This week, Team LR moves from the motivating poem of last week to the terrain of using ones hands to create things of beauty every eye would want to behold. Do you look down on any profession or craft? If you do, look down no more. Begin to look up and see how every single person in any chosen field makes a positive difference that links into our world’s big picture. This week, we meet Psamy Inneh, a man described on Nigerian Television Authorities International as the ‘proud carpenter who makes carpentry look cool’. This CEO of the Andin Furniture team is a name to reckon with when defining the world of ‘bespoke’ furniture production, interior design and exporting products beyond the Nigerian shores.
Meet Psamy Inneh – the super cool carpenter of world repute
Working as a Soil and Environmental Scientist was fun. It was very interesting to work with Soil and Environmental Pollution Control in the United Kingdom doing remediation work on contaminated soil sites as well as running analysis and remedial work for a couple of affiliated companies attached to cleaning up the oil spill in Ogoni Land. Yes, it was really fun – but was I fulfilled? A big NO! It was at that point I knew that the time had come, to take the bold step and pursue my passion. I can read your thoughts – you are wondering what my passion was. Well, what my passion was then, is still the same thing that is my passion till date.
So wonder no more. It is Furniture making and Interior design.
My name is Inneh Onyeka Samuel and I am the Managing Director of Andin Furniture Nigeria Limited. I was born into a family of five in the early eighties. I hail from Umuaja Kwale speaking part of Delta State Nigeria. I am happily married and blessed with an amazing son. I attended the great University of Benin Demonstration Secondary School (UDSS) before training as a Soil Scientist at the University of Benin, Edo State Nigeria, graduating in 2006. Next, I proceeded to the United Kingdom, where I completed a Masters of Science in Soil and Environmental Science in 2012.
My sojourn or delving into furniture and interiors didn’t start by accident or mere coincidence, to put it in perspective my dad trained as a Furniture maker and in the early 70’s, he started a furniture company. So my early days were spent around furniture making and furniture factories.
Briefly after my 1st degree I joined my dad’s company fully, taking on an administrative role before I embarked on my trip to the UK. By the time it became clear to me abroad that I needed to fulfil my passion which has always been to transform interior spaces into functional mind blowing beauties, I swung into action. I continued to feed this inner vision and decided to fuel it by moving back home to Abuja, Nigeria to set up a furniture-making factory and carve a niche for myself albeit using the same trade name of my Dad’s furniture company in Benin – Andin Furniture.
I came to Abuja from the UK with just two bags and barely knew anyone or my way around but I had to take the challenge head on. This was in February 2013; to be honest it was beyond difficult. In a town where I barely knew anyone and no one knew me. Trying to break into an already difficult market with loads of competitors was by no means easy. There were the existing furniture production companies to contend with as well as the importers of furniture. In this part of the world, what drives client attraction is price and quality offered, so I sat down for days meticulously trying to figure out my target market, their needs and the existing prices of my competitors as well as their product delivery and standards. Abuja is a fast developing city with a lot of on-going real estate projects. This is what I set out to capitalize on. I went from one building project site to the other repeatedly, sometimes waiting long hours just to see the project manager(s) or building engineer(s) to enable me sell myself and my products. Interestingly, these products were not even physical – they were pictures of old jobs I had done way back in Benin City when I was still working in my Dad’s company. Some listened. Some did not listen. However, I was determined and not discouraged.
At a particular site in April of 2013 the project manager said to me “young man the market is already saturated with big companies nobody will listen to you and your iPad”. I left that site angry, but my anger was not directed at any one. Instead, it was the anger that buoyed and fuelled an inner motivation to succeed in my chosen field of furniture production and furnishing – transforming interior spaces into functional mind blowing beauties.
From one site to the other I ran! I continued running around with the little fuel I could put in my car fuel-tank because my only marketing strategy was meeting the end users at source, which was the building sites. Graciously a while later someone was kind enough to listen and gave me a trial run to make a kitchen cabinet for a private residence. Low and behold, I got my first Job in Abuja after four months of incessant hustling.
It wasn’t a big kitchen space but getting your first project felt like a billion dollar contract. Off we went to start the job. Prior to this time I had been able to assemble a team of 3 furniture makers doing small “help me fix this and that” kind of work around plus myself making us four but we had an issue of space to carry out production as I didn’t own a factory at the time plus we had just a few hand tools and no sophisticated machines at all. Luckily for me at the market where the raw materials are sold there are machines there that can get your plywood cut while you pay per board. That was what we did and how we started. We prepared all our materials at the market – better put ‘ROADSIDE’ then we proceeded to the apartment to get the installation done. It took us about three days to install the kitchen cabinets. We put all our pent up passions into doing this job. We gave it our all. The client was beyond amazed when he saw the output. That was the turning point.
In July, a month after, the same client called me, saying he had an entire duplex for me to furnish. There was no turning back now because from then onwards, a lot of referrals flowed in because of the quality of the jobs we were doing. Every new job was an opportunity for my team and I, to out do ourselves and further sell ourselves. So, we ensured the next job was better finished than the last making necessary corrections, sticking to utmost perfection and maintaining very high quality standards while keeping the prices affordable. Soon, the job requests and referrals snowballed; coming from within and outside Abuja.
