A journey from adversity to recognition is probably one we have heard of a million times. It is also the kind of story we can never seem to get enough of. The underdog story inspires. it makes us believe we can be more than we are. The journey of Mrs Emem Festus Awodein (yes, she’s an Akwa Ibomite) is one that has seen it all. It is unfortunate that not everything can be shared here, but I hope you enjoy the parts that we actually can share.
Dise Akwa Ibom: Please tell us your name Ma.
Mrs Awodein: Okay. My name is Emem Festus Awodein.
Dise Akwa Ibom: Please tell us about yourself.
Mrs Awodein: I am the CEO of TOPIEM FASHION AND DESIGN here in Ikot Abasi. I am a fashion designer. I started my life at a very young age. I left home due to some financial situation. I came here (Ikot Abasi) when i was 19. My mother was a seamstress, so I got the knowledge of sewing from here. When I came here, I started with sewing children’s wears and from there, i graduated to whee I am today. I am a mother of three, even though i lost my husband, I’m a widow, but with the help of this work, I’ve been able to train my children. My first daughter is in the University, the second one is in secondary school and the last one in primary. So, I have been able to train over a hundred plus people in this town and by the grace of God, I got contracts from various companies like TOTAL. I’m one of the trainers there. I am a one time treasurer of AKWA IBOM STATE TAILORS’ ASSOCIATION.
Dise Akwa Ibom: So Aunty, how are you able to balance family life with your business?
Mrs. Awodein: Okay, in that aspect, I have workers with me, but i also have to be at the shop between 7:30 and 8:00 (am) and then I will work till 6:00 (pm) and then close so that I can meet up with some home activities. With my workers at the shop, I have those that I’m paying and those that are working as trainees. My children, some are in boarding school. When they come back, they always join me. All my children can sow. With that, I think I’m able to attend to my family and at the same time satisfy my customers.
Dise Akwa Ibom: So Aunty, about your business, what are the challenges you faced when you started and what would you advise young people today that are going into business for themselves.?
Mrs Awodein: The major challenge I have faced in this skilled job is having to depend on customers for my daily income. Unlike the salary earners who are certain of their pay, our work most times is left to chance. At some point, it seemed to me that I was living a hand to mouth life. My advice to young people going into skill related businesses is to invest in products as well as services. That way they don’t have to depend too much on collecting more work than they can actually do and having to lie to customers.
Dise Akwa Ibom: Aunty, do you have any future plans for your business? What’s your vision?
Mrs. Awodein: I enjoy teaching a whole lot. For the longest time I have wanted to open a fashion school so that talented youths who cannot afford going to the higher institution are provided the opportunity to learn this skill. That will free me up to be able to better teach the people I get to train instead of rushing sometimes due to the urgency of some jobs.
Dise Akwa Ibom: So what are your favorite things about Akwa Ibom?
Mrs. Awodein: The dishes; I doubt there’s any tribe in Nigeria that prepares better dishes than Akwa Ibom.
Dise Akwa Ibom: Do you have a favorite hangout in Akwa Ibom?
Mrs. Awodein: During the weekends, I especially enjoy chilling out in RichMan hotel in Ibeno, Eket. It is quite close to the beach and I love it for the beautiful view of the ocean.
Dise Akwa Ibom: Is there anything you will like to tell our readers?
Mrs. Awodein: I especially like addressing the youths so, to the youths out there, we are in an age where one can have a degree and remain unemployed hence, my advice is this, every youth should acquire a skill. It may seem irrelevant now but it will bear fruits in the future.
Dise Akwa Ibom: Thank you for your time Ma.
Mrs Awodein: The pleasure is all mine.
There’s so much more about Mrs Awodein than meets the eye. She may be Yoruba by name, but she’s Akwa Ibom by everything else. She has been actively involved in training more than a hundred and fifty tailors and seamstresses in Ikot Abasi L.G.A who have also gone on to train many more people. Her business is now 20 years old and for one who started so young and without prior formal training in design, getting to where she’s gotten has proven how talented and how much of a stalwart she is.
Akwa Ibom people are strong. The people have been through a lot as a people and have survived. The future looks very promising for the Land Of Promise.
Until next time.