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“My childhood has a lot to do with my journey into shoemaking” – Chioma Madueke

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Chioma Madueke is a graduate of Accounting from the Nnamdi Azikiwe University. Being the first girl from a family dominated by men, she grew up as a tomboy, according to her; low self-esteem made her despise the gender she was created to be, this also made her take interest in male footwears, a passion she nurtured and developed after her youth service.

Being a graduate of accounting didn’t stop her from chasing her dreams of becoming a “Shoemaker”, a vision that makes her feel fulfilled as a person. Today Chioma is CEO of growing Men’s footwear brand MADU. In her words; “He that must move the world, must move it in good shoes” …. Chioma shares her inspiring story with me in this interview.

Growing up
My childhood has a lot to do with my journey into shoemaking. I am the first daughter and the 4th child of my parents. I have 3 elder brothers and a younger brother out of 5 siblings and I grew up in a male dominated environment where female children were outnumbered by the boys and men. My elder brothers were literally the ones who had to take care of me even though my parents are still alive. I grew up always being amongst men and that exposure got me wanting to be a boy too. I felt they were cool to be with and because I sought for acceptance, I got that from them. Soon I started walking and dressing like them. Because I was so carefree, I would always find myself fitting my leg into my brother’s footwears without minding the size lol. I still try to fit my leg into oversized men footwears and I am glad I can now make some for myself when I wish.

Inspiration behind Madu labels
Last year, I started my journey as a shoemaker because I was passionate about humans and all I represent. I represent passion, confidence, class, self-love, innovations, smart and hardwork, living dreams. I thought of a befitting name for my shoe brand, that embodies all I represent, and my final analysis led to the name MADU Labels.

Why MADU?
The word MADU means “Making A Difference in U”…The Word Madu in Igbo means person or Human…..At the heart of my company is HUMANS. So, for every shoe I make, I am making people truly HUMANS. Robots don’t live their dreams, humans do. Robots don’t have confidence in their abilities, but Humans do. I am making you complete in class, confidence, poise, with good shoes.
I am making you love yourselves. I am making you wear YOUR TRUE SELF. Many people lose their HUMANITY as they go through life, career, and business. What my company is out to do is to help people find and enjoy their true self through shoes. When you wear your shoes, I want you to feel Happy and Complete. I want you to walk with your head up high, I want you to care, and I want you to love. MADU labels CARES! The name MADU is memorable, stickable, short, urban, AFRICAN….

Growing up as a tomboy…
Growing up as a tomboy contributed to my decision to start making men footwears. I remember feeling so bad each time people tried to talk me out of my boyish life style and even after I gave that up and embraced femininity, I still have a soft spot for nice men footwear plus The fact that I have an amazing habit of seeing the men’s feet as their face. I always catch myself staring at their legs before their faces. Men’s fashion always fascinates me. I can remember wanting to study Accounting because I met a banker, whose dressing was on fleek lol.. Don’t ask me the connection between banking and accounting hahaha

Success nugget(s) that keeps me going
One nugget that keeps me going is ‘follow your dreams’. I have always been an ambitious girl, but the walls of low self-esteem trapped me until I walked the path of self-discovery. I discovered that I didn’t need to be the brightest star to sparkle and so, I decided to shamelessly own my dreams and walk through to the spotlight. If I can dream it, I believe I can achieve it and of course, none of that made sense to anyone who heard that I was an excellent student of accounting but found my path in shoemaking… It didn’t make sense that I rejected 2 job offers to follow through my dream… It didn’t make sense that I left home to Lagos, where I met strangers who took me in as family… It still doesn’t make sense to a lot of people and sometimes to me, but I will keep moving

Who and what inspires me
Who and what inspires me is a tough question to answer. I might be weird to say that everybody and everything inspires me. I believe everyone has an untold story and those stories that are better left in the dark leaves wondering where they find strength to wake everyday to face life either timidly or boldly. Everyone on this journey of life inspires me My undying love for teenagers inspire me everyday of my life even when I want to give up and I inspire me…. Abnormal? Lol. I look at how far I have come, and I know that I didn’t come this far to give up. The journey so far with it entails inspires me

Greatest reward
The greatest reward so far was an emergence award from the world Changers’ forum. I anticipate more great reward in the nearest future and till them, I will keep grinding

Challenges
I face daily challenges like most startups especially funding. Building a business from the scratch with little or nothing to start with is energy draining and mentally stressful, but you know what? I am positive about the outcome. I will keep building and hope for destiny helpers because I am sure they will come by

My perception about women in the footwear industry…
My perception about women in the footwear industry is positive all the way. The uniqueness of this is my gender… People tend to see it as a limiting factor, but I choose to see it as my strongest string. Women need to take off the limiting thoughts off their minds and follow through if footwear making is their passion. Though the gender can also be a limiting factor because most people tend to trust the male shoemakers more for obvious reasons but then, a trial always convinces them but how many people do you tend to convince. I just choose to be positive

On giving up…
Every single time hahahahaha. The question should be how many times have you felt like giving up? Lol. If I say that I don’t feel like giving up any time, I must be an award-winning liar. Seriously, I feel like giving up more than I feel like holding on. I know that there is no startup entrepreneur who never thought of giving up and of course, I can’t be an exemption. It’s part of the journey and I intend learning from it. If I started to give up, I wouldn’t have bothered starting at all. Does that make sense? Yes, it does.

I am a Woman of Rubies
Women of rubies live to inspire. Every step of my walk in this path of life i deliberate because life is beyond just me. I am all in for helping other women grow… I see no competition. All I see is nation builders. Together we make the world a better place… Collaboration!

Words of advice to aspiring female footwear makers
Dear woman, I noticed that you have suddenly started seeing shoemaking as an attractive craft and I won’t try to discourage you. I will only tell you this “don’t do it because it’s attractive but do it because you are passionate about it because the truth is that there will be times when attraction without passion can’t pull you through. You need unwavering passion to walk this path”… Find you and do you!
Thank you for having me!


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Chioma MaduekeShoemaking

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