CEO of Blinky Collections, Jennifer Umeh, tells Blessing Enenaite about her humble background and achievements so far
Tell us about your background.
I am a graduate of Mass Communication from the Federal Polytechnic, Offa, Kwara State. I grew up in a broken home with rough experiences of abuse and neglect. My parents divorced nine months after my birth in Nnewi, Anambra State. I was raised by my single mum, grandmother, uncles, and aunties. As a girl filled with many ambitions despite my experiences, I was determined to further my education. My father had no interest in my education. All of this built resilience within me, strengthened my heart, and reminds me daily that I can do anything I set my mind to. I told myself that I could be the best version of Chinonye that will ever be.
You are the CEO of Blinky Collections. How did it all start?
I was bullied at school. I then made haters my motivators and turned my negative experience into a prosperous business by launching a clothing line called Blinky Collections.
You made Whitemoney (BBNaija Shine Ya Eye winner) campaign T-shirt as well as the clothes and caps for the security team of BBNaija final show. How did you bag the deal?
It was strictly by recommendation. One of my old customers recommended me for the job and we delivered excellently.
How much did you make from the campaign T-Shirt?
I cannot say specifically how much we made from the work because it was a continuous production which I was not involved in. My team handled the job while I got feedback from all that was done, took pictures of the work, and uploaded on social media.
Has the deal brought in other businesses for you?
Posting Whitemoney’s T-Shirt on social media brought me other jobs. It also made people to believe in my work and my brand because they knew if I can print for big brands, I can definitely do a good job for them too. Most times, people assume that people who do online businesses are beggars who are looking for something to eat but seeing big brands patronise me, it gives me the opportunity to have other potential customers. Apart from working for Big Brother Naija, I have worked for other big brands in the country as well.
Have you met White Money since he came out of the BBNaija house?
I have not met him. The people who branded the T-Shirt for him are his team members and behind his campaign.
Are you also thinking of taking part in BBNaija in the future?
If I have any opportunity to take part in Big Brother Naija, I will. The reality show helps youths in the country to create awareness about who they are and showcase their talents to the world.
What are the challenges you face in the T-Shirt printing business in Nigeria?
The only challenge I am currently facing is getting enough machines to deliver work to my customers faster.
Did you start the business as a means of survival after your NYSC or was it your dream?
I would say I started the business as a means of survival. My greatest fear after school had been how to find a job. I once got a job in a makeover company after my youth service, where I was not even allowed to pick my calls. When they told me to stop coming to work, I thought that was the end of the world. However, I did not give up.
I started a drop shipping business. I was advertising some printing jobs and whenever people showed interest, I would take the job to a printer to make it for me. I continued like that till I went into the business fully.
Many young people in Nigeria seem to be embracing entrepreneurship than in the past. What do you think is responsible?
Entrepreneurship has the ability to improve the standard of living of people. It also helps to create wealth, not only for the entrepreneurs but also for related businesses. Hence, it is more embraced today. Entrepreneurs also help drive change with innovation where new and improved products enable new markets to be developed. If not for entrepreneurship, I would probably be one of those young people looking for a job.
Running a business really helped to shape who I have become today. Being able to pay 10 people monthly, taking care of my family and giving helping hands to friends, and being able to afford some certain luxury is a blessing. Entrepreneurship made it happen.
Was there a time in the beginning when you felt like quitting this business?
I have never thought of quitting, I love what I do and I am always happy to encourage people who learnt the business from me never to quit. I usually tell my students that better days are ahead. They might not have all the customers they desire now but one day they will get that big contract that will change their lives. Since I have over a hundred T-shirt entrepreneurs looking up to me, I have no reason to give up.
What are your most memorable moments as a business owner?
I have quite a lot of them. The first would be when I got my first contract to print 1,000 T-shirts for a company. Since then, we have got so many contracts. Those contracts are shaping us to become the big brand that we are today. After each contract, I was able to buy one or two machines to make our work easier. Another memorable moment would be when we moved into our new branch, a three-bedroom apartment strictly for the purpose of printing. I couldn’t help but thank God. This new office is a dream come true.
Is there any possibility that you may take up a white-collr job in the furture?
No, there is no such possibility. I am building my business in a way that in the next five years, it will be one of the leading printing firms in Nigeria. I don’t think I will ever take any white-collar job. Instead, I will create more jobs for people in Nigeria.
Apart from T-shirt printing and branding, what are your other areas of interest?
I would love to go into technology. I want to learn technology skills that will help my business to grow. When I am done with that, I would love to pass the knowledge to other people who are interested in tech too.
What’s your advice to anyone who wants to start a T-shirt printing business?
I would encourage anyone who wants to go into the same line of business. It is highly profitable and has low risk. Once you start, don’t underestimate the power of the Internet. Social media will help you grow faster because it has helped me as a person and as an entrepreneur. The success I am seeing in my business today is because of the power of social media. It is a great tool