On today’s FATE Alumni Spotlight, we profile Monalisa Abimbola Azeh (FATE AEP 4 ) as she shares the vision behind the Mona Mathews brand and her passion to push “made in Nigeria”
What was your mission when you started Mona Matthews? I had several missions. To start with, it was to provide footwear solutions for the under served in the industry, people who found it extremely difficult to find their size in good quality foot wear. Secondly, to in our our little way reduce our Nation’s dependence on imported goods and show that high quality products can be produced in Nigeria.
What is your current ambition/vision for the business? To be the best leather design house in Africa.
What are the unique selling points of your products? We retail high quality stylish handmade leather shoes and sandals for gentlemen, and shoes and matching hand bags, slippers and tote bags for ladies. We also offer made to order services for individuals. We produce school shoes to order for schools as well as leather gift items for Companies and for individuals as party souvenirs.
Our products are all beautifully hand crafted by master craftsmen, using the highest quality of leather and other materials. They are durable and provide good value for money. Our business model enables us to produce a single item or multiples of the same item depending on our clients’ needs.
What habits helped make you successful? I am Christian and I believe that success comes from God when you trust and obey Him and this is my lifestyle. I do not accept No for an answer, I do not believe that something cannot be done. I try to keep myself up to date with the trends in my industry. I hardly stop working either. I leave my shop and continue working at home. But because I enjoy what I do, it doesn’t feel like work. I also read almost all the time and also attend seminars and workshops relevant to what I do or entrepreneurship generally. I love to learn new things and I learn from everybody around me, staff and clients inclusive.
What risks did you face in running your business and how have you been able to learn from failure? I once had a contract to supply huge number of shoes to a Foreign Retailer here in Lagos who kept prompting us to produce, even though our contract stated that payment was 30days after we delivered the shoes. At the end of it all we produced a large inventory and they cancelled the contract and we were stuck with the shoes. We had also borrowed money to fulfill the order from Family which we had to pay back. I learnt not to take every offer at face value and to weigh options before signing agreements.
How can MSMEs and the Government make the “Made in Nigeria” initiative work? There are many things that can be done. From the MSMEs perspective, we need to do all we can to improve our products and service delivery so that people will buy from us because we offer great products and great service and not just out of sentiments. Government policies that improve the manufacturing environment should be deliberately created and implemented. We know power cannot become perfect overnight, but if industrial parks are created where there are common facilities and the Government ensures that power water and security is guaranteed this would help lower our cost of production. The educational sector needs to be tweaked also to produce graduates at different levels that can contribute to the “made in Nigeria” story. Finally both Government and the private sector must preach the gospel of buying “made in Nigeria”.
What impact has social media had on your business? Creating and establishing our brand has become easier and cheaper with Social Media, marketing and advertising which was previously beyond most people’s budget is now affordable. Social media is an asset to Mona Matthews and we are engaging it actively to spread the Mona Matthews Story. We are constantly working to improve our use of social media and we are enjoying the results.
What did you learn from the most from FATE Foundation? FATE Foundation was a major eye opener for me even though I was a lawyer when I joined, I realized that I had absolutely no entrepreneurial knowledge whatsoever. The branding and marketing sessions I believe were the most outstanding for me because of my kind of business and my business model. I also enjoyed the Sessions on customer care.
Any last piece of advice for other FATE Alumni business men and women? Keep learning, never stop.
Mona Matthews is a Nigerian company founded by Monalisa Abimbola Azeh in 2002. They are located at 322a, Ikorodu road, Elizade Toyota Plaza, Anthony. First floor Ikeja, Lagos. You can follow them on monamathews.com and follow/like on Facebook at Mona Matthews Shoes and Bags or Instagram @mona_matthewsshoes.