Tochukwu Benedicta Ezenma is the vice chairman, Big Ben Fashion and Design Limited, , located at Darlington Muotah Avenue, Road 8, House 4, Iyiagu Estate, Abakiliki Road, Awka, Anambra State. In this interview with CHIGOZIE ANUEYIAGU, she explained how the fashion company is tackling unemployment, promoting entrepreneurship and is a ticket to people seeking to arm themselves in the business world. Excerpts:
TELL us more about BIG Ben
Big Ben Fashion and Design Limited, as the name implies, is a fashion company. I am the vice chairman and my husband, Ezenma Ben happens to be the chairman and CEO. He is also the vice chairman of GSS. So Big Ben is our family business. It is everything about fashion and we have different genres.
We have the factory and we have the brand which is Big Ben itself. We have the school, a fashion academy where we train students on fashion and designing from manufacturing and designing to even the sewing and branding. So, the area we are more interested in right now is the factory in school
So how long has Big Ben been in operation?
It is still a very young business but it is the biggest in the southeast so far and it has been in existence for two years. The brand and the school both started together
How is Big Ben brand different from other brands?
The brand is different for the simple fact that it inculcates different genres. For example, the fashion school makes the brand different. The brand is meant for clothing, singlet, boxers and men’s inner wears. We also manufacture female and kids’ wears too from the scratch. And in our fashion school, we do not train you to come and sew and go home.
We train you on how to manage a fashion business, and we also teach branding and manufacturing. We have different modern machines responsible for different processes of clothing. So, we teach manufacturing, designing, branding, sketching, sewing , etc. Above all, we teach you how to venture and manage yourself and brand in the world of fashion and not see yourself as the same with the tailor in the street.
So your factory manufactures everything that has to do with clothing?
Yes we do, and we have different modern machines for that. We have the monogram machines, the double sewing two threads machine. We have the four needle machine that has one sewing elastic stuff. We have a sewing/weaving machine which sews on top and weaves under.
What is the aim or the big dream of BIG Ben Fashion School?
We intend to train students in the world of fashion, thereby eradicating unemployment and promoting entrepreneurship and competition. Although the school runs for six months, in the nearest future, we plan to make it run a diploma where fashion can be studied as a course for two years or more.
So how do you run your fashion school?
It is a six months scheduled class. The first three months, we teach you the basics of fashion and for the next three months, you advance. It is more like a school because the remaining three months will feel like an internship (I.T) in school where you will write your thesis; you will submit and have a project topic.
We have graduation ceremonies. The best student will be employed by the company to work here. The second half of the six months, we expose them to different machines. I try my best to introduce my students to the modern electrical machine. I learnt with the manual machine and it was stressful. I only have one manual machine and it is just for display. That’s for the sewing, but in the factory, it is all electronic. We also have monogram machine, heat transfer machines.
Can the company accept I.T students from other schools?
Not yet, but we are working on that
Do students pay to learn?
Yes, they pay for the registration form and school fees. Admission is ongoing currently and will end on December 20.
Can you explain how you come across your passion for fashion and the challenges you faced?
WELL, it is all about choices in clothes. I find it difficult to find things that will fit my body. So, it motivated me to learn to sew stuffs that fit my body. So I started learning how to sew corporate dresses, and that’s because I felt the corporate dresses look good on me. So I went to a nice fashion school.
The electrical machines were not so rampant, so our chairman/teacher in the school made provision for weaving and industrial straight machines and one electrical machine and lots of manual machines. We were so many that we were taking turns in trying to learn or familiarise with the electrical machine. So the challenges there were much.
Sometimes, the machine breaks down because it is one and it may not be fixed. At times, before it will get to my turn, the day must have been over. At times, when you want to sew something, you end up with another thing. Fashion will teach you patience.