On this week’s Katangite Spotlight, Indy Press Correspondent, Echoda Daniel, interviews Olamilekan Oke, popularly known as Tallest, an entrepreneur who has shown proficiency in a few years in shoemaking. They discuss his experiences as a student, his political views, his relationship status, and how he juggles academics with work.
Can we meet you?
I am Olamilekan Oke, a 400–level student from the department of Psychology. I am a shoemaker; I run a shoemaking brand. I am the third child out of four. I am also a Chelsea fan.
How come about the nickname, “Tallest”?
(Laughs) People gave me the nickname. Most people don’t know my real name, they just call me “Tallest.” My nickname is Tallest because of my height, obviously, so people don’t even bother asking for my name. They just call me Tallest.
You mentioned something about your shoemaking brand. Does it have a name?
Yeah, the brand is known as Feeted Designs. It is a hand-crafted shoemaking brand, all made in Nigeria; leatherworks. During the strike period, I had a personal workshop back home in Lagos. The workshop and all my tools are there [in Lagos], but whenever I pick up orders here on campus, I have another shop where I work here. There is a shoemaking shop I use to do my work [here on campus]. I have a personal workshop, but now that I’m in Ibadan in school, I work here.
Where is your shoemaking shop located on campus?
It is at Indy here, at the laundry. There is a shoemaking shop there; that is where I work whenever I’m on campus.
How long have you been in the business?
There is a learning phase and there is a phase you started. I started learning in November 2020 during the ASUU strike. Then I left for school when we resumed in February 2021. I learned for 3 months. So I’ve actually been in shoemaking since 2020, but I started my brand in July last year. And I’ve been making progress ever since.
What do you say about patronage so far?
Patronage has been fine. Since school resumed, I haven’t even posted anything on my WhatsApp status saying “come and buy your shoe”, but I’ve been getting orders. The reason is that I have been thinking of combining everything. If I keep posting “buy your shoes”, I know the orders will be coming in a lot. And, even without that, I have built the brand to the extent that people know me for what I do. I’ve been tagged a shoemaker; in fact, when someone is looking for someone to make palm in this hall, I think the first person they mention is Tallest. They’d say go and meet Tallest because I make good palms. So I can say the patronage has been on the good side.
From your experience, how much do you feel power supply affects entrepreneurship in UI?
Power supply affects our businesses. In my workshop back at home, I know the amount I spend on petrol after paying NEPA bill. Here on campus, most times they don’t give us light. There are times when those in Kuti and co would have light and those of us in Africa here (Indy and Zik) would have to wait 4 – 5 hours for the light. Sometimes you don’t get the light at all. On Wednesday or so, Kuti and the other halls apart from Indy and Zik had light from about 3:00 pm till 10:00 pm. Imagine if I had work to do, there wouldn’t have been any way for me to meet up. Fuel is also scarce. I feel, at the stage, UI is, they should have found a solution to a power supply so that the light would come on at the same time. Before now, the delay usually lasts for just an hour or two, but now it takes 5/6 hours and it affects our businesses. I’ve worked at the laundry (in Indy Hall) and I see how those guys wait for long [for light] before they could iron clothes. Sometimes they take the clothes to Kuti for ironing. If there is no light, some of these guys just sleep because they can’t even get fuel, and they can’t use a generator set for that.
As the 2023 election approaches, is your mind already made up for any of the candidates?
My mind has been made up since I saw Peter Obi campaigning. I just feel he is who we need. He is a problem solver. I feel his plans are feasible and achievable. I feel if we vote for him, within the next 4 – 5 years, we will see tangible change in our economy. So I am Obi-dient.
What advice would you give to a student like you who wants to go into the shoemaking business?
First thing, don’t just go into something because you’re seeing others doing it. You should know why you are doing it. Ask yourself, why are you making shoes? There are a lot of people making shoes at Zik, Black Market, and Indy. You should know why you are going into it. That’s what will keep guiding you. You should know the kókó that is what will make people patronize you. That is what will make you stand out. If you know why you want to start, you can start, but if you don’t know why, look for other businesses.
Does your shoemaking business affect your studies?
Knowing how to control everything is what is important. There was a time last session when I got some orders when exams were approaching. I told the lady who placed the order that I would not be able to work. The reason was that working meant I would have to go and buy leather and I wouldn’t have time when they would bring the light. So I asked if she could wait for two weeks when I would be done with my exams. She agreed at first, but when we started exams, she reached out that she needed her footwear. She asked whether I could refund the money she paid me. I did and told her “I am a student who places much priority on my education as I also do on my work.”
As a Katangite, what is your view on Arò?
Aroism is a culture in Indy Hall, and guys enjoy it. The only problem I’d have with the practice is when it is targeted at ladies alone. Guys tend to focus on ladies alone. I do aro for my guys: Goodness, Ayanfe, and Dr. Tee. I don’t even have the time to go to Block C [of the Hall] just because I want to do aro for Idia girls. Once I see you, I just look at you and do aro. It is just to catch fun. OK, you would just be in your room for many hours reading; then you would just come out and shout Goodness’ name. You just throw jives at each other, and that’s all. The only problem I have with it is when you start sexualizing it, like when you see a lady passing and you just start calling her a prostitute. Within the last two sessions, I think that has been on a low especially in Indy Hall because the guys are beginning to see that it doesn’t make sense. They now see that it is not necessary. When you see a lady passing, you can just call her pretty, and you would not even expect her to respond. Just have fun, and let them go. My friends and I did all that with ourselves when we were at Block C, and we didn’t even bother the ladies. I feel an average Katangite should be wise enough to understand how those ladies feel…
So talking about ladies, are you in a relationship?
Everybody knows my relationship status. If you are following me on Twitter, you would know that I am single. I am very very single!
Why is that?
I am single by choice. I have not made an attempt to search. I am single, I am not searching. I might start searching the next moment, but I am not searching at this moment… I feel a relationship is taxing… so let me just stay in my lane and enjoy my life without having anyone bothering me.
Is there any other thing you would like to say?
Yes, about my business. Right now I am building a structure that I know I will be able to fall back on when I finish [from school]. It is a plan, a gradual process that in the next couple of months or years, this is where I want to brand to be, this is what I want to be doing, and this is what I want to be known for. The brand is a year now and I’ve received many positive feedbacks from my customers. And shoemaking is fun!
Many years from now, do you see yourself still making shoes?
Definitely. I might not be the one in charge, but I plan to own a shoemaking company. A shoe-making brand. I might not be the one personally making it, but I see myself owning a shoemaking company.
All right. Thank you very much for your time