Goodness Adeosun wanted to please her cousins who were visiting from abroad. She wanted them to go back with souvenirs, things they could not readily find when they returned to America, carefully handmade things. She decided that crocheted shoes fit these specifications.
She had been involved in crocheting prior, but nothing that had to do with shoes. Only beads. This was going to be new territory for her. She made the shoes successfully.
However, her cousins did not come to Nigeria, so she started to wear the shoes to school. She made sandals too and wore them to school. People saw them and loved them. They wanted her to make similar designs for them. She did.
“The first year was really, really cool,” she tells me over the phone. “No issues with customers or anything like that.”
However, there were some challenges. She did not own a proper workshop or enough tools to execute her works, for example. “I only had my crochet pin and my yarn…so I used to go from shoemaker to shoemaker, begging them to let me use some of their equipment,” she laughs as she reminisces.
She also did not have a brand name. In 2018, she opened an Instagram account for her business and named it Gudy Shoes, a name inspired and coined from her name “Goodness.” Later, it occurred to her to use the name as her official brand name. At that point, she needed to do more research and background checks on the name. “I searched Instagram and I noticed that a lot of people and brands bore that name. So I had to change it to Gudie. Still the same pronunciation but a different spelling,” she explains.
It was not hard for her to get customers. She ascribes this to several things: one, her products were unique; two, she had excellent marketing skills; three, she sold to university students at a price they could afford.
“I sold for around 1,500 naira – 1,700 naira. It was something they could afford.”
She recalls getting so many customers that it became difficult to keep up with her studies as a student studying dental surgery. Although this year has been the toughest year for her business, it hasn’t ceased to flourish. She has sold over 500 pairs of shoes from January to May; her brand has expanded remarkably during this time as well. “…And I still can’t figure out why it was so difficult,” she says.
She guesses that the challenges came from the increased patronage and sales she and her team were making; she had to increase the number of materials she was buying for production, she also had to increase the scale and speed with which she and her team were making productions. It was an unprecedented time and the team was at a loss on how to go about it. This resulted in mixing up orders, mistakenly buying the wrong materials, not responding to some customers, among others. “Even now, I am trying to replace a customer’s orders, about 10 pairs of shoes that were bad because the materials we used were not good, and we did not notice that initially,” she says. That is one out of many similar losses.
To curb this, she hired more hands. However, that came with its challenges. “When you give your work to other people to carry out, they cannot do it exactly like you would have done it. They are not me and so they couldn’t do it like me even though they try their best to make it look like Gudie products.”
Now, she has one main person working directly for her.
When people learn that she is a medical student, they wonder how she merges such distinct parts of her life. Adeosun finds it helpful to infuse her knowledge from school into her shoe making business. There are customers who come to her with oddly specific requests; some have troubles with their feet, muscles, or even bones, they ask that their shoes be made of materials that can alleviate their troubles. “I am a medical student; I know what the bones want, I know the muscles involved in walking. So I already know what kind of materials to use to aid customers with orthopaedic issues.”
Some customers have healing injuries on their legs and come to her with specifications on shoes that would hide the scar without necessarily worsening the conditions of the injury.
“In a case like that, I already know the materials I need to source to do that, sometimes I could even help in making the wound heal faster with the kind of materials I use.”
Though stereotypes associated with women are largely harmful and have served as catalysts for widening the gap in pay inequality, Adeosun’s case is one of the rare ones where they have worked to her advantage. Customers trust her to do a clean and meticulous job because of her status as a woman. “They say to me, ‘I know women can be very careful and meticulous so I trust you to do a very good job.’ So really, it helps get me customers,” she explains.
During her first year of production, Adeosun made little profit. Since she had not garnered a large audience at the time, she decided that she would not focus on profits yet, only on making her shoes accessible. She spent 24 hours making a great pair of shoes and selling them at a giveaway price of 1500 naira. Consequently, she began to make a profit of 500 naira on each pair of shoes. That was still bad, considering the time and effort it took her to produce the shoes. Still, she was determined to create a large customer base before shifting her focus on profit.
“Now, Gudie shoes sell at around 10,000 naira per pair and we make massive sales,” she says.
For Adeosun, 2021 is the year where she learnt a lot from her mistakes and about production.