Nneamaka Nwosisi is the founder of Maknisy Collections, an indigenous accessory brand. Her handbags and footwear are well sought after for their quality and style. She is also a mother of triplets, three adorable boys. Lets learn more about this very hardworking lady.
Amaka, please tell us a little about yourself
I am the middle child in a family of five kids and we had a lovely and adventurous childhood growing up in Enugu. My Dad, God rest his soul, was a business man and my mum was a civil servant and they made sure we had the best they could afford to give us while instilling values of hard work, honestly and accountability in myself and my sibling. My mum was very creative and would make us do some craft work, skills learning activities and cooking at an early age. It is evident that this paid off because it made me think outside the box, even as a little child. My early education, leading up to my undergraduate studies, took place in the eastern part of Nigerian. I have a BSc in Estate Management from Abia State University Uturu, Okigwe and an MSc in Social Work from the University of Bristol, United Kingdom. I also just completed the Mandela Washington Fellowship of Young African Leaders and was hosted by the Red McCombs Business School at the University of Texas in Austin United States.
You are an extremely talented handbag maker and designer, what led you into this passion?
I am that girl that owns a red bag in every shade of red you could think of. I have always had a love for bags, I still remember the first bag my mum bought me, it was purple and I wore it with everything. It gave me such a confidence boost. I still remember how good I felt matching it with everything, not caring if it worked with whatever outfit I had on at the time. When it comes to shoes I have always had a fascination as well as I was always tall for my age growing up and, as you can imagine, my feet reflected this. I had really big feet and I could never find shoes to fit. So when I grew up and I could buy my own shoes I became a collector. Then when I found myself without gainful employment in 2011, I decided to learn to make what I loved and had interest in. Initially when I started a lot of my friends and family didn’t get it and people would ask me “you make bags and shoes why?” and my answer was my explanation above, I love bags and shoes more than clothes really. My motivation grew after I started because there were not a lot of people in Nigeria who made good quality bags and shoes. This passion further developed as a few months into the business, I noticed from requests I was getting from customers, that there was a huge gap in the market for customized fashion accessories. This realization gave me the drive to continue and here I am today.
I know your family are fans but has it always been like this, did they always encourage your craft?
My mum, like I said was very creative and a big fashionista so she would force us as kids to join her whether we liked it or not to learn whatever her new invention was at the time. So she was my biggest fan when I started and it helped that I supplied her with different bags and slippers for every occasion. My Dad was also very encouraging and would cut out fashion bags and shoes in newspapers and magazines and send them all the way to Abuja to me. When I started my business, my Dad knew how much I had worked on getting a job and knew I was not happy staying idle, so he did all he could to encourage me. He told me many times just keep it up and remember if you work hard and run your business right you can never fail. My parents gave me a lot of tips and were always proud to show off my work. My husband on the other hand didn’t get why I wanted to make bags and shoes in the first place but he encouraged me anyway. He was my go to person for all my designs, business questions and consigns. I was very lucky to have his support as I believe that has been a very big help in growing my business. He named so many of the bags indirectly without even knowing when I asked what he thought of a design. He is my rock and he cares about everything that concerns me, so yes I have had family support from the very beginning.
How do you derive inspiration for your bags?
Inspiration for my designs come from what I see every day, I can get inspired to mix or use certain colors just by seeing how a lady has combined an outfit. I have a very photographic memory when it comes to fashion accessories so I am also inspired by creations of other designer out there. Another big part of my inspiration comes from my customers, because they know I can create these bags from scratch, you don’t want to know how many tips and design consultation I get on a daily basis. It’s just beautiful because so many of my creations are spin off of requests and tips from customers, friends and family who actually use my products. I am beyond blessed in that department. The fact that my business is also employing young men and women in my community who are bread winners is also a big push. It reminds me that I can’t chill too much or lose focus as I have people relying on my creativity, and my impact in my immediate community is key.
Apart from winning a grant for You Win and bagging some awards you are were a participant in the former President Obama initiative program for Young African Leaders. How’ amazing! Please tell us about it and how you felt when you heard you were one of those chosen.
Yes I am. It’s called the Mandela Washington Fellowship for Young African Leaders. It’s a US Department of State fully sponsored program for 1000 youths from sub Saharan Africa doing remarkable things in their communities and countries. We are group under 4 categories/tracks, Business and Entrepreneurship, Civic Leadership, Public Management and Public management under Energy. We were all sent to the United States for a 6 week all expenses paid program where we are taught at designated universities and exposed to the American culture and the ways they run their enterprises to learn why they succeed and the best practices to help us excel in our chosen fields.
When I heard I was chosen, I literally started to jump. I can remember very well, I was in my kitchen preparing lunch for the chidren when I got a call from my friend Judy, who had sent the application link to my book club group on the very last day of the application to say she was chosen and that I should check my email. I open my email and once I saw congratulations from YALI Lagos, I stated to jump and shout thank God. I felt so blessed and privileged to be thought worthy of going to the Mandela Washington Fellowship. I quickly called my husband to tell him, then soon after called my dear friend Oduenyi Okonkwo who was the one that called me and was so adamant that I apply for the program once she saw the post despite my reluctance to apply. I gave excuses that I was a tired nursing mother of three at the time of the application, and that it was also the last day. She didn’t take any of my excuses, so I am blessed to have a good friend push me to achieve what she believed I deserved.
We see you as a beautiful, vibrant business woman but for many years you were unable to conceive. How were you able to cope with that season in your life?
It was not easy waiting to have children for the first 7 years of my married life. But I had faith in God that it will happen when He was ready because He never fails. I had my biggest support in my husband who never for one day made me feel that we were missing anything by not having children then. I didn’t know how he did it, but he was my rock. We also had very good extended family support who prayed and encouraged us through those times. I had a good network of close family and friends, my sisters Onyeoma, Chinenye and Chinwe. My best buddy Chinenye Okanime and friends of the Mountain Moving Divas fellowship who prayed with me always and made me part of their life’s and family.
Now you have to work with those boys how are you able to juggle the demands of raising triplets and your job?
My dear I am a super woman specially ordained by God and this is something I remind myself of frequently. I also remind myself that my children are indeed miracles from God, imagine having the privilege to birth three nations. I call them divine children of God and that feeds my strength. I am able to juggle because I have good support from my husband, mum and my nannies. My staff are also very efficient and that eases the workload. I must say it’s still hard work but I put my super woman crown every day, dust my feet and get on with life. After all I am blessed to be alive to live my dream.
How do you unwind?
I watch my favorite TV series, read or chill with family and friends.
What advice do you have for young women who are looking to start a similar business and are confused?
Find something you are passionate about and that passion should also be something that works in reality. Work hard at it and find mentors who will support you. Read, research, focus and remember that success does not happen overnight. I have been at mine for 5 years and counting. Finally, do have in mind that we live and learn and that hard work never killed anyone.
Thanks Amaka you rock!