My name is Segun Abiona, I’m the CEO of Nicole and Giovanni Socks. My story is that of a young man who wanted more out of life than the usual.
After spending close to seven years in the financial industry in Nigeria, I embarked on a master’s degree in the United Kingdom. Before rounding off my program I had Barclays Bank calling, so I joined them while in school and worked there for a little over three years.
After a while, I got tired of England and wanted a new challenge.
I started to ask myself questions, coming back to Nigeria, “What exactly do you want to do?” I started praying because I wanted a divine lead. On one of those busy afternoons, I came back tired from work and sat down and felt like I fell into a trance somewhat. There, I got the message, ‘Socks’.
It sounded very strange. I wanted to be clear if truly that was what I heard but the voice came again saying, ‘Socks’.
The first call I made was to my wife, “Honey, this is what the Holy Spirit said to me” and she replied, “If that’s what he said, then run with it.” I began to do my research. I started putting a lot of information together and asking myself questions about how to go about starting such a business. Even though I would rather build such a business in my home country, the enormous challenges with starting a business in a Nigerian environment ran through my mind.
However, the most important part was the fact that I wanted God to direct me on how to go about it and that is exactly what he did.
By the time I got back to Nigeria I secured a job within a month, which was a soft landing for me. The job was also in a bank. I didn’t last in the job for more than a year and eight months or so, because why I came back to Nigeria was beckoning already, i.e. the ‘Socks’, so I started.
This meant working in a bank and doing my hustle by the side at the same time *laughs*, but I knew that that was the sacrifice.
I was having less than 3/4 hours sleep in a day, having to put my strategy together, making sure that the vision was clear, how I intended to produce, to distribute, to reach my market and so many issues. Because I had a clear vision, I knew I was not alone.
A lot of people were asking me if I was crazy. They’d say, “Why did you leave Barclays for nothing? You came back to Nigeria, you were even blessed to have a job and still you decided to walk away from it.”
I knew I had the leading and a direct instruction to go ahead. So, my success was without doubt. I knew it was going to happen, but for it to happen I needed to work it out.
I have an accountability partner in my wife. She later joined me in the business. She was a Project Manager/Engineer in one of the top telecoms firm but now she takes charge of the business back end and every technical aspect of production, quality control, and all other details.
When it was time to leave the bank, my wife and I sat down and had a strategy session to see how we had performed within a period. We asked what we would need to be able to walk away from my 9-5 and not have any adverse effects? But the truth is, there is no way you’ll walk away from a regular job and not feel the effect. We needed to know how to manage the situation and that was the best and most difficult part at the same time. We prayerfully picked a realistic date and worked towards it. And as God would have it, it was practically that same month that we picked that it happened, and I walked away from the bank. Today, it’s all history.
It’s not surprising that we are living a dream now that the brand is travelling because there is God behind it with the added focus, determination, hard work, faith and the belief that things will happen. We currently have stockists all over Nigeria and we recently launched in the USA.
It’s been so far so good and it can only get better.