Entrepreneurship in Nigeria is Daunting - Akinola Caleb, CEO '100% Paragon' Shoes

For Akinola Caleb, CEO, 100% Paragon, his journey to entrepreneurship started shortly after completing the compulsory National Youth Service Corps (NYSC) Program - a scheme set up by the Nigerian Government to involve Nigerian graduates in nation building and personal development.

Entrepreneurship in Nigeria is Daunting - Akinola Caleb, CEO '100% Paragon' ShoesEntrepreneurship in Nigeria is Daunting - Akinola Caleb, CEO '100% Paragon' Shoes
Akinola Caleb, CEO '100% Paragon' Shoes

In this interview with ALLI ABIOLA, the Osun State-based Shoe designer cum businessman opens up about his experiences as a shoemaker and how COVID-19 has impacted his brand, 100% Paragon.


As a graduate of Forestry and Wildlife Management, what formed your new interest in shoemaking?

My name is Akinola Caleb, a University graduate. I never for once thought I will be a shoemaker. I never had it in mind that I was going to design shoes or do anything related. It was later after my National Youth Service Corps program that the passion started developing. I know I love what I am doing.

How will you describe your brand and what new development do you bring to the industry?

Originality is all I can say. Originality and Uniqueness are what we bring to the fashion world. I will describe 100% Paragon as a brand that always stays true to her word. We deal with quality and nothing less than quality.

There are other brands not delivering the best in their works. They use money power as a tool to judge their quality delivery.

At 100% Paragon will show our clients the reason to choose quality and better service delivery.

Has the COVID-19 Pandemic impacted your business? How exactly?

Seriously and sincerely, Covid-19 has affected our business, especially during the period of stay-at-home lockdown. For people to put on new shoes, new designs of wears - there must be a particular place they're going either a function or party.

Due to the lockdown, no one bothers about footwears or any other outfit for that matter. The primary interest is what to eat and how to survive in these awkward times. Like many other businesses, our business is really affected.

Entrepreneurship in Nigeria is Daunting - Akinola Caleb, CEO '100% Paragon' Shoes
'100% Paragon' Shoes

Does your brand have any connection with finding a remedy to the crisis?

The only remedy is to pray the pandemic ease to time. The effect will still be felt as long as Coronavirus exist. We should continue to hope it goes away and things will gradually come back to a 'new normal.'

Entrepreneurship is a daunting task and most people fall out. What has kept you motivated?

Falling out is a reality of life and the business world is no exception. There will be times of lows and highs. The only thing keeping me motivated is that I keep looking at the brighter side of the business. I don't allow negative comments to weigh me down.

Also, whenever I am down I talk to people that are experienced in the business than myself. I ask questions such as, what did you do at this stage? How did you manage to survive tough times?

Perception of people on 100% Paragon brand with regards to price and market functions.

What I notice about people pricing our product is that they feel because it Nigerian made wears or product, they tend to price it low not knowing the quality of imported products are the same we use in producing our hand made products too.

We always want our product to stand out and people don't appreciate that.

Despite the low pricing from different clients, we still make them understand that they are getting value for their money.

As a business, how often do you use social media?

We get 90% of our customers from social media. We leverage major social media platforms - WhatsApp, Facebook, Instagram to promote our business.

Entrepreneurship in Nigeria is Daunting - Akinola Caleb, CEO '100% Paragon' Shoes
'100% Paragon' Shoes

Tell me about some challenges the brand has faced.

So many challenges. Inter alias, equipment and workspace are major challenges. From workspace to operate, then to acquiring some equipment that makes the shoemaking processes more professional and perfect. Some of those equipment comes at prices that would be regarded as very high, for a starter.

Beyond clients, at the moment, our brand is reliant on friends and family, no third party or investors has helped us. Not even the slightest support from the government.

What is your advice to youths and intending entrepreneurs?

Go for what you love and be determined. Determination is very important. Once you have a dream, just chase it without looking left or right. It is a matter of time, you will get there.

I once met a brother in church, we casually talked about shoemaking. At the time, he had no intention of venturing into shoemaking. After our conversation, he developed an interest and went on to acquire the needed knowledge and skills. Today, I confidently say that he is doing very fine.

Young people like him are true motivation!

Be determined and things will fall in place with time.

Editing by Adebote 'Seyifunmi.

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