It was just like any other day in October 2013, in his little room in Oxbridge west London, thinking of a way to make a difference; an emotional expression with high visual connection for men’s socks was born. Segun Abiona is the brain behind the N and G (Nicole and Giovanni) socks brand which produces quality colored socks in Nigeria.
Segun is the first child of three boys in a family where strong work ethics and entrepreneurship were highly encouraged. He read banking and finance from university of Lagos and went to work with a suit shop in Lagos Island where he developed highly visual content for men’s wear and a good taste for fashion. After his little romance with the clothing business, he went to England to pursue a master degree in finance after which he got a job with Barclays bank. Few years later, he came back home and got a job with First City Monument bank (FCMB). However, these rosy opportunities didn’t dissuade him from pursuing his dreams of going into socks production. While he was sleeping on this thought, his wife brought home a clip of an American lady who had started her socks production business and this was how what has long remained a dream suddenly became a reality and N and G socks brand was born.
He went to the library and the internet to source and sock all he could find on manufacturing and socks production. To assure the quality of his socks, he always had to travel to England to monitor the production process to ensure that it meets quality specifications. When he got his first produced samples, he subjected them to rigorous durability test which they all passed before he started making arrangements to get them to the market.
Segun believes that socks production is a specific message God gave to him when he was in England and starting the business was a fulfillment to a mandate. This spurred his believe in the venture financing. He started N and G socks with his little savings, corporative contribution and his credit cards balances.
The major challenge faced by the business is exchange rate difficulties in Nigeria. This dramatically impacts costs as products are produced in England and shipped into Nigeria. Another obvious challenge is the importation cost which impacts the business negatively. However, the company still maintains a flexible business model which ensures that the final consumer doesn’t suffer significant increase in prices of the products.
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Segun Abiona recommends that entrepreneurs start small. According to him,”most people want to have it all before they start. But this is an illusion that kills many dreams even before they start”. He also added that customer satisfaction is key to business success. This is aptly demonstrated by operating a policy that allows customers with valid evidence of bad product to get an immediate replacement. Though this amounts to a loss to the business but it can’t be compared to the satisfaction and peace of mind the customer’s get in return. According to him, this simple strategy has tremendously added to the bottom line of the business.
He also pointed out that government support in terms of funding will go a long way in helping Nigerian entrepreneurs fund their dreams. Though he has had relative ease in raising fund due to his close relationship and experience with financial institutions, he still believes that lack of proper funding is a major issue affecting Nigerian entrepreneurs.
Segun prides himself as knowing his business in and out. According to him, “making socks is not just about putting thread or cotton in the machine and wooling them up. It has to do with a lot of research especially when you consider the weather differences. So, a lot of research and thoughtfulness has to go into the process and this why I must know my business well”; he said.
He envisages his company N and G socks to be the biggest socks merchandise in Africa. Though the company plans to introduce more apparel into its brand, socks will remain the major stock in trade for the company. N and G is already waxing strong as it has developed the capacity to distribute all their different brand of socks across the 36 states in Nigeria.
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Segun believes that strong work ethics is key to success. Even when the business just took off with him as the sole driver and coupled his tight schedule as a banker who returns home by 11:00-12:00 midnight, he still works till 1:00 knowing that he will be up again by 4:30 to get ready for work.
He added that entrepreneurs who want to succeed must for great appetite for risk. “Nothing can be achieved until you have risked it all including your own survival. It is only at this point that you give providence the opportunity to help you”. However, he operated by the rules of: never lose money and never to forget the first rule which features as a prominent quote of the “ Oracle of Omaha”; Warren Buffet as calculated risk is the only risk worth taking.
Segun credits much of his success to his wife who helps him with most of his research. He believes that the internet is one of the best things that have happened to entrepreneurs as you literally have the world in your fingertips.
The story of N and G gives the hope that “whatsoever the heart of a man can conceive that he can achieve”. With hard work, persistence and determination, success can always be achieved in any worthy endeavor.
Source: entrepreneur (A Nigerian Publication)