Then vigorously, my team and I took to Social media: Facebook, Blackberry messenger, WhatsApp, Instagram and Twitter. Displaying the vivid pictures and catalogues of what we do. It was then the job orders started coming from strange people and places, from all nooks and crannies. That was when we realized how big a tool social media was and how a lot of businesses take it for granted. It reaches out far and wide to places you could only imagine. Success felt SWEET! This even drove our work ethics and standards to new heights, making us determined not to rest on our laurels.
At this point I realized my business had to be run properly, funds were coming in, staff strength was increasing so we needed a proper office/ factory for furniture production. In January 2014 we were able to get a land, to build a factory at Kwakwashe Industrial layout in the Zuba district area of Abuja and began equipping the factory with machines. We started with a few hand tools. However, as each new project became bigger than the last, the company began to grow steadily as well as the size and quality of the machines. Today the factory has staff strength of about 20-25 people including apprentices, two 25KVA generators, panel saw, edge-binding machine, spindle moulder 2000-D, amidst other machines and tools.
Aside from furnishing and doing the interior décor for numerous private residences across the country, some of our corporate clienteles whose projects we have successfully completed include:
*Air Force Base Special needs children’s school Abuja.
*The Library carrels at the University of Nigeria (UNN), Nsukka.
*Construction and installation of classroom desks and chairs for Deeper Life High School, Edo State
*Construction and installation of lecture theatre and seats for Federal University of Petroleum Resources (FUPRE) Warri, Delta State.
In 2015 as our size grew and people started identifying with the brand Andin Furniture, we thought to start a FREE 1- 2years vocational training programme on furniture making (which encompasses woodwork, upholstery and welding) to give back to society and empower Nigerian Youths. We seek to dispel the stereotype that vocational jobs are for never do wells, college dropouts and people who have no sense of belonging. I, the Managing Director have a master’s degree and am proud to be called a “carpenter” should you wish to call me so. So why graduates and interested Nigerian Youths cannot pick up the challenge to learn the vocation and get self employed rather than wait for the government or white-collar jobs is something that still bothers me.
With furniture making as a skill set, you have more than enough to cater for your immediate needs and those of your dependants. The furniture business at the start doesn’t need a lot of funding or the luxury of big machines, all you need are basic hand tools: your saw, hammer, Jack plane, measuring tape, chisel etc. Be good at what you do and your products will sell you. Since the free training programme started in 2015 we have graduated about 10 apprentices who are now in the business of furniture making and who will in turn pass on the knowledge gained to others and even to their next generation. The free training programme is still on going for interested Nigerian Youths both male and female at our Abuja and Benin factories for a 2-year period.
The road to the top has been like a bed of roses. Although we are encouraged by the tremendous strides we have made in a short period of time, like I always say being a successful business man needs a lot of hard work, dedication, passion and commitment. The challenges still facing this lucrative business of ours are numerous. One such challenge is the stereotype that ‘Made in Nigeria’ goods are inferior to imported ones. I find this particularly disturbing because in my opinion, it is incorrect and is a symptom of low esteem that arises from the desire to copy and possess all things Western. To be honest, Nigeria and Africa, has some of the best trees used for furniture wood worldwide. With dedication and excellence at our set standards, many of us are at par and most times better in our service, quality and delivery than a lot of the sub-standard items coming in from some countries I’d rather not mention.
Another major challenge is Power. This has been a major bottleneck for manufacturing as it affects the eventual prices of products considering the fact we almost have to run the factory entirely on diesel. The challenges are a lot. None the less, this isn’t to frighten but to inspire and encourage anyone reading this, that against all odds when you set your mind to do something you are passionate about, with that fuel of passion burning inside of you, you will surely explode and be successful.
The growth of the Andin Furniture brand has been entirely up to God, I honestly wouldn’t have gotten this far without Him and I say to anyone who cares to listen that if your put God first the sky would always be your starting point. Need I say more that garnering the support of your family and friends cannot be overemphasized? My wife has been super amazing with her support amidst her tight schedule as a banker putting in words here and there and telling whoever cares to listen that her husband is a carpenter and makes furniture with extreme love and care. To my amazing parents whose support I can’t describe in words, I say thank you. All I know in this business today, I learnt from my dad. To my friends who encouraged me at the very beginning and still do to this day, I am truly indebted.
My team and I have learnt that resilience, drive, hardwork and the fear of God are the necessary ingredients for success in the most difficult patches and terrains. Also any businessman who is climbing up the ladder of success must be brave and ready to take risks albeit smart ones. No dream is too small and no dream is too big. If you think it you can achieve it. Always shut your ears to the naysayers and let your success do all the talking – it is our vision that “Andin Furniture would always provide innovative, quality products and services that represent preferred solutions to customer needs. This innovative environment will be driven by cooperative partnerships with our customers.”
The LR Team member, who worked directly on getting this story out, told us three months ago, that she had found a ‘gold fish’ that could not be hidden. When the entire team had a look at how this man who had been nominated by many other persons to have his story told here was contributing to bettering the lot of his country’s youths by empowering them, we agreed with her that Andin Furniture CEO Inneh Onyeka Samuel, was indeed a ‘gold fish to mankind’ and it would be a disservice to our generation if his motivating achievements and contributions to the lives of others is ever hidden. He has said it all – we must be brave and ready to take calculated risks realizing that none of our dreams are too small or too big. Do you want to share your dreams or your opinion? Hit the comments space via your keyboard as we continue; you and us on our “borderless motivational” mission.