Over the past few years, demand for handbags has increased due to growing availability of designer bags in different varieties. The global handbag market size was valued at USD 47.0 billion in 2018.
This figure is expected to grow within the next couple of years as there has been a rising women workforce in recent along with increasing brand awareness.
Increased usage of handbags among working class women on a global level is expected to remain a key trend in the market. Meanwhile, in African the fashion industry over the least decade has seen more young men and women go into the sector with a view to evolving brands of their own. Nigeria is not left out the change witnessed across the globe.
Muna Muoneke is Psychologist by training, but she creates bespoke leather bag designs of her own under the brand name ‘Munamuoneke’. According to her, what she started barely three years ago as a side business that allows her express the creative side of her may soon become a main pre-occupation for her if she will meet up with a fast growing demand for pure leather bags in the Nigerian fashion industry. She tells her story.
BUSINESS 360: How has business be doing so far and how old is your business?
MUNA: Business has being good. My business is about 2 and half years.
BUSINESS 360: Tell us your name?
MUNA: My name is Munachi Muoneke and the name of my business is munamuoneke
BUSINESS 360: What did you study in school and what was your parent’s reaction when you told them this is what you wanted to do?
MUNA: I studied psychology. My parents are very supportive of me, this is my side business and I still have 9am to 5pm job that I do, it’s Real Estate Development company, we are into affordable real estate and this one is my side business which is turning into a big business for me and am doing it this way because my 5 to 9 job is flexible for me and am able to handle both of them at the same time.
BUSINESS 360: Where did you study psychology?
MUNA: I studied in the U.K University of Watford
BUSINESS 360: Would you say that your educational background gave you leverage to do what you are doing?
This is the first time am thinking about it, but I guess so because this is just taking back to what someone told me at one point, one of the people that wanted me to teach them how to make bag, she was really interested in it and then when I called her to ask, when would you start, she said her dad told her that she can’t do it, that his daughter cannot be a shoe maker, I didn’t feel bad about it because I saw the potential in hand making business but I think my university background gave me that edge and I know how hand making are valued outside Nigeria, so I will say that gave me an edge.
BUSINESS 360: You studied in U.K and trained in Nigeria, ddoes your discipline in anyway impact on your craft?
MUNA: Not really, but it helped me in my dealings with people. How they think and how to view life. Especially with my staff. I am able to understand them and work with that understanding.
BUSINESS 360: The people who trained you, what kind of people were they?
MUNA: They were my mates, we were doing our NYSC together, we were in camp together, because NYSC has skill and acquisition program in camp for every batch. So they train people who are interested. But a lot of people tend to take it for granted. But I took advantage of it. And it’s not just about getting the training from NYSC, if it’s something you are interested in, you have to continue practicing because when I was trained they didn’t teach me how to do the sowing, they didn’t teach a lot of things I just had to learn it.
BUSINESS 360: So how has it been so far?
MUNA: Where I started was during my youth service year(NYSC), you know those skill acquisition programs they do during NYSC during the three weeks orientation Camp, someone wanted to teach me but I wasn’t really interested because it was immediately after I finished my university and I wanted to do sewing but I don’t understand sewing. The person was like l’et me just teach you how to make hand bags’, I told her am not interested. But at some point, I decided to give a try, and here I am today.
BUSINESS 360: Now you are doing bags, what kind of bags are you selling?
MUNA: They are leather hand bags, I started with Ankara bags but I noticed that the Nigerian market doesn’t really embrace Ankara bags that much. They like Ankara bag but they don’t really buy them as much as they buy leather bags so I started doing leather bags.
BUSINESS 360: Do you make them yourself?
MUNA: Yes, they are all hand made with the slippers and everything there.
BUSINESS 360: Getting machinery, machines and all the equipment for this, how have you managed with that.
MUNA: Getting them is very difficult, getting machinery and getting staff was a very difficult process for me because in the beginning I was just doing it alone while I was getting small orders. But when I started getting bulk orders it started getting really stressful for me so I had to hire people and buy more materials, some of the material are very expensive but it’s something that is durable, the hardest part is getting staff that are capable and reliable because one thing in making hand bags is the finishing part of it, it has to be neat. If the finishing is not good then it doesn’t make sense but thank God I am getting good hands, and I am training them very well.
BUSINESS 360: So what is your staff strength like?
MUNA: I have five staff now, and I work with them directly. I want to keep an eye on every little detail because if you miss something they will just do it anyhow. So you need to keep an eye on every little detail to make sure they come out very well.
BUSINESS 360: So why bags?
MUNA: I started with bags and I also make slippers, but I realize that to do slippers, there is a lot of things you need to put into consideration. Sizing and knowing every person’s size is key. And there is a lot more understanding in terms of slippers. But hand bag is a lot easier to work with because, hand bag is one size fits all, so it’s easier for me.
BUSINESS 360: I noticed your bags are small sizes, is it deliberate?
MUNA: Yes, because I used to have bigger size but I noticed that lot of people like small bags more, so what I do now is if you want a big sized bag, you will have to pre-order because the small bags are here already. The small bags go out very quickly but the big bags are don’t.
BUSINESS 360: People say doing business in Nigeria is difficult, what do you say?
MUNA: Yes it is, everything I talked about now is part of it, getting staff, machinery and little things like maybe traffic, moving around, there is no light, so we have to deal with generator, buying fuel. It is things like that that make having a business in Nigeria difficult and I think that those little things once they are tackled, it will be a lot more easier to grow one’s business in Nigeria. And then the cost of renting a place, it is just so high.
BUSINESS 360: So where do you work from?
MUNA: My work shop is in my house, sometimes I rent other people’s workshops if I am unable to use my house, but my own work shop is in my house.
BUSINESS 360: If a young girl were to come to you for advice, asking for carries advice, what would you say to her?
MUNA: I think am not in best position to advice anyone, sincerely. This is because everyone has his or her role to play in life. So I would simply ask the person to pray. I feel like if you have a personal connection with God and listen to your heart and instinct, you will know exactly what to do. You will know the steps to take and whatever you feel you ought to do.
BUSINESS 360: Would you say you found your passion?
MUNA: Yes, I found my passion and I love it.
BUSINESS 360: I t was nice speaking with you Muna.
MUNA: Same here, thank you!