Peniel is the proprietress of Uyai by Peniel; an African inspired crafts company officially established since April 2012. Peniel has no formal business training but has succeeded in building the Uyai by Peniel brand from humble beginnings to a firm favourite among Nigeria’s young fashion conscious crowd.
Peniel, 26, grew up in Port Harcourt but has spent some time in Zamfara state, Ghana as well as Calabar. She holds a degree in Medical Biochemistry from the University of Calabar and a Project Management Professionals Certificate (PMP) from the College of Project Professionals, Ghana. She took some time out of her very busy schedule to speak with us.
How did you come by the idea of Uyai by Peniel?
Although I love jewellery and have an endless supply of them, a fashion line had never been among my business dreams. One thing was for sure; I wasn’t built to be “an office girl”. I enjoy housekeeping and organizing things, and this led to me establishing Bed ‘n Beyond, an interior design/décor company in 2009. Along the lines, I got fascinated with the exciting colours of African prints and crafts and that is how I found myself in fashion.
How were you able to turn this idea into reality?
When I decided to start Uyai by Peniel, the only fashion knowledge I had were replacing a loose button or stitching a tear on my dress. With determination and zeal, I did my research, read all the fashion books, journals, blogs and how-to’s I could find on the internet. Voilà! My dream came true.
What challenges do you face in the course of running the business?
Business is generally challenging as long as it concerns interacting with other people. Even though the Ankara business is saturated, I’m still pushing. There is practically an eatery on every street in Lagos and they haven’t closed shop because people must eat! That is the same way I know people must be clothed and adorned.
How easy has it been convincing customers to buy African inspired accessories?
I’ve never had to convince anyone to shop Uyai by Peniel. African prints are the most interesting pieces of fabric you see in markets; colourful, vibrant and irresistible. I do have friends and colleagues who tell me daily how they can never be caught in Ankara accessories and I just smile to myself because I know how well I’m doing.
How were you able access the funding to get the business to this level?
I started this business with N0.0 as my bank balance. It’s possible with the commercial bank I use. It was a case of asking myself, “Where do I start from?” I started by showing close friends and family pictures and sketches, they paid, placed order and I used the money to get materials and produce the items. It was stressful, because I always had to put back every penny.
What inspires your designs?
Everything around me influences my designs; colours and shapes have a huge effect on my designs. I always have a camera, pencil, tape and sketch pad in my purse because I never know what I might run into.
Do you make all the things yourself or do you have people who make them for you?
I make all Uyai by Peniel jewellery and gift items myself. I have cobblers who produce the shoes and bags too. My team is made up of four permanent staff and five temps. Even with the items my staff produce, I still try to do all the finishing myself to ensure quality control.
What motivates you as a business person?
My inspiration comes from God. I am driven to do something different when I wake up each morning. Secondly my dad inspires me. I’ve watched my father, an astute business man, go through life and business challenges and come out of it. We may not have a physical resemblance but one thing is certain, I am my father’s daughter when it comes to business and knowing that gives me strength.
Do you have any big celebrity fans or customers?
Nollywood A-list actress and brand ambassador Kate Henshaw has always been a fan and supporter of Uyai by Peniel designs. I operate an online shopping portal so I never get a chance to know the customers personally since most of them shop anonymously.
How can a customer shop Uyai by Peniel?
Apart from the Uyai by Peniel shop in Lagos, we supply to other stores and have distributors spread across Port Harcourt, Bayelsa, Uyo, Calabar, and Abuja. More distributors and agents are always welcome. Customers can shop online at www.uyaibypeniel.com
How do you handle the competition in the African inspired accessories market?
The competition is stiff no doubt and I’ve been discouraged countless times but when I take a look at my creations and the present level of unemployment in the country, it gives me joy to know that I’m privileged to be in this business.
I try to be different from others the best way I can and engage in a lot of marketing thanks to social media.
Uyai by Peniel organises training events. Who is qualified to attend and what does a trainee stand to gain?
The Uyai by Peniel basic accessories training started shortly after I mastered the craft. So far we have held three group sessions and several private sessions in Lagos and Port Harcourt mostly.
The course teaches the basics in accessory making: bangles, earrings, hair and neck pieces, fabric flowers, and gift items. Anybody who has a passion for crafts is welcome to learn. No prior sewing skill is required as it is purely handicrafts.
How do you juggle married life and all the travelling associated with hosting training sessions and attending different fairs?
I have learned to develop a work-life balance over time. I plan my whole year from the start. All my trainings and workshops for the year have been scheduled already.
In cases of fairs and exhibitions, I usually have ample time to accept or decline an invitation that way giving me time to plan. Still, moving around can be stressful.
I have an amazing husband who supports and encourages me all the way, so this takes away most the stress.
Do you have any design role models?
I have no design role model per se. The first thing I search on Google is Uyai by Peniel whenever I go online. For some reason I find myself doing that every day; reading the blogs and posts people put up.
After that I start looking up Ituen Bassey, Christy Brown, and other women in my line of business.
Uyai by Peniel assists people who are passionate and have potential but cannot afford a training class. If you happen to be such a person, contact us and let’s make your dreams come true.
For more information on the Uyai by Peniel brand, visit www.uyaibypeniel.com