SMEs and Ventures

Manufacturing wheelbarrows has enhanced my life

How did you get into this business of fabricating wheelbarrows?
A friend introduced me to this business after I had completed my apprenticeship in Port Harcourt, Rivers State where I was trained on how to sell food stuff but that trade did not favour me.  While I was searching for what next to do to earn a living, my friend (who is also into wheelbarrow making) then told me about the business. My friend encouraged me to join them in the business. He told me that the job is lucrative, that I could use it to feed myself and family, and I would use it to become somebody. That was how I got interested and then trained to master the skill of designing, fabricating and selling wheelbarrows. I have been on my own doing this job about eleven years now. By the grace of God I have been seeing a positive change in my life. I use the job to feed myself. On it too I got married and built my own house. So I really thank God for everything. I also use the gains from the business to help my siblings and other relations. That’s my experience so far.

When you were undergoing apprenticeship as a welder, you did not have wheelbarrow fabrication in mind?
Not really, but we were learning all kinds of welding works: iron gates, doors, protectors (burglar-proofs), , handrails, overhead standing tanks, wheelbarrow manufacture, etc. I specialized in manufacturing of wheelbarrows, although I mastered all the other jobs but the one that moves faster and gives quick money is fabrication of wheelbarrows.

How many wheelbarrows can you fabricate in a day or week or month as the case may be?
I manufacture at least 20 wheelbarrows in a week. I may not be able to calculate the figure I can produce in a year but I manufacture every month of the year. And in one week I produce not less than 20 wheelbarrows.

Do you manufacture on contract bases or as each customer demands?
As we are talking now, I have over 40 wheelbarrows. If by God’s grace those who are into selling of wheelbarrows come to buy them, I obviously sell to them according to their demand but if those customers who may not want to buy and sell in bulk come, I also sell to them. That’s how we do it.

What is the price for each?
Wheelbarrow does not have fixed price, you sell according to how you buy materials with which you produce them. The quality also may determine the price because the product is of different grades but the highest quality wheelbarrow goes for N8,500. We also consider the quality of tyre we fix on the wheelbarrow. There is a particular tyre we may fix on a wheelbarrow and then the price will be N7,000 but when we fix original tyre, we sell such wheelbarrow N8,500 or where the producer is very considerate, he may sell the wheelbarrow  at N8,000 as of now.

What are the major constraints or challenges in the business?
One of the main challenges is inadequate power supply from the EEDC (Enugu Electricity Distribution Company). But I thank God that since we‘ve been doing this interview, electricity has been on. The job is such an energy consuming type that you don’t go to buy “I-pass-my-neighbor” (small generator). If you want to buy generator for the job, you have to go for a big one such as Lister generator which will cost not less than N200,000.

What other problems do you face?
We have accommodation problem, too. If Government can help us with nice accommodation, we will appreciate it because the job needs sufficient space, like I have 40 wheelbarrows now but there is no space to display them. So, some of the barrows are kept inside the stores of my neighbours. There was a place shown to us at a certain time but it did not work out well because it was inside the market. That space was given to us by former Governor Chimaroke Nnamani’s administration and we didn’t like it because it was not in an easily accessible location.

For how long has this business existed?
For over 50 years or say, over 40 years for there are people who started the business long, long ago.

Do you have an association of wheelbarrow manufacturers?
Yes. If you look around here, you will see that there’s no other thing being fabricated except mainly the wheelbarrows. There is a measure of control. The name of our union is New Market Welders’ Association, Enugu.

How do you get the metals with which you fabricate the wheelbarrows?
We get the materials from Onitsha, Anambra State, precisely at the Head Bridge. That’s where we purchase our materials for now but as things are, the materials are costly now and it is the cost of these materials that makes the price of wheelbarrow to go up. After adding the cost of buying materials to the expenses on transportation and the sufferings or hazards involved, you see that the price will increase.

Have you had such hazards?
Is there any day a welder will not hurt himself? We are used to the hazards. Like this cut on my right hand, it happened yesterday. (He displays the fresh laceration on the back of his right hand)

How true is the assertion by people that your locally-fabricated wheelbarrows are stronger than imported ones?
You know, in this world, it is not good for one to spoil another person’s business. All I know is that I make my own very strong. You will observe that there’s a difference between the locally-manufactured ones and the imported ones.

What is the lifespan of your wheelbarrows and the key materials used in manufacturing them?
If you buy a very strong wheelbarrow; it depends on how you use it. If you are driving a car; the way you handle your car may not be the same way another person will handle his own car. But if you use my wheelbarrow very carefully, it can last till 30 years. The only thing you have to do is to change the tyre once it is due for change. The materials used in manufacturing the wheelbarrow include pan, one-inch-pipe, inch-and-half-flat-bar, etc.

What advice would you give to a new comer to the business?
My advice is that the new comer into the business should be able to endure the pains and sufferings associated with the business, such as physical injuries that could be sustained while doing the job. The new comer has to join and see how we are managing; we who are into the business have not been killed by hunger.

Your children: is any of them showing interest in what you are doing?
The things of this world are all about God’s gift. If God says any of my children will be blessed by this type of work, fine. But if God says He will bless them through another way, good. But the most important thing is for the child to be humble and level-headed; let the child not join the bad company of Indian Hemp smokers or other miscreants in the society.

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