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Feyisola Abiru studied Dramatic Arts at the Obafemi Awolowo University, Ile-Ife, graduating in 1991; however her passion has always been enhancing living spaces. This passion began to be exhibited early in her teenage years. When she got to Ife, people began to notice that her space always stood out. So, close friends and relations provided the training ground as she began to hone her skills in interior decorations with free make-overs. When she got married to her husband, Tokunbo, a Lagos accountant, she took it upon herself to set up their home; this she did working with a number of artisans. By the time she was through, she had turned their apartment into a home. This brought great delight to her husband and their friends who visited. The appealing job she did at her home caused people to start placing orders for interior decoration jobs. These contracts gave birth to Home and You. Incorporated in 1997, Home and You Limited is a living space enhancing company, providing furniture and furnishing services for homes, offices and schools. It manufactures all its furniture locally, from its expansive workshop in Ogba, Lagos, using the best materials sourced with diligence from local and offshore suppliers. Its line of candles and diffusers are simply outstanding, helping to create scented environment conducive for work and play. Home and You, like every other start-up, had its challenges. When the company started, it took a strategic decision, which is, to outsource the production of furniture products to local artisans. The artisans’ workshops were used for production so she had absolutely no control over quality as well as the time of delivery. In addition, the artisans she selected seemed to have been infected by the same virus that keeps most artisans from excelling: Indiscipline. Consequently, their output was low and very unpredictable; she couldn't satisfy her customers. Then she came to a realization that doing things differently was the only way to stay on in business. Doing things differently, in her case, meant having more control over the production of the furniture. Feyisola sought her parents’ consent to turn a family property in Ogba, Lagos into a factory/workshop. They granted her request and Home and You still manufactures its furniture from the property. The space was modified and the company procured some hand tools and wood working machines; carpenters and artisans were employed on a contract basis, that is, their pay was tied directly to the work they did. Only the production supervisor was on the staff of the company. However, the company was soon faced with a new set of challenges: lack of commitment from contract staff, pilfering and waste of materials, slow output and poor work quality. Besides, the factory lacked modern furniture equipment, hence the workers had to either outsource or improvise. Challenges are good for the entrepreneurial adrenalin; Feyisola found herself again at that point where she had to take very significant step to grow the business. She decided to embark on a large-scale expansion that would significantly impact the business: Home and You turned to the Bank of Industry. The company did not match up to any of the bank’s requirements. Nevertheless, Feyisola decided she would do everything required to meet the Bank’s requirements. Meeting the BOI’s requirements meant Home and You had to improve and update its accounts, constitute a Board of Directors and set up proper corporate governing structure; improve its operations and processes, develop an efficient organizational structure and submit a proper feasibility study that would look critically at its business model and the furniture business in Nigeria. For her growth to be guided, Home and You invited Chief Olusegun Oladipo Osunkeye, OFR, OON, former Chairman of Nestle Plc. to head its Board. Home and You remitted backlog of taxes to the Federal and Lagos State Governments; its accounts were improved and updated; the use of contract staff was discontinued and permanent factory workers were hired instead. The company began to seek international exposures by attending relevant conferences and exhibitions. And to cap it all, Feyisola headed to the Lagos Business School for the Owner Manager Programme. There, she understood the relevance of the demands BOI was making. After going through the course programme, the first action she took was to move from the one room the business occupied within the Barcelos complex in Ikeja into a much bigger space. Eventually, the BOI facility was approved in 2005. Home and You acquired machines and updated its production facilities. The result thenceforth has been rapid growth. Today, it occupies a massive showroom in Lekki, Lagos that also accommodates a design studio for her three – man design team. Its output and quality have improved tremendously. In 2010, Home and You launched its candle and diffuser line, a testimony to Feyisola’s passion for fragrances. As an individual, she loves exotic loud perfumes but on a typical day at work in the factory, she settles for the mild scents. These have impacted her range of fragrances. You will find a mix of the strong like Sandalwood, Bergamot to mild Camomile, Fig and Gardenia. It has been ten years since that financing activity and demand for the Home and You products have increased considerably. Feyisola envisages that in the next ten years, production will be predictably huge and if the company moves smartly, it may become a game changer in the furniture industry. Therefore, Home and You is planning a bigger and purpose-built factory with a fully automated international standard production line and the provision of new production machines which will allow for high volume output as well as precision dimension cutting. The company would expose its staff to international best practices. Its business focus will shift to developing multifunctional and easily adaptable products for schools, home developers, offices, hotels and interior designers and decorators. Therefore, to prepare for this new level, Feyisola went back to school in 2015. The prestigious IMD, Switzerland helped to open her eyes to new opportunities and the tough road to growth and market dominance ahead. She is poised to make Home & You the IKEA of Nigeria, where customers can assemble furniture for home and office on the budget. Feyisola is not just an entrepreneur. She is a multitasking wife, mother, daughter, sister, and aunt. She also has a busy social life. In addition, she has written a book, "Bring out the Home in You", published in 2010, and a collection of her works have been published in ThisDay. She advises young aspiring entrepreneurs to be focused and tenacious; to work hard; work smart; learn continually; acquiring new knowledge in their chosen field every day.
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