Bino Evanere had spent three years studying Accounting at Ahmadu Bello University, Zaria, before she made up her mind that she really didn’t want to become an accountant.
Her detour could have taken a longer time because Bino’s parents wanted her to study Pharmacy, which would have taken her six years to complete. She would still have found, at the end of it, that she didn’t want to become a pharmacist.
“I have always loved sewing and making dresses,” she said. “I learnt sewing between 1995 and 1997, even before I went to the university. But my parents would not even hear of it. All they wanted was for me to become a pharmacist.”
Fate intervened. In her school certificate examination, she failed Chemistry, a compulsory subject for studying Pharmacy. But her parents didn’t relent. They pressed her to study their next “ideal” course: Accounting.
She did, of course, and endured it for three years. It even seemed, for a brief period, that she was going to like Accounting, after all. After her National Youth Service Corps, she took a job with a private firm where she worked as an accounts officer for five years.
However, her mind kept drifting back to sewing, her first love. She recalled: “Even when I tried to balance my books in the office as an accountant, I was always thinking fashion. I didn’t just want to make clothes, I wanted to be fulfilled.”
She also knew that fashion was evolving. It’s certainly more complicated today than the needle-and-thread business of her childhood fantasy. Yet, she was determined to pursue it, and she decided to start by upgrading her knowledge.
“One of the things I considered was to go back to a fashion school but I did not even have enough funds. I started asking people and checking the Internet for solutions”, Bino said.
She eventually settled for a six-month course at the Women Development Centre, Central Area, Abuja, and set up shop even before she completed her training.
Her husband has been one of her biggest supporters. With a small loan from him and a microfinance bank, Bino bought her first set of sewing machines and other tools, and also rented a small shop at Suite B15 Lifewill Plaza workstation in Gwagwalada.
She said, “My accounting knowledge has not been wasted. It has made me smarter in checking my numbers and keeping my records as well, but sewing is where my heart has always been.”
Her clientele includes 25 high-end customers monthly. With five workers on her pay roll, she made a turnover of N1.5m in the first year and N2.5m in the second year.
How has Bino been able to keep her clients through difficult times and in the current recession? She said, “I listen to them, which is not very common in many businesses that I know. In Biavano Couture, we understand this. We also have a strong sense of our customers’ lifestyles and tastes and make valuable suggestions to them from time to time. Our customer service is second to none. We’re doing a lot with local fabrics and we don’t need to spend big to get value.”
Bino has also used social media to improve her client base. Due to cost and capacity constraints, she has no immediate plans to add online shopping as an option for her clients.
Her advice to aspiring entrepreneurs is, “If you don’t start small, you might never start at all,” she said.