COVID-19 has forced couples around the world to postpone or change their wedding plans. The virus has not only left many couples in tears – wedding vendors are just as heartbroken.
In Nigeria, the popularity of large and lavish weddings has created a million-dollar industry serviced by many small businesses. With Nigerians forced to put their wedding plans on hold due to COVID-19, many of these businesses – and the jobs they create – are now in jeopardy.
GIA Bridals, a GroFin client located in Port Harcourt, makes and rents bespoke wedding gowns to brides. The Aspire Small Business Fund (ASBF) invested in GIA Bridals in 2014 and 2017, providing the business with working capital and enabling the entrepreneur to lease and equip a larger space. Since ASBF’s investment, the business posted consistent increases in its sales and revenue.
But this year, GIA was forced to remain closed for three months during the COVID-19 lockdown in Nigeria and the business did not make any sales. Although GIA resumed operations in July, business is still slow. GIA’s owner, Ngozi Brisibe, says it would be devasting to her and her staff if her business was forced to close for good.
“We all depend on the business as our only source of livelihood.”Ngozi Brisibe, Owner – GIA Bridals
GIA Bridals employs 11 people – 10 of whom are women. Chioma Patrick does the beadwork on GIA’s wedding gowns and has been working there for five years, supporting her mother. “This job has made it possible for me to earn my own money and I am not depending on or begging anyone to provide my basic needs. It makes me feel great and gives me confidence,” she says.
GroFin shared a customised Business Resilience Tool Kit – rolled out across the group to help clients respond to the pandemic – to help Ngozi analyse the impact on her business and especially its cashflow. “GroFin’s staff was consistently calling to find out how we were doing and providing advice on what can be done,” she says.
Ngozi’s biggest concern was whether she will be able to sustain the business until economic activity is fully restored.
“We suggested that she pivots her business away from only focusing on wedding dresses by using existing equipment for other products”Charles Chikezie, GroFin Senior Industry Expert
Ngozi has responded by launching MyLadyUrban, a new line of women’s clothing. She says the new brand seeks to represent women as “both feminine and powerful” and will allow GIA to clothe its clients before, during, and after their weddings. “Although things seemed bad now, there’s hope for us with this new line of business,” Ngozi concludes.