My Business Story

How Entrepreneur Built Fashion Powerhouse From Selling Boxer Pants

Seyi Adekunle ditched his dream for white-collar job and turned his hobby into a cash cow.

When Seyi Adekunle was participating in the one-year compulsory National Youth Service Corps (NYSC) scheme in Akwa Ibom State in 2001, he knew his N3,600 allowee and an additional N1,000 stipend from his place of primary assignment would never be sufficient to prepare him for life after service. 

It’s especially so if he had to purchase nice suits and fancy shoes to hunt for jobs in oil companies or banks where he had always wanted to work.

Seyi looked back at that time with a half-smile: “It was during my NYSC that I caught the vision to start something.  Initially, it was not for the sake of business but for me to make ends meet, to buy my suits, shoes, etc., in preparation for life after NYSC. So, I started making boxer shorts. There were some tailors opposite the secondary school where I was teaching. After classes, I would go there to fix buttons and do some basic tailoring chores. At that point, I didn’t know that was what I was going to do for a living.”

“From saving N50, 000, I began to save N100, 000 and then N1million. When the business grew to that point, I knew it was the right decision and I didn’t have to wait to be called for any paid employment”

Seyi, a graduate of Geology from the University of Maiduguri, soon found himself shuttling between Uyo and the commercial city of Aba, Abia State, to source for fabrics needed for the tailoring business. 

He recalled: “Some of my friends would go to Aba on some days to buy fabrics and I would follow them. Then I found out that I could make a shirt with N200 or N300 and sell it for about N600. However, I still was not doing it as a businessman but just to support myself and have a little extra savings.”

After his NYSC, Seyi left for Abuja to pursue his dream of landing a white-collar job. 

“I entered a night bus,” he said. “It was my first visit to Abuja.  I knew the city had a lot of organisations where I could drop my CV. Interestingly, I took along a few boxer shorts and shirts I had made for my friends; I wanted to do something by the side while waiting for a job.” 

That singular decision became perhaps the most life-changing decision for Seyi. In the days and weeks that followed, it opened his mind to the prospect of fashion designing for the very first time.

He stated: “My first job hunt took me to the then Standard Trust Bank. I had a friend working there, so I brought some shirts for him. While we were hanging out thereafter, some of his friends bought some shirts from me. Two days after, with the little money I made from the sales, I took a night bus to Aba, picked some fabrics from the market and gave them to my tailor.”

From there, Seyi began to express his creativity with fabrics. He was mixing colours, matching stripes and experimenting with various materials. That was how he sowed the seed that would later grow into Vodi Tailors. 

“A few months after I came to Abuja,” Seyi recalled. “I spoke to a guy called David, a tailor in Aba, and told him that I wanted to start something in Abuja. It took me several days to convince him as a young man who had never been out of Aba before to come and join me.”

Seyi was, however, still obsessed with getting a white-collar job. He continued to apply for employment even when he had set up his first tailoring shop at Gwagwalada, a suburb of Abuja, where he was paying a rent of N30, 000 per annum. As he waited for his dream job, his business was growing.

“From saving N50, 000, I began to save N100, 000 and then N1million,” he recalled. “When the business grew to that point, I knew it was the right decision and I didn’t have to wait to be called for any paid employment.”

From a small shop in Gwagwalada, Vodi Tailors has grown to become one of the most sought-after fashion houses in Abuja, with over 100 workers. It is now located at the upmarket Adetokunbo Ademola Crescent, Wuse II. 

Seyi confessed that providing creative solutions to customer’s needs and observing market trends were vital to his success. His clientele base has grown and he has diversified.

He said: “We are now into dry-cleaning (Vodi Clean) while the tailoring arm remains Vodi Tailors. The reason we went into dry-cleaning was because many of our customers complained about the handling of their clothes. Then the female section of the business came out of the fact that when our male clients received their products their wives would start asking how their tailor got to deliver so quickly. Can’t they start making for women?”

But, by far, the arm of the business that gives Seyi the most satisfaction is his fashion training school, which has turned out 1,000 graduates in 16 years and brought him face-to-face with the high and mighty, including the Borno State Governor, Kashim Shettima. 

Now Seyi has even bigger dreams: “I have travelled to over 10 countries to understudy how they produce their fabrics. I have trained in India, China, Austria and Switzerland, and I have seen fabrics being produced first-hand. So, it is my dream that one day we will be able to set up our own textile factory.”