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Abeni The Shoemaker

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Abeni Soles is a student-owned brand specializing in bespoke footwear—from Birkenstocks, corporate shoes, Chelsea boots, and fancy slippers. The shoemaking company was founded in 2021 by a 20-year-old student of the University of Lagos who resides in Ajah. 
 Why cobbling?
 I have always loved handmade footwear, and I used to get many of them for myself. In 2019-2020, I used to sell footwear as a side hustle while I worked 7-4 as a classroom teacher. During the break last year, a close friend suggested learning the skill to gain insight into the business. And that was how Abeni Soles was birthed. 
 Oh wow! So this is your first year in business?
 Yes, it is. Baby steps.
 How has the journey been so far?
 It has been good, not going to lie. I’ve met amazing people through my business. I’ve also enjoyed the support of strangers. But, most importantly, I’ve made money. This is the Igbo part of me speaking. 
This is not to say it has all been smooth and rosy. I have had bad moments, too, like dispatch riders not delivering my goods on time and customers talking and looking down on me for my age or sex. Also, prices of materials are skyrocketing. This is quite an issue because a bottle of gum that is N3,500 today can be N4,000 tomorrow. Unfortunately, I can not just increase the prices of footwear every second. 
 Have you ever thought about quitting? And what has kept you going?
One young man had dragged my life cause of a footwear, and I had done no wrong. It was just miscommunication in the choice of color. He would call me as early as 6 am to drag me. I had to refund him for my peace of mind. That was the one time I had thought of quitting cause I was wondering if I would keep encountering such customers as my brand grew.
Luckily, my mom kept me going, always. She is my most powerful support system, and she would always listens to me rant about how business is. She would sometime even help me send out orders when I’m indisposed. She would tell everyone she knows her daughter is a cobbler and they should patronize her. Interestingly, she would always pay for every piece of footwear because, according to her, she is just as much a customer as anyone else.
Abeni at her work shop
 How do you combine school and work?
 I could go on and on about this. First, I study mass communication at the university of Lagos, which drains much of my energy. Then I work as a freelance writer while having my 9-5 job as a content creator at a media house. Then I am also a photographer. 
 It’s a lot, I know, but it gives me my urgent 2k, so I learn to work around the clock and fix my schedules. With ASSU about to call off the eight-month strike, I know it would increase my workload, but I would get the work done. I always do.
 What are the pros and cons of being a female cobbler?
 Frankly speaking, I don’t see myself as a female cobbler. I see myself as a cobbler like my male counterparts. But being female and taking a perceived masculine skill comes with its benefits. For instance, people are always amazed when I say I make footwear myself, so they want to patronize me as a way to support me. Some would like to link me up and refer me cause they haven’t seen a female cobbler before. Just as they say, everything has its good and bad sides. 
People tend to undervalue me cause I am doing a ‘man’s job.’ Some even go as far as doubting my abilities to my face—sexism at its peak. Not to mention the sexual attraction that comes with it, lord! So I have some customers who would say they want me to do home delivery as that is the only way they would patronize. Or those who would start talking dirty while trying to make an order. 
What is your biggest motivation?
To be a household name, when people think footwear let them be thinking Abeni Soles. I want to be Gucci in this footwear industry. Such big dreams! 
What is the one thing you want for your brand right now?
Investors! Baby girl needs to make money. I need to set up a proper workshop and showroom in a major commercial district. I would also like to brand my business properly.
Who is your target audience?
Everyone is! Young, old, male, female. There is a footwear for everyone at Abeni Soles. Abeni Soles is inclusive.
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