‘Furniture making not meant for illiterates alone’

Before now, furniture making used to be seen as a venture for illiterates, but society has changed that perception, as more enlightened and educated persons have ventured into the business. Abdulhakeem Olaiya, owner of Olaiya Furniture, explains to ADEOLA TUKURU

It is so common in Nigeria today that white collar jobs are scarce to come by as youths have failed to engage in skills acquisition from their various profitable business ventures but for Abdulhakeem Olaiya,37,who immediately ventured into furniture making after relocating from Kwara state is now a successful furniture maker .
With various modifications and creativity coming into play in the business, it is obvious that most of these successful furniture makers such as Olaiya are on the increase, thereby indicating that the furniture business thrives.
Unfortunately, many young people are still sitting idle, waiting for the door of white collar jobs to open, while other doors of opportunities such as acquiring skills, learning trade etc are wide open for them.
Olaiya, while recounting to Business Starter, explained how he started his business, the challenges being faced by furniture markers and how it is very important for other youths to engage themselves in various skills of their choice.
Olaiya, who hail from Kwara state, married with Four children, explained that when he came to Abuja in 2013, after he did his freedom in Furniture making, he quickly established himself and was able to earn a living for himself and his family.
According to him, he learnt furniture in 1999 in Ilorin, the Kwara state capital and immediately ventured into the business when he came to Abuja in 2013 and since then it has paid him well.
He said: “Since I came to Abuja in 2013, I can’t count how many my customers are because they cut across Nasarawa, Port harcourt , Osun, Jos ,Kaduna states and others.
“Most of the time, I travel to repair and make furniture for my customers, as I speak to you am travelling to Port Harcourt to make wardrobe and bed for one of my customers who just built a house”
” I have so far trained 11 apprentices in this business, some left without graduating and I hope to train more if they come. Most of these youths of today see this business as one meant for those who didn’t go to school.”
On the kind of furniture Olaiya does, he said he specialises in making bed of all sizes, wardrobe, kitchen cabinet, wine stands ,tables, chairs, dining tables among others and also does work for schools and other organisations.
He also tasked the federal government to make their working tools accessible and affordable for them as he lamented the hike in its prices.
If the machines are made affordable for furniture makers, cost of furniture will also be cheaper for low income earners.
“If the cutting, screwing, drilling machines are made very affordable, we won’t be selling or making furnitures for people at a very expensive price.”
“Most of us can’t afford to buy some of the machines because they are very expensive, like the cutting and edge machine for cutting board, building wardrobe, kitchen cabinet bed and door is worth N22 million.
He further explained that screw machine used for screwing nails is sold for N120, 000 as the cheapest price is worth N85,000 , while the drill machine used for circular, drilling, screening and coupling is worth N150,000.

How to start your own furniture business
Knowing how to start your own custom design furniture business is essential to any furniture designer wanting to sell his or her own designs. No matter whether you have a degree in Furniture Design and Manufacturing or have taught yourself how to design and manufacture unique pieces, if you have a good eye for what customers want and can tailor your designs to their needs, you have the foundation for starting your own custom design furniture business. However, besides being a skilled furniture designer and manufacturer, you’ll also need to know how to manage a business in order to make your start-up profitable, so read the following steps to avoid any beginners’ mistakes.

1.Find your niche
Perform a market analysis to assess the demand for your furniture. Identify your target market and their distinguishing characteristics and needs. Also, look at your competitors to find out what they don’t offer. This will tell you if your product fills a gap in the market. Finally, a market analysis studies appropriate pricing for your product and your target market.

2.Opt for a brick and mortar store or an online business
You may choose to rent a store front with a workshop and sell your furniture to walk-in customers. Alternatively, you might choose to develop a website and take only online orders. Or, you may choose to do both. Whichever option you choose impacts your decision about the physical location of your business. Also, it impacts the amount of money you need to start your business.

3. Choose a location
If you plan to open a physical store, find a space that suits your customers’ needs. For example, if you are making custom cabinets, find a space that’s large enough to display different options. Or, if your target market is residential, choose a space that’s easy to find and accommodates parents with children and strollers. Also, consider your suppliers. Find a location to which your suppliers can easily ship.
*Research zoning laws and regulations in your area to determine where you are permitted to run your business.
*If you are going to do all of your business online, then you still need to find a location for your workshop. Find a space that’s big enough to complete your work efficiently and that’s convenient for your suppliers.
*Depending on the type of materials you need to keep on hand, you may also need a warehouse space. Choose one that is large enough for suppliers to easily pick up and drop off materials.
*Don’t choose your location based on the most affordable rent. Rather, choose the best location you can afford that attractively displays your furniture and efficiently accommodates your customers.

4.Structure your business
Choose a business structure for your business, such as a corporation, partnership or sole proprietorship. The business structure you choose affects how you file your income taxes. Consult a certified public accountant (CPA), lawyer or other business advisor to help you make this decision.

5. Write a business plan
Every entrepreneur should invest time in writing a business plan. It commits your ideas and plans to writing and provides a road map to success. Often, woodworkers see themselves as artists devoted to their craft. As such, developing sound business practices may not come naturally to them. Further, they may view time devoted to business practices as detracting from the quality of their work. However, if you want your furniture-making business to be successful, you must invest time defining your marketing strategies, developing financial projections and organizing and managing your business.
• Write a company description that explains the kind of furniture you make, how you make it, how you’re different from your competition and who you target customer is.
• Explain your market analysis. Describe how you have researched other furniture manufacturers and how your business fills a need in the market.
• Define your business structure, such as a sole proprietorship, partnership or corporation. This decision has important tax ramifications.
• Describe your product line, such as exactly what kinds of furniture you manufacture, what materials you use and how it benefits your customers.
• Explain how you plan to market your furniture business. This includes not only how you plan to advertise, but also how you plan to grow your business with new products or expansion into new markets.
• Supply financial projections for the next five years. This is especially important if you plan to finance some of your startup costs. Creditors will want to see your financial projections.

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