Babatunde Felix felsteve is the Creative Director, House of Felsteve, an indigenous fashion brand idea that projects local content in order to promote Bespoke craft.

Ayobami took advantage of the National Youths Service Corps, SAED programme to acquire skills to foster his entrepreneurial ambition.

Ayobami ventured into designs expressing his creative concept in the making of shoes, bags and clothing.

His line of business is competitive,he has been able to carve a niche for himself.

Although, his love for fashion began for as a kid he never knew it would become a business ventures for him to eke a living.

In this interview,he spoke about importation and how same line of business can collaborate with other fashion brand to develop the industry.

Tell us about your humble beginning and how it contributed in shaping you as a person?

My name is Babatunde Felix Ayobami, I was born  and bred in Lagos State. I had both my elementary,Secondary and tertiary institution in Lagos.

Personally, I think my upbringing has contributed immensely to my personal development. I already have it in mind before I graduated from the University that I am not going to work for anyone. I decided to be self-employed.

I started my business after I completed the skill acquisition programme, SAED during my NYSC days.

I took advantage of the training and learnt how to make wigs, shoes and fashion design.

I became the creative director of ‘House of Felsteve’, an indigenous fashion brand.

.I discovered my love for fashion when I was a kid but never knew I would choose it as an enterprise.

The first skill I acquired was wig-making. But opted out due to my experience with some female clients, who were the first set of my clients. I became discouraged because of the stress they gave me. I had to manage the situation but resolved within myself that I was not going to do this business because I can’t cope with the pressure.

I have no experience on how to handle business relating to women. So I decided to do another business. Since I had equally acquired the knowledge of making shoes, bags as well as fashion design.

  I have always been a fan of this indigenous brand, promoting our local content because everything we do here from the clothes shoes and bags is all being made here. Nigerians need to change their perception of Homemade goods.

You promote indigenous brand,is the market ready and available,how prepared are we accepting local content?

The market is already available but the only problem  that  we have and I  believe we can change is, our perception of local content.The believe since it was made here it should be cheap, need to be discouraged.

But we have forgotten that we mostly depend  on importation.Almost,everything  we use for our brand is imported.Except  if you want a low quality  which we don’t involved in.

We make use of good quality and standard materials for our brand.

How have you fared as a enterprise, in terms of the challenges and how were you able to scale through the  hurdles?

I think it being God, especially with the situation of  the economy at the moment.

 it’s tough but we have been able to make a living. We can’t be reviewing prices daily,  you may buy something for 10,000 today,the next day it would be sold for 13,000.

 This is the greatest challenge we have now and there is no way I can tell you a pair of shoes is sold for N30,000 and tomorrow when you come I say it’s sold for N32000.  it would look like I don’t know what I’m doing we just have to maintain the price until we now see that no profit at all that’s when we can now adjust the price that’s the current issue we are having right now.

Do you consider house of Felsteve

prices affordable and  market-friendly, and your products do you think it would meet up with the global trend even though it’s locally produced?

Yea I  would consider our prices to be affordable compared to what we produced.

 We ensure that what  is produced is of high quality and of a good standard.

Our products have a warranty card and it is a one-year warranty card.

Whenever you buy a product from us you have secured a year warantee.I don’t think any brand gives you a year warranty. We offer these deals so that our customers could know that we are producing quality shoes.

Have you considered expanding the brand market beyond the Lagos shores?

Yes we have our clients across the nation and not just Lagos. Some of our deliveries are done Internationally, we have a partnership with DHL so everything we do now is online at least 95% of our products are being sold online. We have a website where people can order directly.

Do you make use of affiliates or people can purchase directly?

They purchase directly we don’t have any affiliates, but we have a few people that buy from us and resell.

The problem with most of this market space like Jumia or others around doesn’t understand bespoke products. You cannot have it ready all the time but most of them want the product so once their customer go online it’s available to deliver the next day.

How do you intend to tackle this challenge, in order to meet up with the demand and outgrowing supply?

Not that the demand is outgrowing the supply,  the point is this online market space like Jumia doesn’t want to bear any risk we could ask them what products they want on their marketplace. Then decide to produce for them. For instance, if a 20 pair of shoes is ordered they should pay for half of the 20 pair of shoes. When they pay for half, we bear the risk of the half. When they sell we can get our balance but they don’t want to do that they want us to be the ones to bear the whole risk.

 I am not ready for such risk as a business person. I don’t produce like that because there should be a definite time you are going to sell, so we don’t tie our capital down so if you go to our stores you will see we have products there.

As an entrepreneur in this harsh economy, what advice do you have for other young people aspiring to venture into business, especially with government policies that are not favourable?

