By Amarachi Okpunobi
For the intent of this interview, may we know you?
I am EzeanochieJohnbosco, a native of Akwaeze in Anocha Local Governmnet Area of Anambra State. I was born and bred here in Nibo. My Primary School education was in Ezeike Memorial Primary School where my mum worked as a teacher too. I had my secondary school education in the noble Catholic owned and managed Holy Child Secondary School, Isuofia. I am currently studying Chinese Studies as my language in UNIZIK. And as it stands, I am writing my second semester, second year exams. By October this year, I will be in third year. I am also last in the family of two boys and two girls.
How did you came about the name of your organization?
Oh! Hao Collection. People have been asking me, what's this Hao? Really, I branded my organization last year. What motivated me to brand that name, Hao, is my course of study in the University. Hao is a Chinese name that means perfect or anything good.I plan travelling to China and I know that the nature of the government, so long as your business bears their name, you'll get enough favour from them. They'll allow you do business with them, partnerships and stuff like that.
So, how was Hao Collection built?
I started this business two years ago. I learnt it alongside my direct elder sister in Aba. It wasn't really an easy something then, our Dad resides in Aba. He decided that we come over there and learn a skills, not that he wouldn't train us in the University. My Dad is a man that understands that you are being self-reliant is something to be proud of. I learnt that in my SS2, so imagine how small I was then. After learning the stuff, it was my sister then that was the only person practicing it because secondary school held me back. Immediately I finished my secondary education, I started. So, for now, I just have a two year experience in the business.
There are so many skills in Aba, why did your Dad choose that you learn foot wear making?
It wasn't really my Dad that inspired me. But he was the one that took me to where I learnt the job. A cliché said that you can take a horse to the stream but you can't force it to drink water. When I started the training with my sister, she was learning with full force. What and who really inspired me was my sister. She was doing this job with diligence. She was proud of it. Some people were like 'see, a female cobbler, how possible?' She didn't even listen to them. So, I was like, since my sister is doing this and she is proud of it, I think going into this will also be ok. In fact, everything she was making from the business really motivated me to build Hao Collections.
Back then, did you ever imagined being the CEO of your own shoe making company?
Yes, that time, I wasn't seeing myself as a CEO but I had the aim of starting it once I finished secondary school even if I gain admission or not. When I started, I saw what the business has. I knew that this is a big something I can develop because I learnt only foot wears, slippers and sandals. But I was like, this is not only the things I would be doing. If I should expand this business to making snickers, bow ties, bags, platter pins, pocket squares, shoes and every other thing. And that’s really what I am doing with Hao Collection.
How many people have you being able train since then?
Hmmm, I started two years ago but I started training people just a year ago. Since then, I have been able to train not more than fifteen people. Seven of them were male while the others were females. You know, one thing with females is that they always listen to people. I still chat with them. They'll be like 'a female, a cobbler?' They didn't allow my sister to be a motivation to them. So, all the females that I taught this work, none of them continued. I only have three males that continued with the work up till this day and they are really doing fine.
What were and are you challenges?
My challenges were accommodation and finance. I have the plan of having a skill acquisition centre which I partially have now. But getting the accommodation in a good place that will befit my trainees and also befit me was really a hard nut to crack. Because I live in rural area of Anambra State and getting such accommodation is really hard for me. Then coming to the issue of finance, it wasn't really easy because I am planning on getting a sowing machine, a filling machine and materials to get the first phase of production. Through my personal savings, and help from my family and friends I was able to go a long way. I also have this challenge of people saying “is it not Ezeanochie, what does he know about foot wears. You see, a lot of people do not believe that anything good can come out of Nazareth. They will be like, “the foot wear that is done in Nibo, how far is it going to last”.
For as long as you've done this, have you been able to make a big scale contact with schools or any other organization?
Yes I have been privileged to have been making supplies to people, 30-50 pairs or more. But I have not any for schools. I have been doing for organizations, may be they would like to host an event. I'll make uniform foot wears for them.
With your challenges, do you think the government and Nigeria as a whole are lagging behind in providing support for the youths?
Yes! They are really lagging behind. I have been to many events, I have introduced myself to many government personnel that I make foot wears and that I have a skill acquisition centre. None of them has ever cared to ask, how do you do this? Are you having any problem? In fact they don't appreciate what I do. I have the opportunity of being a family friend to the former secretary to the Anambra State governor. The family knows for sure that I do this but they have not been like, “Johnbosco, this your business, how can you improve”? Have you registered it? But no, nobody has ever asked that. So, they are lagging behind when it comes to youth empowerment. Just like me, I have not had any other sponsor apart from my parents up to this day, and I am still looking for sponsors because my plan is to own a big skill acquisition center.
You as a youth, what do you think the government should do to curb this problem?
What I think is that, the government knowing that the youths are talented, should host trainings for youths. Then, invite these young entrepreneurs like me to teach them. They'll pay us, thereby making us gain from that. And by impacting that knowledge into the people we are training, that make Anambra State a better place. With that, I think something would be done.
For what period of time do you train people?
I do not have minimum time, but the maximum is two months. Because they are people that have this special intelligence that even a minute of talking to them, they've grabbed a lot of things you are doing. Some of them will learn for two or three weeks and go. But since I started this, nobody has learnt for more than three months.
What are your advice to those who find it difficult to take a step and start up something especially your female trainees.
My advice to them is this; you don't listen to people so long as you know that you are doing something right before God and man. Most of them complain of finance but I will tell you, when I started, I had nothing at all. But at least you have to start small. When I started, my family thought I wasn't serious. They didn't sponsor me. When they noticed that I used my personal savings to get a filing machine, they were like, wow, our son really means business. They had to ask: “what other things do you need?” Now, people are making the mistake of addressing themselves as CEOs, boss and president. No, if I want to introduce myself, I don't use such words. I'll just tell you that I am a trainer at Hao Collections. Because having that mentality of a CEO, will make you to be like I am now the boss. If I go to the village and address myself before my uncle as the CEO of Hoa Collections, after going home for Christmas he won't give me any money. Yes! But if I tell my Uncle, I make foot wears and I need your help, he will tell me alright, make one for my first son. Take this ten thousand Naira and manage it and get whatever you want for yourself. I don’t want that mentality of CEO that would cause me to be called on stage at event to talk and in my pocket I have absolutely nothing to offer. So, what is the essence of answering a CEO? You don't have to be too pompous about what you are doing.
Who do you wish to appreciate for your success so far?
I wish to appreciate my parents, my Dad first. He was the one that laid the foundation for me. Then my Mum, she is always there to advice. If I get any work now, I will tell her. She will be like, how much did you collect from them? Are you sure you will make your gain from that? She opened my eyes, she is business oriented. She is always there. I also want to appreciate Rev. Fr. Cyprian
Chukwudobelu, he doesn't sell foot wears but he has kept on buying foot wears from me. He is not even selling them, he gives them out and will tell people “JohnboscoEzeanochie makes foot wears, patronize him”. He is just marketing my products for me. I owe him whatever gratitude.
Ok let's wrap it up here. Thanks very much for your time
Thanks so much, it's my pleasure.
To Contact Ezeanochie Johnbosco,
CEO Hao Collection,