Everyone expected him to choose the comfort and respect that comes with working as an accountant. But Edwin Obi Wilson instead opted to sit on a veranda, sew and deliver clothes.
The joy that fills his heart after clothing a satisfied client has been enough to guide him on his rollercoaster journey of fashionpreneurship. Today, even though, the fashion industry is chocked, the Ed Obi brand is such a force to reckon with.
Edwin Obi Wilson is a fashion designer who is widely noted for churning out unique and innovative designs. His fashion company, Ed Obi Fashion House has a lot of local and international clientèle. The company delivers to lots of countries around the globe.
Obi tells us more about himself and how his love for art inspires him to give more than expected of him.
How did you decide to walk the entrepreneurship path?
I have always had art in me since childhood but I never knew I would be using it to branch into fashion. It all started when I was doing my national service after my tertiary education. I had someone who sewed for me. It looked good on me so I received a lot of compliments. The compliments later graduated into placing of orders. My friends wanted to wear some of my clothes. I contracted my tailor to sew for my friends. They were impressed. More people started ordering for the clothes. My tailor could no longer handle the volumes I was giving him.
I had to get more people on board to sew for me. In the course of looking for more people to sew, I chanced on one fabulous designer whose work surpassed all I had seen. I informed him I wanted him to sew for me so I could sell. I also asked him to kindly teach me how to sew, to which he agreed. In three months I could sew. I stayed on with him to perfect my skills. I started sewing the clothes personally. I haven’t looked back since.
How did you know this was the business for you?
The joy which comes with sewing made me know I was in the right business. There were certain clothes I had to sew for free but they were all done with so much joy. I was therefore fully convinced that I was on the right track.
How easy or difficult was it to set up a fashion business in Ghana?
Very stressful. Capital to start was a big issue. Top on the list was how to rent a shop to start. The prices were so high, so I decided to start on a veranda and do delivery service. I did that till I could afford a shop. Another thing which was a challenge was how society reacted. Everyone expected me to look for a job since I was an accountant and here I was, on a small veranda trying to sew. They didn’t encourage me. A lot of people mocked me but I stood my ground.
As the fashion industry seems to be a saturated one, how does your company, Ed Obi Fashion House, handle the competition?
The fashion industry is indeed a saturated one. There are a lot of incredible and amazing fashion designers. We always try to innovate and produce new designs in order to continue to keep our customers and also acquire new ones.
What’s your view on mentorship?
It is good to have a mentor if you’re an entrepreneur. You learn from their mistakes and you don’t get to walk the same distance they walked. Your distance will be “a catalyzed reaction path.”
What insight do you wish you had before going into business and your advice to budding entrepreneurs?
Social media is a very powerful tool in the business arena. Setting off, I underestimated the importance of its usage. I wish I knew better. It started paying dividends when we started a full time social media campaign. I will advise new entrepreneurs not to follow my foot steps and start the usage of social media right from the word go.
Read more about Edwin Obi Wilson.
Edwin Obi Wilson was born on 15th August, 1985. He had his primary education at Tafo Methodist School and later enrolled at Neumann International School all in Kumasi, Ghana. He proceeded to Tanoso Anglican Junior High school where he wrote his Basic Education Certificate Examination (B. E. C. E). While waiting for his examination results, he went under apprenticeship to study art. That was where his passion for art began to grow. When the examination results were finally released, he wanted to pursue a course in art but was advised against it by his family because “art didn’t have lucrative jobs.” He enrolled as a science student at Asanteman Senior High school. He enjoyed science and gave it his all.
After his secondary education, there was this passion in him to venture into business so he decided to pursue a course in accounting at Sunyani Technical University to enable him get a business background. After school he had to do national service and he was posted to teach in a school. That was where he discovered a business opportunity in fashion and grabbed it. He went under apprenticeship to learn how to sew and this was done alongside his national service. By the time he was done with his service, he could sew. He started his fashion company afterwards and the rest they say is history.
Edwin Obi Wilson is passionate about seeing people succeed in life so he is constantly motivating people to be successful on his social media platforms. He loves reading and listening to music.
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Clinton Chibueze: Utiva Talents Transform African Businesses and Compete Globally
Utiva is providing the solution to the record graduate unfit for the business world in most African countries through their unique program that adequately equips students to be excellent and stand out in the business place. Utiva is an education enterprise that is using blended learning approach to bridge skill gap of teeming youths, especially undergraduates in Africa.
Clinton Chibueze is the Program Associate at Utiva based in Lagos, Nigeria. In this interview, he shares the major problems confronting the corporate world lacking skilled labor as only 9% of graduates are really prepared for the job market.
In explaining the nature of his work at Utiva, Clinton Chibueze said, “I work with students in about 20 universities, helping them get value for our engagements, training and internship program. I provide leadership to about 40 campus leads (2 per school), communicating the vision and the mission of Utiva to them, helping the organization scale its presence in all the schools and supporting our social impact mission.” He as well provides back-end support to the training program going on in the schools.
If you are an undergraduate or a graduate who wants to be talented and a highly skilled labour to your employers, enjoy this interview with Clinton Chibueze who recently graduated with Summa Cum Laude and join Utiva.
What is Utiva and what challenges in the market has necessitated its development?