Actually, my advice would be to do what they know how to do best and be consistent. It’s challenging yes that’s why everybody wants to travel out and seek greener pastures. It’s not easy doing business here due to a lot of bottleneck policies and cumbersome procedures to access Bank loans.

Also, there are some rules and regulations and the bank stress, it’s over 3 months since our bank accounts were blocked.

They haven’t opened a new account for us they keep telling us to come back that is CBN rules because there is a client that pay with cryptocurrency since 2020 and they blocked the account in 2022.

Till date  they have not opened the account for us and we have our capital t in that account. Those are some of the challenges we faced sometimes.

Anyone that intends to do business as an entrepreneur should know that it’s tough. Even outside the country where you are going is not easy, you just have to be consistent and be patient your hard work will definitely pay off.

 Moreso, I noticed that most entrepreneurs today are not doing what they love to do. They are just doing what they are doing for survival and if you are doing it for survival you can get tired easily. That’s why you see most of them this month they are selling clothes within 2 months they are already selling bags,so you can’t identify them with any products.

They are Jack-of-all-trades and masters of none. like Oh bag is not selling and they jump into something else with that people cannot trust you. That’s why one has to be consistent in whatever one does.

Although the sales might not come but with time when people know your products they will patronize you so that’s why you need quality products because some people just want you to sell to them at a ridiculous price, not considering what the cost you bought the materials are worth at the market.The process of production  for someone who produce a shoe that cost 15,000 and after 3 months the sole pulls out you don’t expect it to be the same with mine that gives 1 year warranty, with a cost of 30000, it’s a fact our market is competitive, but don’t try to offer low quality to customers just because of survival.

 A female colleague of mine,in this business I saw the price she posted on her product and I called her and asked why are you selling at this ridiculous price. She said I am pitying the customers everywhere is tight I said okay you are pitying the customers what if your business closes,won’t the customer go to another brand to buy from them.So if you sell your shoe for 15,000 you don’t know what you will meet when you go to buy raw materials so you need to balance it. If I intend to sell a shoe and  the cost of material increases for that same shoe after I had informed you of the market price,and there is a change in price.  I can’t call you that the market price has changed because we have agreed on the price so I have to produce it the only thing is either I’ll refund your money and if I refund your money you wouldn’t come back because it will look like this business person is not considerate

Those are the little challenge most entrepreneur face that I have seen in this line of business.

They always feel like the low price is the way to win customers but it’s not proper I’m not saying you can’t sell at your own price but have it in mind that whatever you are producing your business brand matters if you feel you are going to produce low price you get low customers, that’s what you keep attracting. Somebody has an average earner who can’t come to your place because he knows that, instead of him buying something of low quality he prefers to come to your place and spend more to get quality.

 I have told a customer a shoe is 40,000 he told me he can’t buy it that is cheap and we wanted to make a suit for someone we told him 70,000 he said he’s too cheap he can’t wear it so there are the different market for everyone so don’t think that, some people think if you sell cheaper you will have more customers, yes more customers more problem limited customers few problems to solve so it’s left for you to sit down and identify the problem you are trying to solve many people don’t try to identify the problem, they just want money you will see a tailor already have work for the whole month of August, instead of telling your customer sorry I can’t collect this job I am due for August, they want to collect the job because of how much the customer is going to pay them. You now delayed the customer. He will be calling you and if you are not picking up, that kind of customer won’t come back again. Even if you give him the best clothes because probably he wanted to wear that clothes for an occasion and you now disappoint him he won’t patronise you ever again. I do tell my colleagues that’s one you lose a customer, no doubt you have probably lost ten customers because you don’t know who the person, would have linked you up with.

 You must try as much as possible to make sure that whatever you are doing you are doing it for your brand name.

In order to grow your brand, what are the innovative ideas and how do you intend to project the House of Felsteve as a brand?

Well the only thing that I want to work on in this part of the continent is for us to have more

mechanical equipment that will help our work and these things are very expensive and those are the things that can help our work and I have noticed in Nigeria brands don’t like collaboration everybody wants to be on their own everybody wants to grow on their own other countries like the developed world they understand what partnership means we don’t have to Bear same brand name but we can come together to do a project and everybody makes their money and we go our separate ways but here in Nigeria it’s very difficult, for you to see anybody that wants to collaborate with you.

Just imagine where about 5 to 6 shoe making company just come together to collaborate and purchase a machine that helps us make the shoe tighter, solid and firm and the machine is like 7 million among Us each will bring I million then we get somewhere to put the machine in case anyone wants to use it we can use it together and maintain it together everyone wants to do that on their own even normal associations or groups have been turned into a cult that the bigger ones stay with themselves likewise the smaller ones even ordinarily let’s do meet-and-greets Fashion week it’s more or less like a show-off even when it comes to award you see the award organisers they usually give to the people they know so everything in this part of the world is different.

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