“I Traded My Grades For My Passion”- Rebecca Ajayi, Creative Director R&G Knitwear

Rebecca Ajayi bagged her first degree in Communication and Language Arts from Nigeria’s premier varsity, University of Ibadan, in 2018. She had her mandatory national youth service at University College Hospital, Ibadan. Until her final year, she was on a first class grade. Ordinarily, people expected her to pitch her tent along the academic line but surprisingly, she decided to give herself to knitting, a work conventionally known among the unlearned. In this interview with TheEcho’s Babawale Oke, Ajayi speaks about her passion, how she harnessed her skills, her plans and impacts she wants to make through knitting. Excerpts…

Who is Rebecca Ajayi?
Rebecca Ajayi is a graduate of Communication and Language Arts, University of Ibadan. However, away from her degree, she is a young girl passionate about knitting. At present, she is the Creative Director of R&G Knitwear, a knitwear brand that places core focus on designing and producing classy knitwear for babies and ladies. A contact with her is a contact with passion for serving God and diligence at the natural things she does.

Not too many people saw you in knitting or away from the academic world not too long ago. What informed your ‘rare’ decision?
Well, I have always loved knitting, I spent my free time doing and researching on it. But, while I was in school which is not too long ago, I had a choice to make; my grade or my passion for knitting.

So, I will say knitting has always been there for me, it isn’t a decision I just made.

Are you trying to say that you traded your first class for your passion?
I didn’t eventually graduate with a first class, but you can say that I traded studying well/right for my passion when it was needed.

It isn’t all about going after your passion, there are things you must get right. The foundation must be sound.

Which foundation is being referred to in this context?
By foundation, I mean studying, getting a degree in what you love to do.

I am not one of those who think schooling is not important because the truth is, it shapes your reasoning.

Out of all businesses, why knitting? An average Nigerian believes that knitting is meant for uneducated people.
I know and that’s funny because right now, people are doing a lot with crochet and knitting home and abroad.  I don’t know if I added to my introduction that I am passionate about redefining the African Knitting industry. So, that’s a goal

And, I chose knitting because I love it and I feel led to stick to it.

In short, it was a divine instruction?
Your use of the word instruction makes it sound like something I don’t want to say. But God leads the believer, we have an extra help from him. So, it is okay to know what to do in Life because we have him.

Did you learn the act of knitting independently or you were taught by someone?
That’s a long story though, I learnt from someone for about a month and after that, I spent time learning online, reading magazines and just thinking.

So all the artistic displays that we’ve been seeing all over have been your personal efforts?
I wouldn’t say they have solely been my personal efforts because I follow a lot of white friends who are skilled in knitting and I watch a lot of YouTube videos too, that has helped me.

So, from all the learning, I sit down and carve out what I can produce. I learn from people, put all together and create something I feel is unique.

We are now in a solution-driven world; your relevance is determined by the problems you are able to solve. What problem do you intend to solve with knitting?
First, is the problem of unemployment, in no time, I will be starting a knitting school, we don’t really have skilled instructors of knitting in Nigeria. I want to fill that void.

Also, another problem we solve is ensuring that babies feel warm and secure, reasons we focus on producing for them, at that early stage, they do not have the power to self-regulate their temperature and opening them up can lead to cold. However, look at ensuring they warm and not
hot.

Then, for ladies, it is all about their fashion trend, producing things that are classy and comfortable enough for them to slay.

In all, which of the SDGs do you intend to meet?
That will be providing work and ensuring economic growth.

I know we can’t employ all but I look forward to impacting others with this skill so that they can thrive and building a work place that can employ a number of people.

Are you doing knitting because you’ve not secured a salaried job yet or it is a full-time job for you?
It is a full time job for me

I decided to do that.

Do you mean you can’t be lured by Federal Government work or by a high-paying private firm?

I can’t, every man should stick to his own game.

But do you think this craft holds the same promising future as those in paid employment?
Yes, I believe so.

And more than that is, it can get more people jobs, it can change the financial status of not just one person, but many others.

But, for craft, it isn’t a one-day thing, it isn’t so sweet at the beginning.

Usually, two of the many problems that entrepreneurs face in Nigeria are finances and pressure from parents (from poor homes) to take up paid jobs. How have you been able to overcome these issues?
Well, pressure from parents. Not at all.

My dad patronizes my business; he pays for the value I provide for him and also helps in the funding of the enterprise.

As regards financing the business, I have tried applying for grants and I will still do in the future once I start my business full time.

And all the machines I have, they have been from money from my family and personal savings, what I gathered during my youth service was also helpful.

Many of those who know you attest to your commitment and passion. Does it seem so because you’re still single or your customers should expect the same from you after marriage?
(Smiles). Well, I don’t share so much about my family but I know that my commitment to my work can change. I hope to be able to handle everything well.

How do you expand your customer base?
Basically, through social media and one on one marketing.
While I served at the University College Hospital, I go to the antenatal section to advertise.

And many times, I don’t even get customers alone, I also get partners in the same field.

Another issue that affects businesses in Nigeria is lack of feedback system. Do you have any in place?
For now, I ensure I keep close contacts with the clients I have

After supply, I go back to them and ask them if they have worn the product and if they like it

That has been helpful because at this stage, it isn’t about the money but improving my skills

An example, I made a kimono for a client, she has an issue with it, I collected it back and made a new one for her, after a while I sent her a message and she said she loves it and she also promised to send me pictures, that way, I know each time she needs a knitwear, she will come to me.

What are your words of encouragement to like minds out there?
I will say, you own the dream, you own the vision. It may not be easy but be consistent at showing up.

For partnership, patronage or sponsorship, Ajayi can be reached through +2348103603630 or randgknitwear17@gmail.com

 

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