Shoemaking in Nigeria is a thriving industry that combines traditional craftsmanship with contemporary designs. With a rich heritage of leather crafting, Nigerians have a long-standing tradition of producing high-quality shoes that cater to both local and international markets.
In a country where male shoemakers have traditionally dominated the industry, Iya Magazine is pleased to introduce a female shoemaker who defied gender norms to fulfill her passion for shoemaking.
She is the CEO of Juvini Leather Works, and today she shares her inspiring experience as a young entrepreneur
My name is Julia Iorngurum, and I am from Ukum Local Government Area in Benue State. I was born and bred in a middle-income family, and I am the second-to-last child. I started my primary education at Reverend Yakubu Memorial Nursery and Primary School in Zaki Biam. I also attended other primary schools before proceeding to W.M. Bristow Secondary School in Gboko, Benue State. It was a boarding school, and I enjoyed my time there.
While growing up, I had no idea of what I wanted to be in the future. When I heard other children professing their future ambitions, I told myself that I would be an astronaut. Later on, I changed my mind and said I would be a pharmacist or even an athlete.
However, as I got older, I discovered that I am very passionate about buying and selling. So, when it was time to pick a course of study, I chose Business Administration and Management and obtained my first degree from Benue State University, Makurdi.
The journey to shoemaking
I have always loved handicrafts. As a young girl, I used to repair my shoes, stitch my dresses with needles, and knit a crotchet. So, during my final year at the university, there was an industrial action that lasted for six months. Instead of being idle at home, I got a part-time teaching job at a secondary school.
One day, when I got to work, I discovered that an organisation was holding a skill acquisition programme at the school premises. It was an opportunity to learn something new, so I bought the registration form for ₦50. Initially, I joined the interior decoration class, but it was overcrowded. I couldn’t even hear the trainer’s voice clearly.
So, I left and joined the Ankara bags and shoes class. The training lasted for a few days, and after that, I bought some materials and started practising on my own. That was how my journey to becoming a shoemaker began.
One misconception some people have is that only uneducated people are shoemakers
Everyone knows that learning is a lifelong process. So, when I went for youth service in 2015, I registered to learn the same skill. In the arts and crafts niche, new designs are released every day, and I am always ready to learn. That’s the secret of my growth so far.
Juvini Leather Works
Each year, a significant number of graduates eagerly enter the job market, hoping to find employment that matches their qualifications and abilities. However, the unfortunate truth is that there is often a lack of suitable job openings to accommodate this influx of graduates.
After returning from youth service, I decided to forge ahead on this entrepreneurial path. Despite lacking a physical shop and significant capital, I pursued my passion for shoemaking with determination and resourcefulness. I also used social media to promote my work, and as time went by, people started patronising me.
One misconception some people have is that only uneducated people are shoemakers. I remember one incident that happened back then. I was in my boss’s shop when a customer saw me and said, “Aren’t you supposed to be in school? What are you doing here?” When he said that, I looked at him and smiled. It was my boss who told him that I was already a university graduate. Then, the customer asked to see some of the shoes I have made, and guess what? He was amazed when he saw them.
Being a full-time entrepreneur is challenging. There were times I felt like giving up
Being a full-time entrepreneur is challenging. There were times I felt like giving up because of low sales. I even went to look for a white-collar job, which I did for a few months. However, while I was there, I realised that I was happier and more fulfilled in my craft. So, I resigned and went back to shoemaking.
I often post my designs on Facebook, but gaining online visibility has been a challenge. Another significant challenge I face is the escalating cost of materials. It’s a constant struggle as I strive to provide customers with competitive prices.
Sometimes, after finalizing a price with a customer, I would discover that the market price for materials has unexpectedly skyrocketed. In these instances, I find myself in a difficult situation. If I communicate the revised price to the customer to account for the increased cost, there’s a chance they might decline to pay the additional fee. As a result, my profit margins would be significantly reduced, putting a considerable financial burden on me.
one thing that gives me joy is seeing a satisfied customer
Juvini shoes are made with the best materials, which makes them durable. As a shoemaker, one thing that gives me joy is seeing a satisfied customer, and I always give my best to achieve that goal.
I have been in this business for over seven years now, and my customers hardly complain about their shoes. Do you want to know my secret tip? Whenever I go to the market to buy the material for the work, I stick to the customer’s preferred colour, leather, and accessories. I don’t mind walking around the whole market just to find the exact material.
In cases where it is out of stock, I always inform the client of the alternative options before proceeding to buy it. This is the main reason most of my customers feel excited after the job is completed, and sometimes, they give me a tip for job well done.
I dream of Juvini Leather Works becoming a global brand like Gucci or Vintage
Goals and ambitions
In the next 10 years, I dream of Juvini Leather Works becoming a global brand like Gucci or Vintage. I want to have a shoe factory with many employees. Although this is a big dream, I still believe that it is possible.
So far, I am grateful for the moral and financial support I have received from family and friends. They patronise me and refer other people to me.
I am also grateful for the support I have received from male colleagues in the industry. Sometimes, they outsource their jobs to me and also guide me on how to design new styles. Honestly, it has been an amazing journey.
When I’m not working, I enjoy watching movies, and if I’m not doing that, you will find me scrolling through Pinterest. I get creative ideas from watching the designs created by other people. I also enjoy reading books and listening to music.
I am grateful for the support I receive from male colleagues in the industry
Final words of advice
Life doesn’t offer charity; it offers a chance. So, don’t always wait for a handout because you might never get one. White collar jobs are good, but if you don’t find one, look for something else to do.
Everyone has a talent that can bring profit if used properly. Being a full-time mom is not an excuse to be broke. So, right from the comfort of your home, you can make money online. All you need is the right information on how to start, and Google is there to answer all your questions.
Finally, never despise small beginnings, and don’t belittle your own accomplishments. Remember them and use them as inspiration as you go on to the next thing. I wish you the best.