that any customer can be comfortable picking whatever catches their fancy.
Our pieces are deliberately moderately priced, as target customers for now are women and girls mostly between ages 16 and 40 who earn a moderate income or allowance,who travel a lot and want to take a piece of home (on a budget) wherever they go.
How did you finance the business ab initio?
I honestly started with a down payment of N20,000.00 for a domestic sewing machine when I began fashion school, I think I even had to pay the remaining N15,000.00 balance in installments, afterwards an additional machine was given to participants of the NISDP scheme of which I benefited from. At first, I used fabrics I had at home at the time but after learning batiking, I started to use little pieces of batik fabric I had made while learning. The rest is basically history. One sale led to another and to another (thanks to my amazing friends and family who supported by buying not so properly finished pieces) and today I can boast of atleast three machines, many appliances, an assortment of fabrics among several other things.
What have been your challenges?
Consistent and affordable power supply has been my greatest challenge and still is a source of challenge as alternative sources of power shoot up my overhead exponentially.
I invested in purchasing energy saving sewing machines and alternative source of power like generators which help with curbing power issues. These have helped my business a great deal as it means I can have steady production and therefore keep increasing my profit margin.
What is your advice to the youths?
For the job seeking youths, while you look forward to getting that high paying fly job, please learn a skill. Not just learn one, keep practicing and harnessing that skill (technical or otherwise)and trading with your skill because that skill might take you to heights a job would never have
I think young people would be encouraged by government initiatives that would help provide technology-based skills like coding, web design and digital marketing in addition to the hand-based skills initiative we currently have as youths require both skillsets to run a successful venture as an entrepreneur in the 21st century.
I also highly recommend that young entrepreneurs invest in registering their businesses as this will be a major attraction to potential investors. The importance of getting conversant with and investing in acquiring proper accounting/book keeping tools for their businesses as this will help provide proper financial structure for their businesses to grow.