Succeeding in the Garment Wear Industry Against All Odds

Updated: Dec 21, 2019

MbetobongUmoefik - MD/CEO of Pride Garments/Wearguard

Stephanie Pius Introducing our guest speaker, Mbetobong Umoefik:

He has been able to rise to the point that the International Oil Companies (IOCs) have paid him to train youths in Rivers State so that they can learn vocational skills. Umoefik’s work has been recognized even to the extent that former President GoodluckEbele Jonathan invited him for a presidential handshake. In addition to all this, he has been able to see himself through university studies so right now he holds a degree and this comes from being able to do business. He didn’t rise because he has connections, but because he was able to put his whole heart into what his hands found to do. He gave it his all and he was persistent irrespective of both internal and external obstacles like fear, doubt and externals factors like people issues, environmental factors, and poor infrastructure.

Mbetobong Umoefik: I am in the textile and fashion industry and as a business, we are called “Pride Garment”. My business-life started fully when I became a tailor. I had been a road-side tailor for a very long time but I wasn’t satisfied with both my performance and the product I was offering to my customers, so I sought for change and improvement. As a common tailor then, my job was to go out, meet friends at their homes and other individuals from some organizations and then make wears for them. When I visited companies, I could not go beyond the gate, but I would see other young people go into the companies to get businesses so I said to myself; “What do these people make use of that I could supply to them?” So I thought of working coats and coverall. I knew I didn’t have the skill for making these so how could I make them? The skill level that I came to Port Harcourt with did not accommodate this level of production so I located where they were doing it and had the training locally. After this, I learnt how to write and started submitting proposals.

I went for some more trainings on how to make work coats and then later on, I started dropping proposals. I got my first opportunity in the year 2000 worth a lump sum of ₦780,000. This experience made me realize how sweet and interesting it was to handle big money, However, I was still not satisfied with the quality of work wears that I was producing compared to the quality of foreign or imported work garments that I saw during the course of my business. So I went for more trainings and this time I even travelled outside the country for more improvements in my tailoring skills. Today the business is established and I am an employer of labour. The business is made stable through repeated patronage. Lack of patronage is caused by lack of trust. To add value to what I was producing for my clients, I started personal development, I researched where I could go for training. I went first to South Africa in the year 2006. I realized it was dominated by the Chinese.

My passion has always been Italian fashion. So in2007, I went to Paris, and then I moved to Italy. Some say capital is the problem, but I say no, that is secondary, the primary problem is character. The first capital we should be talking about is attitude which I believe is the reason of the Doing Business event today. The attitude of a businessman is quite different from that of a salary earner. A business plan is done so that you can separate yourself from your business. In accountancy, it is called separate entity concept. Talking about challenges, the challenges I have today is not money, it is human beings. People to work with. In our environment today, values and norms that have been overlooked have caused so many businesses to fail. The first capital in every business is character, mould your character first.

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Once character is in place, the business will grow. Don't compare your business with someone else’s. Some businesses take a shorter time to be established while some take longer to do so. Even the business with the best business plan may not come out as planned. Another thing is self-deceit, until you stop telling yourself the truth, you won’t go far.

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Business is grown through continuous patronage and continuous patronage is based on trust. In today’s Human Resource Management, I have also found an ideology that says “ Let’s hire character as skill can be trained” It can take me two weeks to train a tailor but I can’t change your character in a space of two weeks. So let’s hire character and give the skill.

If young people have character, then there will be food everywhere. What are the challenges of the youth? With regard to the situation in the country, the challenges are with character and governance. Poor character always gets the youth to fail. Where governance has failed is that the few with good character are ready to learn but there is no form of encouragement and enabling environment that allows them to excel.

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