The demand for furniture isn’t going to wane anytime soon. If anything, it’s rising fast; thanks to Nigeria’s rapidly growing population, we’re going to need more chairs, tables and beds to keep us relaxed for a long while yet. Actually, we’ll require tens of millions of them in the next couple of decades.
The furniture business presents a vast world of ever expanding opportunities. If you’re going into it with all the right information and tools, you’ll very likely benefit from healthy revenues and begin gathering handsome gains in a relatively short period. You can achieve this, even with fairly small startup funds.
You probably stand a better chance of spinning profits if you’re selling locally made furniture from a craftsperson you’re working directly with. While there’s a taste for imported furniture among upper middle and higher income buyers, the majority of your potential customer base fall within the lower middle and low income brackets. You’ll want to reach them with affordable products, and locally produced furniture are often more likely to fit their budgets.
A Few Things to Note
We have just pointed out that there’s greater demand for locally made furniture in Nigeria, and that you could work with local carpenters to help produce the items you’ll sell to your customers.
You can either hire one or more furniture makers to work for you at your own facility, or partner with independent furniture makers to make things for you, as your customers order for them.
But if you are skilled enough, you can start off by making the furniture yourself. This works if you’ve gotten some sort of training in this area, either formally or as an understudy with another craftsperson. Gaining the right kind of experience from this could take a few years. Weigh the options, and decide if you’re willing to put in that time to learn from people who has established themselves in the business.
There’s more preliminary information for intending furniture makers in our article, Four Things You Need to Know to Start a Furniture Company.
Steps to Setting Up a Furniture Business
Here’s a stepwise guide to starting your own furniture business in Nigeria.
- Take a good look at the market
Just before you dive in, ask yourself this: does the market need my furniture?
A lot of would-be entrepreneurs start with a very different question: what can I gain from the business? They make it about what they can get from selling, without paying enough attention to what their potential customers want. This is a recipe for disaster.
You should be selling furniture that customers will care to buy. If you find that they’re ordering couches but not purchasing beds that much, you may be better off selling couches instead of beds.
The demand for the type of furniture you’ll want to sell depends on a lot of factors, including your location, income levels in the area, and good old trends. Take these into consideration when you’re making decisions about how your products will fit into the local market.
- Decide what kinds of furniture you’ll be selling
This decision is directly related to the state of the market you’re targeting. It’s also determined by what you can afford to make, given your skills (or the skills of your workmen) and the resources at your disposal (including your finances).
If you want to sell luxury beds and couches to customers in the higher income bracket, you’ll have to use expensive input and really fine finishes. Some of your furniture might be imported. The cost of entry into this market is much higher than, say, your regular roadside furniture shop.
You may also look at making furniture from wood, metal or both, as well as the range of furniture you’ll be creating.
- Calculate costs
In order to do this properly, you should know what sort of furniture you’ll be making, as well as the costs of the materials you’d need to make them. You also have to cover the cost of the space you’ll be working or selling your furniture at for a while, before your revenues are good enough to do so. Remember to factor in this too.
Examine the figures you come up with. Can you afford these costs? If you can, how? And if you can’t, is there a way to get around the cost constraints, without hooking yourself with insurmountable debt? If it’s feasible that you can handle the costs (with your savings, loans or both), you may go on with the project.
- Create a business plan
Your business plan will contain information about your business: what it is, what it produces and sells, its goals for the future, the expenses required to set up and survive, and the revenues and profits you expect will accrue to it.
This is, in effect, a road map for your business. It also comes in handy when you’re prospecting for funding from financial institutions. Your business plan will help them determine how viable your business is, and thus, if it qualifies for loans from them.
- Register your business
First, get your business registered with the Corporate Affairs Commission (CAC), the body officially mandated to certify businesses as legal entities in Nigeria. You should also obtain a Tax Identification Number (TIN) from the Federal Inland Revenue Service (FIRS).
In addition, you may be required to get licensed by authorities at the state level. Be sure to find out what rules regarding licenses and fees apply to your business, and comply with them.
- Find a location
The ideal site for your furniture shop will be one that’s accessible to potential buyers. You could set up in the midst of a cluster of furniture stores. This could work in your favour, because it’s already frequented by people who buy furniture.
Even if you decide to not open your store close to other furniture businesses, just make sure your preferred location is affordable for you, and suits your purposes well.
- Work with carpenters and other craftspeople
We’ve already said a fair bit about this, but we’ll recap. You can start building furniture yourself if you have the skills and experience to do so. If not, you can work with people who can make furniture for you. Find the best ones you can afford, and establish a working relationship with them.
If you’re already great at making furniture, the next thing on your mind would be getting equipment for work. These will include hammers, chisels, saws, scrapers, rules and pencils, just to mention a few.
- Make your business visible
Let people know about your business by word of mouth, and social media. You could also set up a website that displays your business’s works and provides contact details for an online audience of possible customers.