She epitomises industry and has a promising entrepreneurial acumen complemented with her ravishing beauty. There is always a touch of class in all she does which is driven by her love for good taste. Mrs. Chinenyenwa Anene is the Chief Executive Officer of Apha Beddings, an interior decoration outfit based in Onitsha, Anambra State. In this interview with Peter Uzoho, she speaks about her business and sundry issues
What inspired you to go into this line of business?
I am inspired every day. Beautiful objects are an endless supply of inspiration; because I’m a visual person, images often give me the map to my final design. I love playing with colours too; you can give me a pass mark on that. I often flip through my favourite shelter mags – Veranda, Elle Decor, and Architectural Digest – to catch an interesting detail and to see what my eye is naturally drawn to. I like to break the interiors down, identifying how the room is pulled together. I would never copy a look but I like to decode the designer’s process. I often draw on historical references and reinterpret them with today’s materials in a timeless, elegant way. And when I am in need of more inspiration, I dig so deep in the internet.
Who are the services of Apha Beddings targeted at?
Our company is out to satisfy everyone that is truly able to identify quality, taste, uniqueness and professionalism.
How do you get your products?
Most of the materials we use are manufactured locally. We deal majorly with made-in-Nigeria furniture since we have more solid woods here, but for the ones that we can’t produce, we import from Turkey, London, America (e.g. reed diffusers, flowers and flower vases, throw pillows, figurines, chandeliers, antique console mirrors, American beddings, etc).
Looking at when you started and where you are now as a businesswoman, how
would you say you have fared?
I started my first showroom officially in 2013, and it’s been amazing all these years. I have had my highs, my lows, and the lowest ebb in this business. Sometimes I feel like quitting because my staff are mostly men and working with them needs extra patience and wisdom. But then, God has indeed been great to me. I am not where I want to be yet but where I am now is better than where I was when I started it about four years ago.
What else would you have loved to do apart from interior decoration?
I would have been an Event Manager, because it’s still a creative business. I tried it years back before delving into interior decoration, but because I was naive and younger then, I couldn’t move on after my first year in it. Hopefully, in future I will still go back to it because its services are almost similar to interior designing. It still boils down to working with objects, spaces, images and colours.
In your service provision, what do you do different from your contemporaries?
I try to be myself. I try not to be intimidated by those that have really made name in the industry. I always call the big sisters in the business for one idea or the other, and I give them the kudos. I try to take it little by little; one step at a time. We will all get to our divine destinations in different times. I try to be creative and also check blogs to see new designs and try to infuse it in any job I am handling. We all have different aesthetic gifts; I know with time and with God by my side, my small company will be a household name in the industry.
You are operating in a saturated industry, how do you manage to survive?
The key to success in a saturated market is change. Change is a synonym for opportunity. If you don’t know what’s changing with your customers and competitors, your customers will buy from those who do. And that’s precisely where new businesses have an edge. If you’re really good at keeping your finger on the pulse of the industry and the waves of change, that often sets you apart from the competition. Small businesses that differentiate themselves are able to thrive in the most competitive environments. My advice is to do your homework, define what makes you different and embrace that difference wholeheartedly. No matter how crowded the industry is, even if it’s full of major brands, you can achieve success by setting yourself apart. Whether that means reinventing industry standards, taking a new approach to the business model or offering something customers can’t refuse, carving a niche in the most saturated market is possible with commitment and creativity.
What are the challenges confronting operators in the business?
It has not been easy running a furniture business. You will agree with me that as you are expanding the business, the challenges and successes are also expanding. We encounter a lot of challenges as the business is growing, but we have developed a mindset of seeing challenges as opportunities for further growth. As a manufacturer, the biggest challenge we are facing today is that we have to import all the needed raw materials for production. There is no single company that produces MDF, HDF and MFC boards in the country up till date. The other challenge is the non-availability of power supply; it eats so deep in our finances.
