Popular city clothier, Ifeanyi Okonkwo, a man of style and creativity is the brain behind Message, a fashion store that has been running for the past 13 years. He is set to open a lounge and restaurant in the upscale area of Ajah, Lagos.
He spoke with ENCOMIUM Weekly about his new found interest and much more.
Can you tell us the success secret of Message?
The success secret of Message is that we have chosen to be different. Like our name says. We keep passing the message to others. For 15 years that we have been in the industry, we have chosen to be different, we are big in the fashion industry and we look for things that are different.
What master plan did you have at inception?
When I started out, I actually came to take over and play my own part in the fashion industry. I wanted to be big, doing something different. I wanted to create an atmosphere where fashionistas can shop, giving them the best quality and style for their money.
What are the pains and gains?
The passion to continue growing, you don’t just look at the profit, passion, to me is my first love. Even when I am not making money I am stuck in the business. The gain has been good, it has put food on the table and taken care of my family.
The pain is equally enormous, government wahala, running a clothing business where there is no power supply. We run our generator every day. We can’t afford to put it off because we sell exclusive and luxury goods and customers have to buy in a beautiful and conducive atmosphere.
So, we run the generator 24 hours. Nobody has been to Message without seeing the light on. It costs a fortune to run a generator every day.
What about the challenges?
What I have just explained is part of the challenges. To be consistently different, there is a whole lot to do because the best is always at the top. We strive to be one of the best, we strive to always be on top. Staying on top is not easy as well, because the younger ones are coming up every day.
So, one just has to be steadfast. We keep doing what we know how to do best because we have been generally accepted.
We learnt you are setting up a lounge?
Yes, yes. I am going into hospitality business. I am opening a lounge and a restaurant. I am going into partnership with a very good friend of mine. He is an ex-banker with 18 years experience. His name is Don Nzeribe, Arthur Nzeribe’s first cousin.
What inspired that idea?
I love beautiful places for relaxation. Over the years, I have found myself going to some nice places and I kept nursing the idea of creating a place where people can enjoy in a nice ambience. So, I have a lot of ideas.
The time has come for me to bring them to realization. That was the inspiration.
What will happen to Message since you are setting up a business different from it?
No. Message is still there, Message is my first love. Message is creativity personified which is part of me. Message is a structure that will be there for eternity.
How much did the lounge gulp and what are the facilities it has?
It cost a lot of money but we don’t want to mention any figure. The plaza is a new building, it has plasma TV, air conditioners, projectors. We bought a brand new generator for the business. The generator itself costs N8 million plus. We have all the facilities you can imagine and everything to make you comfortable in there.
When will it be open for business?
Business has started already but we have not opened officially. We are looking at August 3, 2012, for the official opening.
There are a lot of lounge both on the mainland and Island, why should celebrities patronize yours, what is unique about it?
This question comes up all the time. Just like fashion houses, there are a whole lot of fashion houses and lounges. Message, as a brand is making profit so is the lounge business, there are a whole lot of other lounge businesses as well but I am sure, the good ones that are on top of their business are making money. It’s something that you should throw to the public, they will decide where to go.
I don’t believe anybody will come in there and will not want to come back. It looks different from any other lounge. I guess, for those that love my style, they will want to stay. The lounge is at Ado Baderin, it is in Hope Plaza, Ajah, Lagos.
What is your business philosophy?
Total satisfaction for our customers.
As a businessman, will you say you are fulfilled?
No. there is still a whole lot to do. I don’t think we have gotten to the pinnacle of where we want to be. The country comes with a lot of obstacles but we are alive and still hoping, but I know I am going to get there.
It is just a matter of time. I am thankful to God for taking us this far though.
What more should we expect from Ifeanyi Okonkwo?
I still have a lot of projects I want to go into in the nearest future. I want to have the first antique Victorian store in Nigeria. I cannot find such in Nigeria yet. I usually visit such places when I go to Spain, Italy and England.
There is no antique store that sells property in Nigeria, I will love to own one very soon. After this project, maybe that is the one I will delve into.
- This story was first published in ENCOMIUM Weekly on Tuesday, July 31, 2012