#Interview: Mandy Rachael Talks Challenges & Triumph As A Nigerian Shoe & Bag Designer For A Cause

What is Mandy Rachael Designs all about?
Mandy Rachael Designs is a socially responsible ethical fashion brand that is focused on the local production of handmade fashion accessories like shoes and bag. At Mandy Rachael Designs all our items are hand crafted using locally sourced materials and on every purchase a percentage is set aside to support the education of less privileged kids in Nigeria.

How did you start?

It all started in my final year at the university when I was trying to make something worthwhile for myself and my immediate community, then I was designing Ankara accessories and often organize trainings for young girls, back then I was able to train about 200 girls and women in Ile-ife, Osogbo, Ilesha and Lagos.
At some point I took a break from work because I had to go for the compulsory NYSC, it was after my NYSC that I started to crave for more and so I went for further training on how to design better accessories, that’s where I came across working with leather and instantly fell in love with leather, ever since then I adopted leather more even though I still work with Ankara and aso-oke, but I do more of leather now.
Why shoes and bags?
Funny enough the first love was bags before I decided to add shoes, but then immediately i added the shoes it gained more attention than the bags maybe because people can’t do without wearing shoes in a day, but on some days you can decide to just be free and not carry a bag. But then shoes came in and it shoot out Mandy Rachael Designs beyond our expectations.
Who do you target when you make your shoes?
I target both the old and the young, males and females, there’s always something for someone at Mandy Rachael Designs. The youths have the highest percentage though.
Who/what is your inspiration and role model in this business?
Mrs Femi Olayebi of Femi Handbags and Mr Adedayo David Eweje of David Wej
Do you consider yourself a shoemaker or shoe designer?
Presently I would say I’m both a designer and a shoemaker, because I create my own unique designs myself and sometimes partake in the production process as well. This is because I have a standard and that sometimes requires me rolling up my sleeves and getting to do the work as well.
What’s the greatest challenge you’ve faced in your business?
That would be materials sourcing, most of the materials used for production are imported into the country, and when sourcing materials to produce the design you have created, you discover that some things you have incorporated into your designs are not available, and you will have no choice than to alter your design and work with what’s available. This is a very big challenge because a lot of thoughts and work goes into creating unique designs.
What would you consider your greatest achievement so far? 
There are quite a few and it’ll be hard to pick one as the greatest. In terms of product that’ll be our waterlook mules,it took me about 7 months to create the final design and source materials that’ll bring out the design as intended. Another high moment was when I was invited to a live TV show at wazobia max TV unexpectedly, I got a chance to talk about the journey of Mandy Rachael Designs so far and also joined my voice to the made in Nigeria movement  and why as Nigerians we should always support made in Nigeria brands.
What are some of the greatest lessons you’ve learnt in this business?
As a leather crafter one very important thing I have learnt is to always ensure that you do not leave any stone unturned, never leave anything to chance, and no matter what always stick with your standards, people are watching.
Who would you describe as a difficult client in your type of business?
To me there are no difficult clients, you just need to understand your customer and come down to their level or move up to their level as the case maybe so you understand their plight. Basically just try to see things from their own perspective and flow with it, it becomes easier to deal with them.
Can you share some of your darkest times as an entrepreneur with us and how you handled it?
I have no favorite darkest times because they are days I sincerely do not wish to experience ever again, but then this is life and its full of ups and down, bad times will come sometimes and I usually overcome them by reminding myself silently that it won’t last forever, there’s always light at the end of a dark tunnel.
What would you tell your younger self?
I would tell her to be more confident and believe in herself more.
How’s your daily routine like?
If I’m not thinking up a design or ways to make Mandy Rachael Designs better, I’m on the floor putting some work together or on my machine sewing, or on social media. At night I just chill and catch up on some entertainment news, watch my favorite series on zee world.. 😊 and plan the next day.
What’s the best business decision you’ve made?
That would be starting up Mandy Rachael Designs in December 2015, even though I was afraid and not sure of how to go about it. I started anyways and here I am today.
Do you have a store? How can people reach you?
For now I have no physical store, we sell online.
You can reach me via
email mandyrachael@yahoo.com and on Instagram @mandyrachael www.instagram.com/mandyrachael also on Facebook as Mandy Rachael and Mandy Rachael Designs. 07038897672 (whatsapp enabled)

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