Nonso Ugo is the talented and enterprising jewellery maker who is making waves in Abuja and it’s environs. She produces her colourful pieces under the OMA accessories brand and retails online and at the company’s Maitama store.
Nonso, 29, spent her childhood in different parts of Nigeria. In fact, she has lived in 12 out of the 36 states. She discovered her talent at University where she studied Environmental Biology and was able to lay the foundations for her business idea. We talk to her to learn about the steps she took to turn her hobby into a profit-making venture.
How did you get into bead making?
Years back I received a bracelet from my cousin, it cut after a while and I set out to fix it. I succeeded, made another bracelet afterwards and that was it.
At what point did you make the transition from a hobby to a business?
For me, bead making is both a hobby and a business. But I started selling my products in Uni. People admired my personal collection and I realised that there was a huge demand for beads. However, OMA developed fully as a business after my youth service.
Was it hard combining bead-making with academics?
No, it was not. I made and packed all the beads during the holidays. All I did during the academic semester was sell and this took place only after lectures or back at the hostel.
Did you have to take a course in jewellery making to acquire the more complicated skills?
I have never taken a formal course in jewellery-making but I have had to ask advice from some more experienced bead-makers especially with some complex designs.
Can these skills be picked up easily?
Yes, basic skills can be learned easily. But to keep up one would need to have a great sense of creativity and of course a passion for bead making
What influences your designs?
A passion for uniqueness, hints from nature and the fashion world as well as the customer in question play a role in this.
What are your favourite pieces of accessories to make?
I love making the “shamballa”. It is amazing what one can make out of a simple thread!
On an average, how long would it take to make one of your masterpiece necklaces? And are there certain time of the year when business moves faster?
With all the materials in place, it takes about 11 hours. Festive seasons especially Christmas are usually busy times for us.
Do certain classes of customers prefer certain types of accessories?
Yes, the “society woman” would love a piece that will make a statement at a glance and a banker would want something different. At the same time, a student would want an affordable yet trendy piece and the list goes on.
Do you have a company? What are your growth plans for the coming year?
My company name is OMA and it is registered with the Corporate Affairs Commission (CAC). In April 2013, we plan to organise a skill acquisition/training program for young people who love the art of bead making. Also, there is a face of OMA contest and exhibition in the pipe lines. We would definitely keep you informed as things unfold.
Do you offer training classes and how can young people access this training?
So far, I have only been able to offer one-on-one training classes. However, the training programme coming up later in the year will be easily accessible to the young people of Abuja and nearby.
Have you faced any challenges being a jewellery maker in Nigeria?
Yes, I have faced several challenges so far. Top on the list is trying to convince Nigerians to stop patronizing the foreign bead makers. Acquiring the materials needed to compete with these foreign jewellers has been a challenge to me. But I must add that as we the local bead makers get older in the business we are finding ways to mitigate these challenges. The high point of the business for me is yet to come.
What will you say to motivate or encourage a young person who is interested in making a living off jewellery making?
I will say believe in you. Be sure you have a passion for the business because with passion comes creativity and creativity is everything in jewellery making.
Lastly, be sure to attend the OMA skills acquisition programme.