Meet Noella Fonju, a Footwear Designer and a graduate with an Accounting degree from the University of Buea. Here, she answers a series of questions that reveal a little more about who she is and her journey as an entrepreneur.
1 What is Fonj Shoes all about?
Fonj Shoes is a footwear that designs and manufactures shoes for men, women and children with customers in Cameroon and abroad.
2. What made you start a business in designing and manufacturing shoes?
I love fashion in general but I’m particularly passionate about leather shoes and bags. I had difficulty finding shoes that I liked in my size. I realized that a lot of other people faced the same problem. I did some research and could not find anyone manufacturing shoes in my city, so I decided to take advantage of the gap in the market.
3. How long have you been making shoes and where did you learn how to make shoes?
I began the training to learn how to make shoes in Douala one year after graduating from university in 2017, but I was on and off because I had a full time job at that time. It was in August of 2019 that I decided to fully concentrate on refining my knowledge and skills in producing amazing shoes for both men and women.
4. Why did you quit your job to focus on your business?
Working in banking was a life-long professional goaland I initially tried to convince myself that I should at least work for a while to build capital for my business. Ironically… things did not work out as I anticipated. I had a growing client base for my shoes, and quite quickly I couldn’t meet up demand while trying to handle a full-time job. I had to sneak out of work during breaks to make deliveries which got me into a good bit of trouble and I just couldn’t continue going on like that. I had to evaluate the two options – the job vs my business – and I decided to put 100% of my energy and effort into my business.
5. What are some of the things you have learned while building your business?
You’re the only person who knows exactly what your vision is – what you want and how you want it done. You have to believe in yourself, it is only after you begin to see some degree of success will other people start to support you. Be ready to be everything for your small business – I have learned how to manage my social media pages, close sales, design and manufacture the shoes. Today’s clients are connecting to certain lifestyles and experiences, so you have to ensure that your goods reflect the style clients are looking for and that you can connect and build relationships with your customers.
6. Tell me about a challenge you have faced and how you have overcome it.
It has been difficult pushing back against the mentality that local made goods are of poor quality. I had that challenge at the beginning where clients doubted the quality of my shoes and often proposed ridiculously low prices. I was patient and eventually convinced those clients who doubted, one client at a time that my shoes were of excellent quality and value for money. So there’s been a shift from “so shoes can be made in Cameroon” to “wow great quality shoes can be made in Cameroon” “to now you’re making all my shoes from now on”!
7. How has your degree helped you in your business?
My Accounting degree has been extremely helpful from the basic accounting knowledge which has helped in my record keeping, which is like the most difficult part for most start-ups to managing the costing of raw products and the pricing of goods.
8. What advice do you have for aspiring Africans
I would say the world is evolving very fast and in order to stay relevant and to be able to contribute to society, you need to keep acquiring new skills and knowledge. Also, there’s dignity in hard labor as long as it’s legitimate, so just do anything you want very well. Also that, there are many opportunities in Africa and all you have to do is take the time to identify a need, come up with ideas and run with, it sounds cliché but it’s the absolute truth!
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