Working Lives

Working Lives: The Carpenter Who Left His Employer to Make Big Bucks

Working Lives – Master Carpenters of Opebi

Not many would be willing to leave paid employment to go it alone on the path of entrepreneurship, much less take up furniture business as an occupation, not knowing it is one of the best construction occupations in Nigeria and one high on demand. Nobody builds, buys or rents an apartment in order to live in an empty space. In this edition of Working Lives, we talk to carpenters who got into the furniture business in different ways but now have one thing in common – using their knowledge and skillful expertise to make big money out of their operating base in the Opebi area of Lagos State.

 

Working Lives: The Carpenter Who Left His Employer to Make Big Bucks 

Idris Omojola

“I worked for a furniture company; I don’t want to mention its name. I worked there for about two years and then I left to establish on my own when I realized how profitable the business was. I was being paid peanuts monthly while they sold the chairs for ridiculous amounts to rich customers.”

Where are you from?

I am from Abeokuta in Ogun state. 

Please, tell us about your education.

I attended just primary and secondary school in Abeokuta.

Tell us about your family.

My dad is a welder. He makes burglary-proof, gates, etc. while my mom sells pap. I come from a family of 5 and I am the third child. We all grew up in Abeokuta. 

When did you get to Lagos?

I came to Lagos in 2009. I was living with my elder brother in Iyana Ipaja. 

Where do you live now and how much is the rent?

I still live around Iyana Ipaja. I live in a 1-bedroom self-contain apartment. I pay N9,000 as monthly rent.

How did you start working as a carpenter?

My parents explained to me that they could not afford to send me to university. I had younger ones in secondary school. So, I decided to learn carpentry. They supported me in every way they could. They paid my boss for the training.

Also Read: Working Lives: The Carpenter Who Left Medical Laboratory Job

Where did you train?

I trained in Abeokuta for about two years and some months. I was very focused so I was able to grasp things very quickly. Even before I left Abeokuta, I was already getting gigs here and there. And then when I came to Lagos and saw that things were different, people were going for modern designs, I had to brush up my skills. So, I went ahead to train under another person in Ikeja, I trained under him for two years before I started off on my own. 

Where did you work after your training?

I worked for a furniture company; I don’t want to mention its name. I worked there for about two years and then I left to establish on my own when I realized how profitable the business was. I was being paid peanuts monthly while they sold the chairs for ridiculous amounts to rich customers. 

Your first salary?

I was getting paid N70,000 monthly back then. 

How much did it cost you to establish?

It cost about N250,000. Well, when I was about to establish, I didn’t need much, because I had the majority of the tools I needed right from when I was still in Abeokuta. I brought everything with me to Lagos. So, all I needed to buy were just one or two things and then of course pay for the space I was using. I also made samples of some chairs and tables just to display for customers to see. 

What are the key tools you need to buy and how much do they cost?

A hammer, measuring tape, chisels, mallet, handsaw, planes (this is used to smoothen wooden surfaces), amongst others. But these are the ones I consider key. All of these that I have mentioned could cost as much as N30,000 or more depending on the quality one is buying. 

Did you get a bank loan?

No o, I didn’t get a bank loan. I had saved up enough from my previous job and that was it. So I did not need any loan or to borrow money from anyone.

What kind of furniture do you make?

All kinds of furniture works. I make sofas, couches, kitchen cabinets, center tables, dining tables, and many more. Just name it, and I am your plug. 

Also Read: Working Lives: The Policeman Who Used to Teach Further Mathematics 

Have you ever done anything else apart from being a carpenter?

Not at all. Right from when I was done with secondary school, carpentry has been the only profession I have been into. 

How many hours do you work in a day?

I do the normal 9-5. But sometimes I am not able to meet up with the 9 o’clock resumption because of Lagos traffic. 

What’s your best day like on the job?

When customers come around to patronize me of course, or when I get a big project to make furniture for an estate developer. I always get good gains from such gigs. 

Your worst day or experience on the job?

When there is any form of accident. We work with machines that have sharp blades. So, we always have to be careful when handling such equipment. 

Who are your main clients?

The normal average Nigerians trying to furnish their house. And then like I said earlier, estate developers also come to patronize me.

What kind of furniture do people often ask for and how much do they cost?

That will be the couch, center table, and the television rack. People request for those a lot. The television rack could cost as much as N35,000 upward while the center table goes from N10,000 upward depending on how big you want it or the design. 

What’s the most expensive piece of furniture you have ever made?

The most expensive furniture I have ever made was a full sitting room set. I charged N700,000 for it. It was a top-notch leather design.

How much do you make in sales weekly?

Hahaha. Weekly sales are not stable, it all depends on how customers come in for their request. Let’s just say I make an average of N100,000 weekly.

How much do you spend in a day?

I get to spend about N2,000 daily, on food for me and the two other guys that work with me. And then the rest goes to transport fare.

What other things do you spend money on?

Plenty things o. I can’t even start counting. As a family man, who is married with two kids, just imagine the kind of bills that are waiting for me; school fees, house rent, foodstuff for the house, sending money to my parents and my younger siblings. 

For how long have you been in the business?

I started in 2009, so I have been in the business for over 10 years now.

Do you have savings/ how much do you save in a month? 

Yes, I do. Savings are very important for emergencies. I remember when my mom was sick, I wonder what would have happened if I did not have savings. So, I get to save about N20,000-N30,000 monthly, depending on my account balance at the end of the month. 

Do you have plans to venture into something else apart from this business?

Not at all, I am ok with what I currently do, which is being a carpenter. The only plan I have is to expand the business, get a bigger warehouse, or something. So, help me God. 

Oluwatomi Otuyemi

Oluwatomi Otuyemi, a Geology graduate from Crawford University, has 5 years experience in corporate corporate communications. He has a passion for storytelling, and investigative reporting.

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