Winifred Choji has always been passionate about sharing knowledge about how women from low backgrounds can excel independently. But first, she had to prove herself worthy of being listened to. So, after years of foresight, moments of doubt, and months of planning, she ventured into business.
“I started as an apprentice in fashion designing and sold things like zobo and charcoal from 2005 to 2008. I knew I was meant for this, so without mentorship and guidance from anyone, I ventured in as a businesswoman,” she told Prime Progress.
After her National Youth Service, she decided to take fashion design more seriously.
“I realised it was time for me to put more effort into the things that I wanted to achieve, and so I used my monthly allowance to receive further training that would make me a perfect fit for the work I knew I had ahead of me,” she explained.
She concentrated on exploring style and beauty and incorporating them into the dresses she created for her customers after marrying and relocating from Plateau to Gombe. As she expanded her business and learned the marketing side, she began understanding the nuances of doing business in the state and its potential.
“I see a great future for Gombe because it is still young. It is also among the states with ease of doing business. I also see a lot of opportunities to be harnessed,” the founder of Tweeve Kouture fashion said.
“If you check most of the big businesses in Gombe, you will find men in control, but I know that as female entrepreneurs, we carry a lot, and despite the differences and similarities we all share in our endeavours, I know that we all can all come together to uplift ourselves to greater heights.”
Beyond fashion designing
With her business doing well, Choji knew it was time to fulfil her lifelong dream of catalysing change among women in various business endeavours by creating a community for Gombe State businesswomen for learning and partnership.
“I train people, especially young women with the same passion, to see greatness in what they aspire to do and become,” she explained.
Later, she organised an event to attract women’s attention to business in Gombe, naming it the “Gombe Business Women Hangout.”
“The purpose of this network is to foster collaboration that will create more significant partnership opportunities within the state and beyond,” she said. “I’ve witnessed businesswomen in other states come together for seminars and conferences that enable them to expand their horizons. That’s exactly what I wanted for the women here.”
Initially, she was uncertain whether women would find it interesting to attend after sending out invitations. But in the end, the outcome of the September 2, 2023, event was overwhelming, with 40 women in attendance. It was a positive sign for her.
“We received non-financial support from Glo (a local telecom company). However, they branded the venue and sent two of their staff members to provide insights to the women about data packages suitable for business. This was important because today’s businesses thrive through online advertising in our global village,” she explained.
Choji allowed young girls in entrepreneurship to be part of the hangout as ushers. This allowed them to network with successful businesswomen, gain inspiration to pursue their dreams from a young age and learn valuable lessons from shared experiences during the meetings.
She said the women now collaborate and share tips and information on how to grow their businesses. And she intends to host the event as regularly as possible and allow more women to join.
Almost gave up
“It was not easy for me to make this hangout a reality. People said no and even told me that Gombe women would not agree to participate in this activity. But I didn’t give up, and it actually came to life,” she said excitedly.
However, she worries that the state’s business climate could negatively impact her business and her more extensive network of women.
“In Gombe, compared to other states, there is a different approach to business. I observe people carrying envy, jealousy, comparison, and unhealthy competition into their work, which troubles me a lot,” she noted.
But she is motivated by the tremendous potential the state holds to sustain her dreams of Gombe businesswomen, believing she bears the responsibility of brightening the future of women in business in the state no matter the challenges.