Mr. Uchenna Igwe is the Director, Uche Links Glass Fibre, a company that is into manufacturing of fibre frames, motorcycle parts and motor spare parts such as car bumpers. In this chat with Financial Vanguard in Nnewi recently. Igwe speaks on his work, noting that the major challenge is funds. Excerpts:
According to Mr. Igwe, upon leaving St. Patrick’s College, Enugu where he had his secondary school education, he decided to go and learn a trade.
“I have always loved to create things so I can boldly say it is in the blood. Although I underwent some form of training, but you know how it is; you may not get all the knowledge you need from the classroom, the teacher will just give you the basic principle and it is left for you to build on it. You discover that sometimes, you do even better than your teacher at the end of the day because it is your talent. I can take waste and turn it to wealth,” he said.
Area of specialisation:
“Apart from bumpers, we also build bodies of vehicles like luxury buses, Mack trucks etc, as long as they are made of glass fibre. We repair broken down parts as well. A lot of cars are made of fibre. These modern luxury buses, hummer jeeps, modern gates, ceilings etc are made of fibre. We make the mould, build and then supply,” he said, adding;
“For instance, I can turn a motor part that has been completely destroyed into a brand new one. There will not be any difference between it and a brand new one. They bring in vehicles that had accident for repairs and if the body of the vehicle is made of glass fibre, we repair it and it becomes as good as new. I also produce statues, moulds for balusters, and hangers with fibre which are then used to produce hand-rests.”
Apart from the five employees, he said he also assists final-year students from various tertiary institutions in their final year projects.
“I also train some young people who are interested in the business. Some students come here for their final year projects and we assist them.
I had some students from the Federal University of Technology Owerri recently who came for their project.
Anything you want to produce, just give us the sample, we use the sample and produce the mould. I can make any type of mould as long as it is to be made of glass fibre.
After he completed his training, Igwe said he had no money to set up his own outfit so he had to work for someone to be able to raise capital.
Said he; “I started with virtually nothing. Upon completion of my training, I had no money to start my own business so
I started working for someone. From there; I began to pick up scraps. I would go to Onitsha, to mechanic workshops to pick up scraps, I work on the scraps and turn them to brand new products and then I sell to buyers. After sometime,
I was able to raise some capital to buy 20 litres of resin from Lagos and began to work on my own. As time went on, I began to buy the chemical in drums and was able to employ workers. Now I have about five employees.”
“I supply customers in Benin, Enugu, Onitsha, Nnewi; these customers then sell to end-users, people who are into motor parts.
When a customer uses you product and it is good, he recommends it to friends and relations and he will keep coming back to you.
Like those I supply in Enugu, they supply Abakaliki market and other places. My Onitsha customers supply Cameroon and other places so when your product is good, you cannot afford to sell another product in its place. For example, if you are in Onitsha and you buy from me and you sell to a customer from Cameroon, if the Cameroon guy calls you to get him the same product, you will look for me to buy the product but if you give him one from another place, he may reject it. Good name is better than silver and gold so we try to maintain our good name through high quality products without compromise.
Sourcing raw materials;
On the source of raw materials, he noted that most of the raw materials can be sourced locally. “We source raw materials both from within and outside the country. We get raw materials like calcium powder and accelerator locally.
We can also get resin from within and outside the country but those of us that are into production prefer the foreign resin although not all foreign resins are good but we use the good ones that give us exactly what we want.”
Speaking on the challenges facing the business, Igwe said paucity of funds is the major challenge. “Lack of funds is our major problem. The demand is so high and we cannot meet up because of lack of funds. You know, when we supply our customers, we wait for them to pay up before going to buy materials to produce more but if we have enough money, we will be able to meet up.”