Meet 20-Year-Old Female Cobbler in Kogi 

By Tijani Labaran

It was a dream come true for Joy Esther John, a 20-year-old Ebira lady shoe maker from Okene Local Government Area of Kogi State, when she ventured into shoe making.

At her makeshift shop in the Zone 8 Junction roundabout in Lokoja, Esther operates, with passion, a profession classified to be for the male gender.

Customers are always seen coming to drop, pick or stop by at her shop to repair or make inquiry about a particular shoe or the others, and in the process put forward an order unceasingly for hours.

According to her, that is her daily routine these days: receiving customers, both new and old, and meeting their demands.

Esther’s strength lies in her devotion to her chosen profession and sincerity of purpose; besides her expression of courtesy and mien which allures, as she attends to customers.

A customer, Mrs Mary Samuel, told our correspondent that since she got to know Esther, she is upright in character and the trait of “frivolity or postponement” associated with most artisans is not found in her.

“My collections from her brand attracted my friends who kept asking if my footwears were foreign made,” said Mrs Samuel at her makeshift shop.

Esther, who disclosed that growing up was not easy because of her family background, stated that her venture into shoemaking was not borne out of frustration, but an innate passion to make shoes from her teenage years.

She added that the journey to fulfil her dream was not an easy one, especially after her secondary school education at Army Day Secondary School Lokoja in 2013, where her quest to continue her education to higher institution was interrupted due to lack of fund.

The cobbler, who is 6th in a family of seven children, stressed that life become tough after she graduated from secondary school, as her father, a retired civil servant, did not have the necessary resources to finance her tertiary education.

According to her, faced with this predicament and driven by the passion to make shoes, she decided to register with a shoe maker in Lokoja in 2017, in order not to stay idle. After a year and six months training in shoemaking, she graduated in 2019.

On finishing her training, she ran into the challenge of working capital to kick-start her business.

Not leaving things to chance, she got involved in menial jobs in order to raise money to start her own business.

Joy Esther John

“I got a job as sales girl in shops and restaurants. I started learning how shops are managed while in their employ. Some days, I took time off to look for job in building and construction sites, to raise quick money to attend to pressing issues so that I will not touch my little salary.

“I have this character of not relying on people to keep me going, no matter the challenge. People will always fail you because they too are challenged.

“By 2019, I was able to raise a little amount of money that can enable me kick-start my business. But when I went to rent a shop, I discovered that the amount was not enough,” she said.

Esther recalled that “While I was serving as a waiter, I bought key equipment that would aid me to start up gradually. With N7,000 working capital in 2019, I started at this makeshift place, as I could not afford the exorbitant money being charged by shop owners.

Esther, who named her business ‘Treasure Shoes and bags ventures’, added that she made a move to get a loan from the CBN at a time through a friend but that move did not see the light of day, as she could not meet up with the requirements or collateral security expected of a beneficiary of such loan.

Undaunted, Esther said she pushed on, despite all odds, noting that, “today, my joy is that I was able to translate my passion for shoe making into reality.”

“My happiness is that I have started that journey I have been nursing for years. I have something to build on now, hoping that with time, I will get there, since the zeal and passion are still burning in me.”

Esther, who makes shoes for both sexes, said she has no regret taking up shoe making. “Today, I can feed myself and cater for my family, when the need arises. I no longer go cap in hands, looking for assistance from parents or family members before I meet up an emergency challenge. The negative response to such demands of assistance from people or relatives is most often traumatic emotionally.

“Because of the assistant I now render to my parents and siblings with the little I make from here, I’m no longer seen as a burden to them, but a helper in the family,” she said.

The 20-year-old shoemaker stressed that improving the working tools in her shop to reinforce the quality of her shoes remains her priority. She claimed to have been trying to install new equipment but for want of funds, she is yet to achieve her aim in that direction.

Esther stated further that: “Quality equipment will improve the quality of my shoes. It will also attract more patronage of my products. It’s a big challenge to me at the moment because of lack of funds.

“The least price for a shoe here is N2000 and the highest is N8,000 for now, depending on the quality of materials and the equipment used.

“I make an average of N5,000, at worst N3,000, any day I open my shop for business. Most times, the take home per day increases or decreases depending on the season.

“But the negative shake up in the economy presently has dropped patronage drastically, as people do more of repairs now than buying new shoes.”

To Esther, no profession is made for the male folks alone; everything depends on one’s “passion, commitment and consistency.”

She said whatever one wants to do is possible, with determination. “It’s a matter of setting your target and working towards it,” saying, “with time, the set target will be achieved.”

She said her immediate priority was to continue to update her working tools, her business registration, get a bigger shop and continue to update her knowledge to improve the quality of her products in order to attract more patronage.

Recounting her ordeal in the hands of customers, especially during her early years in the business, Esther said she lost huge amount of money due to customers’ breach of contract.

“When I first started, people would bring their shoes for repair, and I will use my money to put it order, and then you will not see them again.

“Some will come and ask me to make a particular shoe for them, and after investing my money to make it, I will never see them again. If you call, they will not acknowledge it. Some will also beg you to repair their shoes, promising to pay shortly, and you will not see them again after collecting it,” she said.

She claimed to have lost a huge sum of money she would have reinvested into the business. However, she sees it as a learning process, as she is no longer losing money to such business deals from customers.

Currently, Esther has four apprentices – a male and three females, who are training to become shoemakers.


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