Gbenga Dada is the Creative Director of Artsmith Collections, an accessory brand dedicated to crafting beautiful jewellery for men and women. What really sets Gbenga apart from other popular jeweler is the creative designs he makes that are inspired by his urban upbringing. His jewellery pieces have been seen on eminent personalities in the country.
At what point did you know you were going to do this professionally?
When I became convinced beyond reasonable doubt that this was my destiny, I realised that I did it with ease. I discovered that I drank, ate, slept jewellery. Everything about me was jewellery and I discovered that with ease I could create stuff. It’s just like trying to be a banker and you don’t have strength in accounting, you know you will be struggling to do it. I never struggled to do what I am doings this is something I enjoyed doing and I am very passionate about it.
Did you ever work for someone or an organisation?
Yes, I worked as a publicist in a PR firm and as a fashion journalist for a media house. How has it been doing this for eight years?It has been an interesting journey. There are times when I got fed up and thought to myself this is getting out of hand and I can’t handle this anymore. But what has been pulling me through has been my passion for this job. Not that I didn’t have other options, but I refused to do that and instead I faced what I enjoy doing most. You know, I have had challenges of finances, challenges of having competent and reliable workers, challenges of cantankerous clients and people who just want to tear you down.
Was there a time you were overwhelmed with all these challenges that you wanted to stop doing this?
Yes, there was a time that my business was nose-diving. It was like I had got to the end of it, but I also knew deep down that it wasn’t the end because God called me into this business. And whatever God calls you into will not fail. He will guide and makes sure you don’t suffer any loss. The particular one that hit me was when my sales went down, and, it was if, I didn’t know what I was doing anymore.It was as if I wasn’t creative enough or that my work isn’t good enough for people.
I got to a point that a very good friend of mine said a despicable thing to me. The person said that the few customers that were patronising me were just doing it out of sympathy. At that point, I was really overwhelmed with what was happening to my business. You know, it was bad enough that I was not making sales at that time, and now despicable things were being said about my craft. It was then I discovered a new strategy, turning my pain into power, instead of sitting and complaining about what is happening. I turned my pain into a catalyst something that will propel me. At that point, I pushed myself out; I challenged myself to do something. That was when I did my collection, the “Belles and Jewel collection” and that collection sold out. It scored a big point even among my colleagues that many people started replicating my designs. There was a particular one in the collection that it took my colleagues over a year to be able to replicate the design.
On replicating designs, how do you safe-guard your designs?
Well, we have discussed patenting over and over again but in Nigeria, it’s not working as it ought to. You can actually get your work patented by CAC but that is all about it. When someone copies your work and you want to sue that person, the trauma of going in and out of the court, the money you will spend on the case will not let you. The only thing we are doing is to create designs that will make people find it so hard to replicate. I make my work limited edition now; it may not be all the parts. It may just be a significant part just like the pendants or the bead that I know it is one of its kinds. You know I don’t just buy on impulse, I look out for unique things , if I see that it is not a common type of accessory, I will make sure that I buy everything that the person has, so that when I make my designs, it will be difficult to replicate.
You deal mostly with women and some women can be difficult to satisfy, how do you handle this?
The truth is that, it is by prayers and by the virtue of going for trainings. For instance, training like personal management has really helped me a lot. One of the training I attended, called the emotional brand master class has taught me a better way to handle this. When people offend you, don’t react immediately, sit back, let your emotions settle and then look for a creative way to address the issue.
How profitable is jewellery business?
It is profitable. However, it is in two ways because you have to re-invest into the business. But in terms of sales, it is profitable. But when you look at the profit after re-investing in the business at that point it is not as profitable as it should. The kind of profit you make now can’t take you on a vacation, cruise ride or travelling abroad. At least, now I am happy where I am because this is an investment on my future.
If I am going to start this business, how much do I need to start?
It depends. It’s quite relative because I started with nothing, the person who taught me back then had collaboration with me. At that time, I didn’t want my parents to know about it, so I asked her if I could help her sell her beads, make some money on it and she gave me a go ahead. It was the money I made from the sales that I used to start up. The thing that will guarantee your business is perseverance, creativity and ability to adjust to the timing of your customers. People’s preferences are ever changing, this week it might be this and the following week it is something else, so, you need to be in tune with what is in vogue and you must be dynamic.
In this business, can I make millions of naira?
Of course, you can. How do I make millions?That is why you have to be creative because the people who will pay so much are not looking for what everyone is wearing. They want something different; they want to stand out, so they are looking for bespoke pieces and unique things. So, before you call unto someone to buy jewellery for 50 thousand, you must be offering that person something different. You have to be dynamic, for instance, a person who bought a flamboyant piece from you today might buy something simple tomorrow. So let your clients see new things. You have to cater for different people and you will be fine.
When did you make your first million and how old were you?
I can’t remember the year but I think it was the year after I started training. So, a lot of people were coming in for the training and I had a lot of orders and patronage that year too. I think I made my first million when I was 23 years old.