MADE IN ABA: A STORY OF GOD’S HAND IN NORAH’S KULTURE.
One of city’s greatest resource is her people, each human on its own individual journey, authoring the book of their own story and contributing to what makes the city great.
Last Saturday found me in the home of one of Aba’s most creative talents. I met Nora hard at work as she pleaded for a few more minutes, she had an order to finish up and after an hour she joined me on the journey through her life as an entrepreneur so far.
“This all started because of hunger; that sort of hunger people in the streets refer to as bastard hunger, the type that will make you cry,”
she said while handing me a glass of whiskey as she settled down holding her newborn, half-rocking her to calm the tide of the cry that was building up.
“Things were so bad that most nights I cried myself to sleep. One day after the usual tears, I cried to God warning him that if he didn’t come to my aid, I will get into the sex for money business and then I slept off”
Shocking prayer one may say, but when you are barely 20, worrying about a sick parent and going through the rigors of Medical school, it can all become too much.
What would happen on the night she made the threat to God can be said to be one of life’s unexplainable experiences as in her dream she saw herself superintending over a large leather and garment store.
The story of the event would seem hard to believe for anyone who doesn’t believe in the supernatural but that was all the sign she needed.
More surprising is that before that night she had never done anything around the leather and garment sector.
By morning Nora said she woke up filled up with the zest and energy no food could give, she got help from friends and then began a beautiful journey of grit, resilience, grace and faith.
That day I summoned courage and walked up to the boutique owner close to where I live and offered to refurbish all her defective shoes and bags that she had packed at the corner of her store.
Hours and hours spent on several YouTube channels learning the craft ensured that she would smile home with about 40,000 Naira by the end of the week.
Business came periodically and by the standards of the average student she was doing well.
But she wanted more, her own space and her own name, Norah Kulture was born and she immersed herself in the craft, spending almost all her time in the leather clusters around Ariaria till it got to the point she had to make the difficult choice between Medicine and Leatherworks.
Her decision to leave medicine briefly turned her family and friends who couldn’t wrap their head around the decision against her but she trudged on confident that her decision would one day make sense.
“Senator Abaribe’s “Made in Aba” Abuja trade-fair gave me my first major platform,” she continued as she happily described how she almost missed out on going to the fair in Abuja because she had not gotten her father’s permission to travel.
She had produced her goods and handed it to a male friend of hers who had agreed to go in her place. On getting to the park to see him off, the coordinator of the fair Mrs. Ngozi Olenwengwa wondered why she was not going and in seconds she was on the phone to Mr. Onwusoanya, promising to be Norah’s Guardian during her stay in Abuja.
“Chinyere, I sold all my shoes and bags as I landed that I had to go to the nearest market to buy new raw materials to produce new products”, Nora said happily reliving a very fond memory
“By the time I got back, I had back to back invitations from the state government who at that point were going full-throttle on Governor Okezie Ikpeazu’s drive to promote Made in Aba goods.”
China was her next destination as the support of a lady that attended the Abuja fair got her on the radar of the current head of the Abia State Marketing and Quality Management Agency Barrister Sam Hart who was in the team that oversaw the selection process.
China presented a whole different world for Norah who went above and beyond to explore factories in the city. By the end of the trip, she had become good friends with several factories owners who were intrigued by the thirst for knowledge in the lady from Nigeria.
On returning from China, she kicked off the era of back to back MSME clinic wins for female entrepreneurs from Abia to cap off an amazing period where she moved from a position of several zeroes to becoming one of the heroes of the renaissance of the SME capital of West Africa.
Finally we talked about her dad who these days proudly displays pictures of her several achievements.
“He would have loved to have a Medical doctor but he understands we sometimes do not choose our path and destinies.”
“Seeing me on Television, getting support from the state government and federal government has made him as proud as he would have been and I get consistent prayers from him every week”
The Vice-president is known to be a huge fan of her work and she spent time under the mentorship of Christian Dior’s creative director Maria Grazia Chiuri.
“I sometimes get overwhelmed by the ground that I have covered these past few years”, she wistfully revealed, half talking to herself as we made our way to the new Norah Kulture outlet which was under construction.
On days she is not hard at work, she is creating impact mentoring young female entrepreneurs who are taking baby steps as young business owners.
It is her way of giving back, an intentional way of preparing the next generation.
As I made my way out I had to acknowledge the beauty of the space she was creating. I tend to marvel at how creative people manifest the art they have chosen and more astounding is that there are a lot more like Norah in Aba.
It is a way of life, a culture, the sort that has found expression in Norah Kulture.