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Meet Jos teen who taught herself how to make shoes.

 Meet Jos teen who taught herself how to make shoes
Wearing a red hijab, pen and paper in hand, 14-year-old Zainab Mu’azu sits on a wooden stool surrounded by a sewing machine, an iron bed, and a lot of clutter she says are raw materials she needs to make shoes.  

With the pen and paper, she meticulously works on a new shoe design in the small area she uses both as living room and mini factory. Focused and determined to come up with her design, Zainab intermittently stops to scold her younger sister who was doing everything possible to distract her.

As a shoe manufacturer in Bulbula area of Jos North, Plateau State, many say Zainab is lucky. She has no formal training in designing and creating shoes. Instead, her talent had blossomed from the little cobbling jobs she watched her father do, which she sometimes assisted him with as a child.

She recalls helping him polish and mend shoes, and after his death about seven years ago, she had inherited her father’s profession but took it to another level when at the age of eight she began to design and manufacture all kinds of shoes. With six years experience up her sleeve, Zainab’s profession has today earned her much fame and accolades within her immediate community.

“I can remember while I was very young my mother used to give me boiled cassava to hawk, and whenever I was passing the area where my father was working, he would call me to sit with him because he never liked us hawking,” Zainab told Daily Trust. “I used to watch him mend and shine shoes. At times, he would hand over a shoe to me and ask me to shine or mend it and I would eagerly help him out. Whenever I did that, he would reward me with the money for the work,” she said.

But not too long after her father’s death, Zainab did not envisage taking his place. With her little experience as a cobbler, she mended shoes that needed mending in the house, brushed and shined those that needed a glint using her late father’s tools. Armed with a lot of passion and determination, she started to design and manufacture new shoes. “I started from facelifting my old shoes, I would only change the sole but today I come up with my own creative designs,” she said.

Digging into a lot of clutter under the iron bed, Zainab brought out one of her most cherished creations: the first shoe she ever made. “I have kept it all these years to remind me of my first creation,” she said with a chuckle.

The 14-year-old explained: “The idea to make my fist shoe came up sometime before the Sallah celebration six years ago. I didn’t have a shoe to celebrate the festivity so I facelifted another shoe and when I wore it, a lot of people were impressed and asked me to make more for them, which I did.”

“The shoe brought a lot of opportunities for me and I decided, perhaps it was time to take it serious and go commercial. As people began to patronize me, some asked me to make other designs while others brought theirs for shining or cobbling, gradually I began to make my own designs and my own shoes,” she said.

Today, Zainab’s customers come from as far as Niger Republic and states like Kano, Bauchi, Gombe, Kebbi and the FCT. She makes at least 10 shoes a day and the prices range from N300 to N2,500 depending on the quality and size.

Even with a wide range of customers, Zainab says she finds it difficult to meet their demands because she works alone. “Lately due to insufficient funds and power supply I have decided to focus on my customers in Plateau State. I don’t have a generator to ease my work during power outages, and my filing machine is old. It is the machine my father used, and I can’t buy another right now because it is expensive,” she said.

Zainab explained that though she needs apprentices, she cannot afford to accommodate them as her living room-turned-mini-factory can barely accommodate more than two persons. “As soon as I get a big place, I will get young apprentices and women to teach them so they can be self-reliant.”
But despite her challenges, Zainab says she is able to assist her mother and siblings financially and take care of her own needs. “I can feed and clothe myself. I also take care of my mother and siblings,” she says.

The 14-year-old is determined that some day she would establish a world class shoe manufacturing company. “But first, I must get the capital, and get myself a new filing machine, among other things, because I would like to be the best in the business,” she smiled, full of hope and promise.


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