Utiva is a system of learning which combines both traditional classroom approach with an online learning experience to deliver value to the students and to the market. This system of learning prepares students for work whether as entrepreneurs or intrapreneurs in the private and public sectors as well as with non-governmental organisations by refining and improving their work skills. In other words, Utiva is a finishing school.
The song of “University graduates are unemployable” is a major challenge in the market. What this phrase actually means is that most graduates lack the necessary skills for work in the 21st century. Think about this for a moment. Most undergrads spend almost 4 years studying plant and some rocks. That is fine, honestly. But the question is this: who is ready to absorb them into jobs afterwards? Most people become stranded and left out. Our job is to communicate constantly with the job market, understand the dynamics of this market, research into the skills global employers are recruiting for, come back to train college students in those schools and help these companies find our talents.
The problem is that if Africa refuses to equip its labor for productivity and other companies improve theirs, we will continue to have a nation of cheap labor.
How in practical terms are you closing the skills gap in the market?
Our model integrates online with traditional face-to-face class activities in a planned, pedagogically valuable manner to train undergrads for the future of work and business. Our one and half year programme is divided into three phases. At the beginning of the journey, the students are enrolled into a 6-day training programme (105 hours). This engagement with our faculty allows the students to focus on three broad areas: Project Management, Corporate Leadership and Lean Entrepreneurship. After this, competence and knowledge is tested against a 200-question examination and then we move each student into an intense 52 weeks Business Case Review program.
In addition, during this program, learning is coordinated through on-the-job program which we call the ‘Uternship’. Some of our students are paired with fast rising companies, some get into volunteering experiences, some even get to work directly with entrepreneurs and a few work directly with Utiva.
Why do you use Business Cases?
One of the reasons we use business cases as a good and more productive approach to learning is that many students are more inductive than deductive reasoners, which means that they learn better from examples than from logical development starting with basic principles. The use of case studies can therefore be a very effective classroom technique.
Case studies are long being used in business schools, law schools, medical schools and the social sciences, but they can be used in any discipline when instructors want students to explore how what they have learned applies to real world situations. Utiva cases come in many formats, from a simple “What would you do in this situation?” question to a detailed description of a situation with accompanying data to analyze. Whether to use a simple scenario-type case or a complex detailed one depends on your course objectives.
What are some of your success stories?
We currently work with an average of 500 students per school and have a presence in 20, that is about 10,000 schools with some variances. We have a 75-80% success rate at pairing our students to internship programs and ensuring they’re hired.
Since the days of our early setup, about 17% of our students have started their own businesses.
We are currently improving our Utiva500companies project which is structured to help us on-board the leading 500 companies in Sub-Saharan Africa into our programme for skilled labor.
Who qualifies to be trained at Utiva?
Utivans are learners, constant learners! Young people who are very meticulous. Hence, anyone who is open to learning. As long as you are an undergrad or a recent graduate, we are out to work with you.
What is the vision for this initiative to help improve the quality of graduates into the job market?
Utiva’s vision is to produce individuals who are capable of transforming African businesses and competing with global leading businesses. It’s that simple. We are building global brands by building Human Capital.
What does the support by major institutions like the NYU, the Atlas Corps and others mean for your operations at Utiva?
We are growing and are still learning. We always want to improve on standard and quality so we can train students who would be able to identify and tackle current issues. Many of our partners are committed to helping us build a strong learning framework and also revamp our pedagogy. For instance, the country director was trained in the United States for a year under the tutorship of Deloitte consulting and this is courtesy of one of our supporters, Atlas Corps..
In clear terms, how will a Utivan differ from the regular graduate?
Walk into an interview room, you’d see the difference. A Utivan is all-rounded and well grounded. An average Utivan has developed the Utiva 8 skill for the job market!
Tell us the caliber of your Utivan trainers.
Our trainers are highly experienced professionals in their areas of specialization. These trainers are accomplished practitioners, people who have carved a niche for themselves in the market and are well aware of the remote and immediate demands of the market. For example, Eyitayo Ogunmola, the Country Director for Utiva is an expert in Project Management, Emeka Ossai is a specialist in Corporate Leadership and currently the Chief Community Builder at Campus Labs, Tomilola Adejana, a Financial Technologist and Business Strategist and others alike.
What significant challenge exists as you implement this unique initiative?
Scale. There is more to do. There are more schools to cover. More people and more. Especially in some disconnected communities in the country.
How soon does your oufit intend to roll out Utiva to other African countries?
We have tested our programme in 2 other African countries. We are building a scalable model which can be tested anywhere. We are the future of human capital development in Sub-Saharan Africa.
Read more about Clinton Chibueze
Clinton Chibueze, Program Associate at Utiva and an emerging Corporate Leader in Global Education is passionate about functional education for African youths and helping young people in Sub-Saharan Africa transition from school to work. His biggest aspiration is to work in the space of policy development and educational program implementation.
Clinton Chibueze has gathered experience in Leadership and Management as well as a demonstrated history in writing, proofreading, editing and teaching. He holds a certificate in Project Management and an alumnus of Common Purpose in 2017, a global institute which trains youth for leadership. His is a Classics graduate from the University of Ibadan who just graduated with a Summa Cum Laude.
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