Before crude oil was discovered at Oloibiri in the Niger Delta region of Nigeria in 1956, Agriculture was the major source of the Nigerian economy. After the discovery, the nation drastically changed into mono-economy- oil and gas industry-, thereby giving a huge setback to the booming agricultural sector. Since then, many governments have been discussing the need to diversify our mono-economy, though with little or unfelt practical actions. During this booming era of agriculture, graduates were cocksure of clerical or public appointments after schooling, contrary to what we have now. Seeing this astronomical decline in employment opportunities, many young people started to look elsewhere for their own little job creation. This is what the young Awwal Raji calls DIVERSIFICATION! Awwal was trained in Agricultural Extension, but finally found an everlasting love in tailoring during his university days. You know what? Awwal is now a certified tailor with apprentices! Umar Ajetunmobi had a chat with this young up-and-coming ‘diversifier…’
Rajman Fashion Clinic sounds “elitist.” What is this brand all about?
Rajmanfashionclinic is a tailoring brand that is into styling of men’s wear with quality fabric into designs that suit the taste of our clients.
Let’s have a peep into the journey of Awwal, the CEO of this fashion company.
Awwal hailed from the ancient city, Ibadan. I migrated to Abeokuta in 2011 for the pursuit of B. Agric in the department of Agricultural Extension and Rural Development at the federal University of Agriculture, Abeokuta. I have always developed a business oriented mindset since my secondary school days, trying to make money at any chance I got. I always wanted to make more cash. My entrepreneurial journey started proper at Abeokuta during my first year, but I was not really focused with what I did. When I got to my second year, I started learning tailoring which was a very difficult task to combine with my school work. But I never regretted I did, even though I skipped class and even skipped school just to achieve my aim. When I got to 300 Level during the second semester, my boss finished school and went for NYSC. I was made to be in charge of all the affairs of his tailoring shop. Then, I was just 18. That was when I got my first contract that bought me a sewing machine. Less I forget, I started learning tailoring then because I just loved the work, but now I am deeply passionate about tailoring because a tailor is a thinker and an entrepreneur is also a thinker; you see the relationship.
From my research, I got to know that you learnt tailoring unconsciously when you’re in ‘Ilekewu.’ How true is this?
Smiles! Before I started learning officially, I have been sliding into tailoring since I was small, but I can’t remember where.
When you developed that interest in tailoring, did you ever think of practising Agricultural Extension, your discipline?
I never had that thought. I even always wished that my five years in school was all about tailoring and entrepreneurship.
Does that mean your focus at FUNAAB was just to bag a degree?
When I got admitted, I realized that getting a degree can’t help the situation in a country like Nigeria. So, I had to diversify.
However, your education changes the pattern you do your business. Am I right?
That means your schooling wasn’t a waste!
Never a waste! It was an eye opener.
At Rajmanfashion, who are your clients? I mean, which classes of men do you sew for?
I would say fashion conscious individuals- those that really cherish bespoke tailoring. And fashion conscious individuals cut across students, grown-up men, among others.
How’s your billing system like?
Well, our aim is to become a luxury brand, because we pride in the quality of service we offer. I would say we are affordable to those that cherish quality services. We’re not Tailor for all. Don’t be scared, we’re not a luxury brand yet, but we’re getting there gradually.
Are your trainees graduates, secondary school leavers or both?
Both, including secondary school students; you know secondary school leavers always aim at getting admitted into tertiary institution without knowing the reality of life.
In this kind of job, enmity is inevitable. How do you manage rivalry among your contemporaries?
I focus more on my clients rather than competitors. I believe if I can offer the best to my clients, in return I get more referrals. With that, my competitors are worried about me not me worried about them.
How can government practically be helpful to entrepreneurs in Nigeria?
Government! I was shortlisted to benefit from Graduate Entrepreneurship Fund by Bank of Industry in collaboration with NYSC since March 2018. No response up till date. I applied for 1 million with no interest and my NYSC certificate has been held collateral since then. We were called for training and we submitted all the required documents. Since then till now we’re still awaiting their response, even though our NYSC certificate is still held ransom. I would say government should make access to funding which will be stress-free and more efficient. They should also make policies that would be friendly to start-ups.
Any pieces of advice for youth, especially the idle ones?
My advice for the youth is to try get engaged in skill acquisition with long term goal, not to be dependent (solely) on bagging a degree as a means of sustainability. Diversification with commitment is key in becoming successful.
For those who wish to test your expertise or are interested in going through tutelage, how can they reach you?
We’re at shop 2 Olakunle Links Shopping Complex, opposite Mancot Park, along FUNAAB Road Camp, Abeokuta. IG @rajmanfashionclinic Address: Api.whatsapp.com/send?phone=2348185653398
In the next five years, where do you see yourself and your brand?
Hummmm, 5 years from now, I see my brand as a luxury brand, having outlets in Lagos and Ibadan! I also see myself happily married with kids
Mr Awwal, thank you for your time.
You’re welcome Sir.