Demi Owoseje is the Founder and Creative Head at Majeurs Chesterfield, a company that specialises in all types of leather and fabric furniture, wardrobes, kitchens and all interior upholsteries. After starting her company seven years ago in London, Owoseje’s zeal to come to Nigeria arose from her zeal to connect with and add value to her roots.
The architect, who graduated from London Metropolitan University in 2011 has worked with major clients like His Royal Highness Prince Charles, former Prime Minister David Cameron and Jimmy Choo just to name a few. Demi was raised in London and has featured in several publications for her work.
As a child she was very curious and would often break things in her home, only to put them back together again. She loves animals and has grown up with pets such as fishes, rabbits and dogs. She regards her pet Coco Chanel, a Lhasa Apso who travels everywhere with her as her closet companion.
The architect, who is the eldest of 5 girls, loves to travel and explore new and peculiar places. Her greatest pet peeve is disrespect & the mistreatment of others.
What influenced your career choice?
I am a trained architect. I love all things design and building. Growing up, I was a very curious child; I often dismantled things only to put them back together again. It was my curiosity to know how things worked or why they didn’t work.
What part of your job process excites you the most?
I would say the build. Once I have finished a design, I get incredibly excited about seeing it come to life. Then I look forward to the reaction I get from seeing the delight on my customer’s faces.
Do people treat you differently when you tell them you are a furniture manufacturer?
Yes. Many people assume that I am into fashion or a retailer. I don’t mind as it is always a delight when they realize and show even more intrigue.
Has your profession affected any area of your life? (relationship, religion, etc)
Yes. Business often puts many areas of your life to test. From friendships, you quickly know who are your true friends. They are the ones who will support every step of the way and will not write you off when they don’t see you at every event. With romantic relationships you soon realize that you MUST choose wisely; the right life partner is critical in reaching the right balance with your professional life. I don’t have many funny moments that demonstrate this but I do however have several eureka moments when I just knew that it was time to let some relationships go.
How would you describe your experience breaking into the Nigeria industry as a returnee?
I wouldn’t say I am a returnee, due to the fact that I have never lived in Nigeria until now. However, I am incredibly passionate about my new home. I feel that I missed out on experiencing Nigeria as perhaps a young person or student. People are incredibly passionate, hardworking and generally friendly. Nigeria has many challenges but I like to think of myself as the ultimate optimist and I am not easily deterred by challenges…it is my opportunity.
What major challenge are furniture manufacturers in Nigeria faced with?
Apart from our general issues with power, I would say that my industry, in particular, lacks resources access to advanced technology & training. There is a ban on the importation of furniture in Nigeria, a fantastic decision if you ask me. However, this would not be a problem if there were a real government agenda to support the development of skills & technology within the industry. Manufacturing is very demanding; technology is advancing every day, yet the craftsmen and woman are not given the opportunities to play alongside the rest of the world.
Are there areas you think the government should improve on to help entrepreneurs in Nigeria?
Yes, I can list several.
– They can enforce the relief of the heavy duties manufacturers pay on the importation of raw materials.
– They can create opportunities for lending as little as 0-5% for manufacturers
– They can subsidize our cost of diesel by at least 30-50%
– They can give bursaries to companies with healthy accounts and track records
– They can actively include and patronize us in their list of suppliers for the budget
What do you regard as your greatest success in your career to date and who are some of your top clients within and outside Nigeria?
My greatest success in business to date was the courage to start. I have been blessed with some very impressive individuals and companies as clients. His Royal Highness Prince Charles, former Prime Minister David Cameron, BBC, ITV, Jimmy Choo to name a few. I hope to add some equally impressive individuals within Nigeria to that list soon.
If you weren’t a furniture manufacturer what will you be?
I would probably still be practising as an architect, creating beautiful structures for creative home and office spaces. I hope to still do this one-day. I have big dreams.
Tell us about your latest project?
I am currently working on a few government projects. For the privacy of my clients, I cannot go into much details. We are also working on a new line for our residential clients and excited to start creating those pieces.
Where do you see Majeurs Chesterfield in five years time?
Majeurs Chesterfield is an affordable luxury brand. I envisage our furniture/products in every home and office one day. I would like to open a training school in the near future to teach good Furniture making. For now, I will be focusing on sustainable manufacturing and making my furniture as affordable as it can be.