We are living in a modern society where people almost on a daily basis are becoming more and more sophisticated and this affects their taste in interior design. So how do you satisfy their ever changing taste?
We are simply different in style and in taste. We tune in to the personality and considerations of our clients. Our business has grown simply by the testimonials and referrals from our existing clients. In my opinion, that is the best measure of satisfaction.
Before you ventured into interior decoration, did you identify a need you wanted to solve?
Our focus is to build our capacity to be able to export our products beyond the shores of this country after satisfying the local demand. It is going to take us time and it will be capital intensive, but we are committed to generate foreign exchange by exporting our products with God by our side. Our focus will be to serve the Nigerian market, then move to neighbouring African countries before taking the global market, ranging from home, office, school and hotel furniture. Alpha Beddings ‘n’ Interiors guarantees not only quality but durable and pocket friendly products. The uniqueness of our products makes us stand out in the industry.
In what ways is your business impacting on Nigeria’s economy?
Remember we do more of made-in-Nigeria furniture, we source our raw materials locally and internationally, our furniture makers are all Nigerians and by that we have offered employment to certain people. The company has a staff strength of about 10 people, and we buy Nigerian products to grow naira strength. I source my products internationally and locally but 70 per cent are locally sourced, because we do more of furniture, i.e. living room sofas, wardrobes, kitchen cabinets, beds, shelves and racks. But because of my versatility in the business, I do a comprehensive total package interior- house, hotel, office interiors, thereby making us to import some products like curtains, blinds, figurines, beddings etc.
Your business is located at Onitsha; is that area a fertile ground for the business?
It depends on what we offer the public. We have brought a touch of class and something different closer home and, so far so good, it’s not been a bad journey, although every business comes with its own challenges. However, I am so dogged in spirit that I don’t let my environment dim my light. My background can never keep me on the ground. Onitsha is like my take off point, I have my mini furniture factory here, but our intentions are to spread out tentacles for a wider coverage. We hope to have branches in key developing states in the nearest future by His Amazing Grace.
What is your source of confidence in the business?
My whole confidence is from God, the way maker. I know by His grace, we will be a household name in Nigeria.
Starting up an interior decoration outfit, what does it entail?
You talk about space, location, design and budget.
How did you come about the name ‘Alpha Beddings?’
The name is a Biblical name. I had wanted my business name to have a biblical connotation to it, hence the origin of the name, “Alpha (meaning the beginning)”.
You are married with children, how do you juggle between your roles as a mother and wife and as the CEO of Alpha Beddings?
The mode of running my home and that of my business are both on parallel lines; my family stands first in my life. The nature of my business is so family friendly that I work mostly from home when my kids are on holidays. It’s not really time consuming except when we are working on a particular site(s). I have trusted hands working with me; my role is basically the aesthetic and designing aspect. I can run my interior showroom and my online business from anywhere. Besides, my kids are all grown; they are in the universities and high schools and, I am just left in the house with my husband and it makes the whole journey a smooth one.
Finally, how would you describe yourself?
I am an industrious and entrepreneurial woman; a great motivator, God-fearing and down-to-earth. I love God and I aspire to live a life worthy of emulation. I am averagely nice and respectful. Most importantly, I am a very good wife to my husband and good mother to my kids. By God’s grace I am the CEO of Alpha Beddings ‘n’ Interiors, Alpha Hair and Alpha Feets ‘n’ Bags. I am from Anambra State and, the first child of my parents. I studied Psychology at the Nnamdi Azikiwe University Awka, and did my MBA in Business Administration at the National Open University of Nigeria. I am multi-tasking in nature and have my hands on so many things. I ventured into interiors in 2013. It was borne out of my love and penchant for colours and space arrangements. Beside interior decoration, we also deal in ladies designers bags and so many other things. Other things we deal on can be seen in our website www.alphabeddingsninteriors.com I strive to be the best in everything I do.