Story By: Oyindamola Subair
“I got people’s attention for my products when I went to an exhibition with just one tyre furniture and had no plans of selling it. At the exhibition, a lady saw it and was very much inquisitive; she even offered to buy it. From there, more and more people indicated their keen interest in my tyre furniture” – Olabanke Subair
In a country like Nigeria, search for white-collar jobs has become a norm for most graduates. The idea of having an office experience and working in a multinational company is the desire of every Nigerian student. Young graduates want to be seen working in places like Shell, if not an oil and gas company, it must be a company that is well valued on the table of the Nigeria Stock Exchange.
For Olabanke Subair, she got more than she envisioned for. After studying French at the prestigious Obafemi Awolowo University, and worked in an advertising agency, she embarked on a different path for herself to establish an up-cycling company to reduce environmental pollution.
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For her, running an enterprise was probably the last thing she anticipated. In her words, “Entrepreneurship found me, I didn’t find it”.
As a free-spirited creative woman, she had a passion for revamping old items into new and reusable things, but the real inspiration for her up-cycling passion was when she saw her sister’s neighbour trying to dispose 20 used tires. She said she saw an opportunity to exercise her ingenuity.
‘I was able to transform these used old tyres into furniture pieces and the positive feedback I got from people prompted me to start Cyrus 45”,
I started Cyrus 45 Factory while also working with an advertising company, so I did have a white collar job before I left that industry to face full time entrepreneurship”, Olabanke explained.
As a true believer of Christ, Olabanke received an express instruction from God to leave her comfortable paying white-collar job and face Cyrus 45 Factory. Though, it was a struggle for her to leave a job with the conveniences that came with being an employee and face her interest. One of the perks of being an employee meant no worries on how to make money. She listened to the call and faced Cyrus 45 Factory full-time in 2018.
Recounting on how she set up her own firm, Olabanke admits that starting Cyrus 45 wasn’t a walk in the park. Having left the advertising company she worked with, she was able to raise capital in the first year of her new enterprise through ‘Angel’ Investors.
“The first investors for your business or anything you’re trying to start in life should come from your friends or family members. I got funds from family, friends, people that believed in the vision, people that saw the viability of Cyrus 45 and through their contributions, I was able to start the business,
Those who I trusted helped me scale through the greatest hurdles of being an entrepreneur trying to start a business. My family and friends showed their faith in my vision and supported this cause. This cause involved recycling things that have been deemed as trash and turning it into treasure”
Narrating her humble beginnings in the up-cycling business, she explained that her brand was previously named ‘Revamp’ before it got changed to Cyrus 45 factory. She also recalled how she sold her brand to people at an exhibition she went for, with one tyre furniture.
“I got peoples’ attention for my product when I went to an exhibition with just one tyre furniture and had no plans of selling it. During the exhibition, a lady saw it and was very much inquisitive; she even offered to buy it. From there, more and more people indicated their keen interest in my tyre furniture,
Enquires were made concerning my website and Instagram page. This really helped me to kick start the process of setting up my business to get a company name, print my business cards and set my business social media pages up”, she said.
To Olabanke, success is being able to go through failure times and time again without losing a shred of enthusiasm.
“It’s not just selling the vision, but having people buy into that vision and having their lives impacted by whatever vision you are selling. Success equals impact.”, she explained.
When Olabanke was asked what she thought about the government’s efforts in creating an enabling environment for business growth, she commended the government’s effort towards SME’s and entrepreneurs. However, called for more to be done particularly in terms of taxes and funding schemes.
“We are employers of labor, we are creating jobs and we know what the unemployment gap is like in the country. So we need more encouragement. I believe the government is on the right track but I also believe that more can be done for young entrepreneurs. I believe that some laws need to be set up and enacted for us to have seamless operations of our businesses.” she mentioned.
Apart from the technical skills required in making her designs, Olabanke identified creative designing skills as another crucial skill to run Cyrus 45.
“Creative designing skills are just as important because of the nature of the waste to art industry. The hallmark of any kind of artwork is creativity,
We try to ensure that we develop our creativity, our innovations and the act of being very inventive. We also try to be abreast with what’s happening in the recycling and up-cycling industry because we also function in that sphere. So apart from the production side of the business, we also try to empower ourselves with up-to-date information on the environment, climate change, recycling, sustainability, and different topic that relate to the environment, because we are contributing to the reduction of environmental pollution.” she said.
When asked how a gender-biased social norm dampen business performance, she made a case on how people are amazed that she and her female staffs are doing a ‘Man’s job’ however, called for a reorientation of such thinking.
“Once in a while we have encounters where people are surprised that I’m a carpenter or that I’m a furniture maker or when they meet some of my staff members who are women, they are surprised that they are working in the furniture-making industry. That gender bias affects business because you have customers who have the mindset that women can’t deliver or can’t perform”, she said.
On her advice for women, she asserts that women need to take a seat at the table in several industries.
“We have come a long way from when women were seen as inferior, we have come a long ways from where sexism, misogyny and gender inequality were the order of the day. This is the time for more women to aspire to be more than just a housewife or more than just what people deem as female roles.” she urged.
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