Mr. Celestine Egbune is the Managing Director of SIMTEROW, a fashion designing firm in Asaba, the capital of Delta state. In this interview with AUSTIN OYIBODE, Editor of Emeraldng.com, Mr. Egbune speaks on his growth from sewing in a small shop to two flats. He attributed his breakthrough to patience, perseverance and readiness to climb the rope from the bottom. It’s a beautiful read.
How long have you been in Delta state?
I’m from Imo state. I came to Delta state in 2005. And in 2008, I opened an outlet along Nnebisi road in Asaba. Since then I have been operating in Asaba.
From then till now, what progress have you made?
I started with one shop but now I’m in two flats. This is progress.
What are you doing to develop yourself to become a household name in Delta state?
It’s left for you to know the truth. A lot of people are into fashion, but the truth is that you need to know what you are looking for. Whatever I cannot put on I cannot give it to my client. I have good tailors. I use the best fabrics in doing my job. I know what to do because I have been in the business for years.
We are in a country where people shy away from handwork, what do you have to say about that?
Don’t say there is no job in Nigeria, there is a lot of job. Youths in Nigeria do not want to work. Everybody wants to make it today. A lot of people want to become rich but there is no way you can become rich without having something doing.
Many youths do not want to hear that. They want it now. You have not traveled, if you do, you will know that to get a job outside is more difficult than Nigeria. Youths do not want to develop themselves, they want it now. If government does not create job for you, you create job for yourself. I’m a tailor, a designer, I did it myself. I didn’t wait for the government.
What challenges do you face in dealing with your clients?
That is a good question. Clients are always there for you. Clients will come and go. In dealing with clients, you must have patience and endurance. There is no way you can satisfy everybody. However, you should know that your customer is always right. Once you have this in mind, you treat them with care. Though you can’t satisfy them, you should always come out with a good product. If you come out with a good product, clients will come.
You seem to have much patronage. What is the secret behind the patronage from high class persons?
In everything you are doing, put in your best. While putting in your best, also have the fear of God. You need to be truthful. But it is bitter. A lot of people enter business with the thought of making gains immediately. Try to satisfy the people that are coming to you first not necessarily the money. This will make them bring more people for you.
People say your sewing is expensive, why is it so?
It is supposed to be like that I get some of my fabrics outside Nigeria. Those fabrics are some of the best fabrics. We push for the best and for you to get the best, you have to spend the money. When you buy expensive things, you must not give them out cheaply. For you to get the people that work with me and keep them is not easy. I have professionals and for me to keep them, I take care of them. I take care of everything about them. Before a material comes out, about six or seven people will touch it.
There is division of labour. It’s different from when I started. When I started, you give me clothes, I will cut it, gum it, sew it, iron it, embroid it. Now, everything runs from one person to another. At the end of the day, you pay all these people. With all these, it should come out expensive.
How many staff do you have?
I have up to 50 staff.
What is the ease of doing business in Delta? Is it difficult doing business in Delta?
Asaba is a peaceful and very quiet zone for business. You can do business successfully in Asaba. Very quiet, you don’t have problem in Asaba. You can do a good business here. The business you are into will determine how easy it will be for you.
What is the scope of your customers? Are your customers limited to only Asaba?
I have customers everywhere. I have done this business for more than two decades. Everybody that knows me calls me a tailor and a designer. Even when I go to my village for seasonal celebrations, people come to me. Some will say I got a job in NNPC, I need trousers, I need shirts, I need one suit. We discuss business. They will give me money on trust.
There is a lot of jobs here in Nigeria. But you need to get in gradually. I have a lot of customers. People call me from different places. People give me money without receipts, no document because I have been in this business for years. They know I will deliver. There is nothing you start today, no matter how small it is, it will rise.
Are you ascribing your success to your patience with your customers and patience in doing your business?
In anything you are doing, first and foremost, believe in God. There is no success that comes with accident. What does it take you to be a rich man? What does it mean to be rich? You can pay your house rent, you can feed your family. You can pay your children’s school fees. You can take care of your immediate needs.
I started my sewing in a small bacha built by zinc all round. And I knew then my friends were laughing at me. They were asking me how do you think you can make it from this. I looked at them and say, look at you people, you don’t know what is happening.
My father is a civil servant. My mother is a civil servant, and I was brought up in Onitsha. The environment you are brought up determines a lot of things about you. The way you grow up determines your future. They were carrying money. They were thinking that making money is easy. It is not easy to make money.
To make money, you must start from somewhere. You must be doing something, at least somebody give you money, you give them change, even if it is ordinary groundnut you are selling. There is job everywhere but it requires patience and endurance. Anything you start today, in the next four years, it must have grown. All these things are planned, if you plan well, everything is easy.
Many in Nigeria do not have plans for themselves. Many are living in Nigeria without future. So, how do you survive? They don’t have jobs. Some believe in 419. No, you must have to get something doing. Believe that business you are doing will grow. Showcase your wisdom and intellect.
Does going to school make one a good tailor?
If you go to school you will be a better tailor.
How much do you spend on monthly basis on fuel, salary?
Well, I will tell you. Every morning, I buy a diesel of N10,000, at about 5pm, I buy like N7000 again. This we do every day. I have my own tailors, they are many. I pay them weekly. I pay them like pay as you want. We work every day from January to December.