By Mercy Hill
Fides: Let’s meet you?
Queen: My name is Queen Agma from Benue state. I was based in Makurdi. I am a shoemaker; people know it as a shoe cobbler, and that is what I do for a living. Since I started learning the work and I finished learning, I have to just start on my own. I opened my business in a small way, but to God be the glory, the business expanded in such a way that I was really amazed. I kept on growing. I had to come to Anambra state; Awka, to base here and do my business because Makurdi is not really that developed and I was looking for a location where my business would be able to expand very well.
Fides: What inspired you to go into shoemaking business?
Queen: I have so many inspirations on this one: I didn’t want to depend on my parents, and I am that kind of person that doesn’t like to ask people for anything. I don’t like asking today, I’ll ask tomorrow and before you know it, I’ll become a burden to them. So, I decided to do something on my own and also, I wanted to be an independent lady.
Fides: How did you start this dream?
Queen: My story is actually a very long one. First of all, I really didn’t start with shoe making; I
started with bead making. I went into bead making but I noticed that in bead making, they actually don’t patronize them like that and it’s old fashioned. People don’t really go for it, so I left and went into bag making. Bag making is something that would take you a whole day to make and so, I was not actually moved with bag making and that was when I went into shoe making. In Shoe making, when I started, it was really amazing. At first, I doubted myself that could do it, but when I got involved fully, I
really loved the work and decided to just stick to it. I didn’t mind if the money was coming then or not because I knew that eventually, when I get to know more about the work, I will be able to make profit out of it. So, that was how I motivated myself into the business.
Fides: What are some of the challenges you undergo as a female shoemaker?
Queen: Well, the challenges are that some people, mostly men or guys will come to you as a lady cobbler, they will want to underrate you and they like to have this view that a woman cannot be above them, would I put it that way, because when they come and see that as a lady, you are in charge, they would want to downgrade you based on that fact. But when you stand on your right and defend yourself, they will be amazed and not talk to you in a careless manner. Apart from that, the work is actually very difficult, but it should be noted that it is not easy in every other work too. We should remove the stress, be strong and know what we want in life, you would not mind the pains, you would go through it so that you will be able to conquer.
Fides: Despite the challenges, what has kept you going?
Queen: What keeps me going is the future ahead; because I know that I have a very great future ahead in this shoe making. And I know that if I can struggle and work hard for it, definitely, I would one day build a company, and that company I have in mind, is giving me the courage to go forward each passing day. I know I will achieve that goal.
Fides: What would you tag your greatest achievement?
Queen: My greatest achievement is one, my business, TEEJAY FOOT LAB is registered as a business name and I have achieved taking care of myself without asking for money from anybody for anything. I have been doing a lot: I support my family with it and buying all these shoe making tools so that I will be able to get all the equipment. I recently got a stamping machine, I have ordered for it and it has arrived, I anticipate using it, which is also an achievement.
Fides: Where do you see yourself in the next five years?
Queen: In the next five years, I look forward to building up my company, not only a business but a company. I am so sure about that. I am working towards it.
Fides: Who are your role models?
Queen: For now, I would say that my role model is me. I really want to be like many other great women out there are: great in life. I want to look like them and get to where they are; that’s why I am working hard to achieve that. All I have in mind is to fight against poverty.
Fides: What are your charges for trainings?
Queen: The economic situation of the country has affected a whole lot of things. Formerly, I used to charge 20,000 naira for six months, and then 30,0000 for a year, but currently, I charge 30,000 naira for six months and 50,000 naira for a year because once they register with me, they are free to use my tools and all other things for learning
and in some situations, when those equipment get spoilt, I’ll pay to repair them.
Fides: What is your advice to young girls out there who might be discouraged with this line of job?
Queen: Well, what I have to say to them is that life is not actually easy for everyone but that does not mean we will not work hard to achieve what we want. The thing is that when you want to achieve something in life, no matter what you are going through, you have to work towards your goals. If you have a goal, then most definitely, you must see beyond obstacles, and your aim should be at your goal. Let them go into handwork and be focused on it. They should be serious about it.
Fides: What’s your educational qualification?
Queen: I am an SSCE holder; I am yet to go to a higher institution. Education is very good; it helps to broaden your knowledge about a lot of things. I’ll also advise young people not to trade education for anything, go to school, learn a trade and everything will be just perfect