I can’t leave shoemaking for any other job in this life—says Miss Philipa Mnenga, who makes fashion shoes, trains others

By Peter Duru, Makurdi

She has the nerve to dare men in a field that is considered the exclusive preserve of the menfolk. And, she is making waves across the town. She is not shy to tell the story of her life and she proudly claims  that her products are nothing but the best out of the myriads of shoes being bandied about in town.

Miss Philipa Mnenga, a 2016 graduate of Philosophy from Benue State University, Makurdi and currently pursuing a Post-Graduate in Education, after bagging her first degree opted to be self-reliant rather than seek a white-collar job.

Today she has excelled in shoemaking, producing special designs for both male and female buyers from within and outside Benue State some of who order her products in large quantity for resell to end users.

The proud cobbler, who also has trainees that are benefiting from her exploits in shoemaking, boasted that she would never be enticed with any kind of white-collar job to abandon her shoemaking business.

According to her, she had on several occasions got employment offers, but I had to turn them down because I want to be independent. Moreover, no organization can pay me more than I earn from making shoes.

“Also I cannot combine shoe production with any other job because the work load will be too much. Though as a person I prefer to be a boss of my own and not work under anybody. In that respect I took after my dad who has never worked under anybody. My dad has always been a business-minded person. That is the path I have chosen and I tell you for free that I have no regrets whatsoever.”

In an account of how she found herself in the shoemaking business, Miss Mnenga said: “I started shoe- making after my NYSC in 2017. And I actually learnt it here in Makurdi. I went for the training which was supposed to last for six months but before six months I could make shoes already. By three months I was already producing.

“The fact is that I love shoes a lot and I was moved to go into shoe production when a shoemaker damaged my shoes. I decided to learn how to do it myself in order to satisfy my needs and also get the kind of quality I want for shoes.

“So after my mandatory one-year national youth service, I did not look for job because I had always wanted to have a business of my own. It was just an opportunity to start one.

“But during my NYSC year I also tried out other businesses. I learnt how to make Kampala; I learnt how to produce deodorants and liquid soap and others. But I decided to go with shoemaking after learning how to make them because that was where my heart was,” Mnenga said with smiles.

Asked if her parents are comfortable with her decision to go into shoe production, she said: “At first, my mum was not but my dad, who has always been a business-minded person, was and is always very encouraging and supportive.”

Explaining how she was able to establish her presence in the shoemaking market despite obvious challenges and rivalry from the menfolk, she said: “I think the main thing is about the finishing of your products and how well you concentrate to do a nice job using quality materials which gives you an upper hand. You do not compromise standards and you must churn out good designs if you must be a respected player in the business.

“So when people come for your product and see the quality of your work and design, they go with the price you give them because they know they are buying their money’s worth. As for my designs I visit the internet and also create mine.

“Though I must confess that I am not making so much money in Makurdi because the customer base is not high. People obviously tend to look down on our own locally-made products maybe because it is produced here in the state.

“But I get my patronage mostly from Lagos and Abuja. There are people in Abuja and Lagos who buy in bulk from me and resell in their shops. Some also buy and probably retail from door to door.”

But my customers are mostly wholesalers who buy and resell outside the Benue state.

“Hence I work so hard to ensure we meet the demands of our customers who make demands every other week. Presently I have three trainees working with me and one of them has already completed his training.”

Speaking on her family background and the support she gets from them, Miss Mnenga said “I am the first child of three siblings. My siblings and parents are proud of what I am doing and they have been encouraging me. They advertise me at every given opportunity. My younger brothers go to the extent of encouraging and assuring my customers of the durability of the shoes from my stable.

“So I keep toiling on, giving my best knowing fully well that I will someday achieve whatever I have set out to accomplish and that is to be the number one brand in shoe production, if not in the country, at least in this part of the country. That is why I will keep pushing on because I am determined to chive that, the philosophy graduate said with pride.

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