A SHOEMAKER, SKETCH ARTIST, WRITER AND INNOVATOR: MEET TOBI AIYENIGBA, C.E.O TOUBIE’S CREATIONS
Jack-of-all-trades is a clichéd aphorism used in description of an individual who possesses a range of skills and abilities, but lacks definite competence in one particular skill. Tobi Aiyenigba though is the presentation of the profile of a 25-year old Nigerian entrepreneur, whose exceptional versatility in shoemaking, portrait-sketching, writing and initiating novel concepts recurrently paves way for him in the business world, and providing him also the perfect springboard into limelight.
Aiyenigba Idowu Olurontobi is the third of four children, born and bred in Funtua, Katsina State. A graduate of Animal Production and Biotechnology from Kogi State University and presently serving as an ordained minister in RCCG, Tobi sheds light on how he started off sketching. “I’ve been a lover of art for as long as I can remember. I started out making sketches for my classmates in primary school when they couldn’t draw parts of the body well. I even got paid sometimes (chuckles). When I got to secondary school, I found out people were willing to pay me to make drawings of their loved ones, so I developed the skill and started to make money out of it.”
Tobi is just as adept in writing as he is drawing. One is instantly fascinated reading through his writings and blog. Such is the infusion of great narratives and insight that symbolizes his write-ups that I was drawn to read all the articles he had published in his blog. “I’ve been writing for a very long time too. I grew up as a shy boy and so I realized that I could communicate more in writing than orally. Though as I grew, I had to develop my oratory prowess. These days, I can’t even say which one I do better.”
By Tobi Aiyenigba:
On his journey towards setting up a business enterprise as an escape from having to go get a job which later led to the creation of the outfit – TOUBIE’S CREATIONS. “It was after I left school I decided to start my own business. While in school, my ideas about business was not properly formed so I couldn’t do anything meaningful. My driving force was freedom. I just wanted to work for myself. After I left school, I got two offers but I turned them down. Toubie’s Creations is a company set to produce handmade products that can compete favorably with other ‘foreign products’ in terms of quality and durability. We make bespoke shoes, bags, artworks and portraits. We also engage in craft coaching. The company was founded in 2010 in my head. We started operation as a business in December 2016. By God’s Grace, we have products outside the shores of Nigeria and over 20 persons who have graduated from our skill acquisition programs and are now doing well for themselves.”
Challenges, of course, are bound to come your way especially when starting out as a juvenile firm established in an unstable economic terrain, “Well, the major challenge is making yourself known. There are thousands of persons doing what you’re doing right now, and if you must make progress, you must stand out which is where the challenge comes. We’ve have about five people working for us here at our Ilorin office. We have distributors and marketers nationwide who are paid by the percentage of what they are able to help us sell. Our net worth (Smiles) I’ll just say we are worth a very cool six-figures as at February.”
Recently, Tobi came up with an outlandish innovation; that is the creation of an Emoji Lapel pin. This ingenious piece of creation is presently catching on quickly amongst clients from far and wide. What inspired the idea and what successes is he now recording with the Emoji Lapel pin? “I was at work one day and I was going through some pictures on my phone. In it, I saw a lady that used an actual phone Emoji to cover her cleavages and…boom! I thought, how about creating something that people can actually wear on…like how about creating something that will enable you wear your mood and hold our tops together, when you have loose buttons. I discussed it there and then with a friend that was present and he said it was a ‘mumu idea’. I decided to make 100 copies, and gave to two persons to help me sell. They sold all that day and were asking for more by the next morning. That was when I knew it wasn’t a mumu idea. We have produced over 1,500 pieces of those emojis and we have them in Abuja, Lagos, Ogun and 10 other States in Nigeria.”
Reading through Tobi’s Facebook profile, it becomes abundantly clear that he’s also a lover of books. Asked how his book-reading culture influenced his personal and organizational development, he states, “I must confess, I am a product of books. Books shaped my thinking. Books gave me a sense of direction. I don’t think I would have done half of what I’ve done today if I hadn’t read books that propelled me to make moves. The more I read, the more my writings get better, and I’m still reading so my writing is still improving.” And his top 3 books he’d recommend to anyone, “Top three books. Hmmm. It’s a tough one but I’ll go with:
- Power of Positive Thinking by Norman Vincent Peale.
- Rich Dad, Poor Dad by Robert Kiyosaki.
- The Power of Seduction by Robert Greene.
Tobi’s dispatch to graduates and serving Corp members who intend upon going into Entrepreneurship, “My message for graduates and serving Corp members who want to enter this ship is that the storms out there are heavy but at the same time, only the tough will make it through. Entrepreneurship is not for ‘Ajebutters’, you need a touch of ‘Ruggedity’ and a mind that is ready to accept failure as part of business.”
Also read: A Man I know
Where does Tobi see himself, his company in the next five years, and where does he see Nigeria as a nation in the same timeframe? “In five years’ time, I see myself as a happy Father, raising kids and teaching them to do what positively makes them happy and not what the society imposes on them. I’m going to be a rich Dad too by then by the way. In five years’ time also, I hope to be among the top ten influencers in Nigeria as I seek to tell everyone at every opportunity that they can be better than they are right now!”
Story compiled by Aramide Salako.