Ade George is the CEO of Corporate Luxury, a company that manufactures handmade African leather products from luxury brands, such as briefcases, handbags, purses, accessories and more. In this interview, he talked about the learning industry, challenges and how the business is soaring despite the opportunity.
How and when did Corporate Luxury originate?
Corporate Luxury is a fashion brand that manufactures and sells luxury leather bags and accessories. We started in 2013 when I bought a briefcase from one of the top names and realized that it did not serve the purpose I wanted. It felt like a rip-off to me, so I decided to design my own briefcase.
Luckily, I was traveling through Egypt at the time, so I learned to do it myself, designed it, had it made, and started carrying it around. We all have that favorite item without which we can not do; this bag I designed became mine because it has almost every purpose a bag could serve. Everywhere I went, many people asked for a referral to get it. In a jiffy, they started paying me to make the exact thing for them, and so Corporate Luxury was born. So, Corporate Luxury is a native company.
Your business makes a variety of sophisticated learning accessories, where and how do you get your raw materials?
We travel across Africa until we get the quality materials we need. Our abundance of livestock in Africa is a natural strength for the learning sector, which is why Africa is fast emerging as one of the future markets for the acquisition of quality leather and shelters for the booming global learning industry.
What challenges do you have before obtaining pure or sophisticated learning from Nigeria and other countries?
In general, we face challenges, like all other businesses. However, logistics is a big challenge. Safety is also off the top shelves, so it’s a risk to get our procurement officers in the pre-production material market. The lack of structure in Nigerian shipping is affecting our business.
The challenge is to pay a high rate for shipping without subsidies. We pay almost 55 percent tax and that excludes what we pay to the shipping companies, that’s just what we pay for government clearance. However, this does not guarantee that we will receive goods on time.
Why did you choose learning works?
When we go back to the origin of man, it was always leather, clothes and such. The ability to shape, bend and twist something to your own will while creating a work of art interests me.
There are different types of leather, all animals are clad in leather depending on which animal you prefer. There are top-correlated, embossed-grained, split suede, reassembled, bonded or fibrous. At Corporate Luxury, we believe more in the use of top grain and embossed leather because they are the strongest and most durable and valuable low-cut skins.
We use crocodile leather, it is an exotic leather and is scarce compared to other skins such as sheep or cows and requires a high level of craftsmanship. We also use soft clad calfskin made from top quality calves and smooth calfskin with vegetable brown. It has a smooth, waxy surface that gives a matte impression as you can see on our AG Lagos briefcase and our Dakar Special Edition briefcase, but what we manufacture depends on our design or the requirements of our clients.
Do all these costs affect the final production? Well, Corporate Luxury manufactures and sells the best among equals. We never use fake leather. We use original leather and of course leather is not very cheap, so it affects the cost of our articles, but then we also make sure that a certain significant percentage of our sales is used for our Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR), Trinitas Foundation Africa , to float.
How much is the cost and process of cleaning and transporting materials obtained outside the country a problem?
These problems vary according to the immigration policies of each country. When we were once in Kenya, did we have to make certain payments that were not documented? It was an unspoken rule that you should give up something. We therefore had to give them incentives to facilitate the process.
Mauritius was a different kind of challenge. Because it is a tourist country, people are more relaxed when it comes to business, and so there is sluggishness in handling paperwork and other documentation. Eventually we had to stay another week back, and then it took another two weeks for the leather shipment.
Your company names products according to their respective sources, why and what do you intend to achieve with them?
As I said earlier, our company is proud of Africa and we believe that our products should speak for themselves. Sometimes we want to recognize a little light in the specific city after which we name our products, and for those who have never been to one of these countries, you have a sense of the country when you buy a Corporate Luxury product. uniqueness through his teaching. Consider the CL product as a souvenir from that city or country. It’s like having a piece of Africa with you wherever you go.
What category of people are your products aimed at and how affordable is it for the middle class?
We do not target a specific class of people; we create luxury and our products should be seen as a symbol of achievement for their owners.
What is the strength of the business; does the company manufacture the accessories itself or does it involve others to do so?
We are a 4-man team, apart from the essential workers, and we kept it that way because we want Corporate Luxury to be a close-knit group, more like a family business. Each of us has more than 25 years of experience in relevant fields. We make all our products ourselves; we design, implement and manufacture; we do not engage in any other business to do any of the above.
How do you contribute to society?
We have Widow Empowerment and over the years we have been able to empower more than 50 widows in different communities around Lagos and Nigeria as a whole. Some of their children received scholarships, and based on their educational report, these children are the smartest among their peers.
Our Food for All is a five-year program that helps villagers identify the most vulnerable children and develop care plans for them. At the moment, we have developed the latest strategy to curb hunger, especially with the ongoing pandemic.
Moreover, many children have gained access to study in different schools with the educational project of Trinitas Foundation. We believe that education is one of the most powerful weapons in the fight against poverty in our communities. When a child gets the education they deserve, it becomes less of a target for gangs and crime in their various communities.
How has the new coronavirus affected your business and what else are you doing to stay afloat?
It may be a shock, but this pandemic has helped us realize our value to our customers. We have sold out most of our products and the claims are still coming in. We also got new showrooms in places where most met these requirements, for example Abuja and Port Harcourt. That’s why we decided to launch our spring / summer collection soon.
We have taken measures to protect our staff, for those who need to come to the office, and the measures seem to be working as no one has tested the virus positively. We also try to disinfect our office regularly for precautions and every staff wears a protective mask.