The Founder, Footwear Academy, Aba, Bentley Chukwuemeka, said he was inspired to set up the academy in order to “formalise” the process of shoemaking in the city.
Mr Chukwuemeka said this in an interview with the News Agency of Nigeria in Aba on Monday.
He said that formalising shoemaking would give the business a new face and “help to create decent employment for young people”.
He said that his objective was to help equip the new generation of shoemakers to achieve better and improved production.
He expressed joy that he and his partner overcame the teething challenges “by focusing on the bigger picture and a better future”.
Mr Chukwuemeka said the vision to change the shoemaking narrative in Aba caused them to travel to Italy for further studies.
“We found Accademia Riaci in Florence Italy, a school that has been in existence for over 40 years.
“We registered for a six-week programme there, learnt shoemaking and how to formalise it.
“We returned to Aba and trained 130 students on shoemaking in 2020.
“The trainees were coming in batches because of Covid-19 and more than 50 per cent were female,” Mr Chukwuemeka said.
He said the academy had two sections, which were specifically designed for training and production, respectively.
According to him, the production section is involved in commercial contract production, according to specification, using the brand name, ‘Bold Step’.
He said the training period ranges from three weeks, six weeks, two months and three months to one year, depending on the needs and ability of the students.
“Shoemaking involves basically two things: understanding the process and practicing and the longer you stay, the better the understanding you will have.
“We are not here to compete with anybody but to train people on formalised system of shoemaking from pattern making to finishing.
“Our job is to help individuals, who are interested in getting better knowledge,” Mr Chukwuemeka said.
He said they also train those already in the shoemaking business, who are having issues with pattern-making.
He said that in Ariaria International Market, Aba, some shoemakers, who had over 20 years’ experience in the business could only do one pattern.
Mr Chukwuemeka said the academy sources 80 per cent of its raw materials from Aba, except those that were not readily available in the commercial town.