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Terese Mbama: "I’ve brought a woman’s touch to carpentry"

Terese Mbama

Sunderland graduate Terese Mbama was interviewed by the Nigerian Daily Trust in relation to her carpentry business, Real WoodWork Ltd. 

Registered in December 2012 in Lagos-Nigeria, Co-founder and Managing director, Terese identified the craftsmanship in some carpenters who were practising informal furniture maker, turning it into a viable business in the untapped kiddie’s furniture market.

What made you get into carpentry and contracting?

Terese Mbama: While in the UK, my project centred on poverty alleviation and a value chain using cottage industries as a case study. Afterwards, I designed a CSR project that focused on using artisans to generate values for a furniture company in the UK. When I returned to Nigeria after my studies, I wanted a colorful table and chair for my son, I couldn’t find one. Thereafter, I identified that most furniture makers in Nigeria do not pay attention to children’s furniture when it comes to safety. I decided to research more in this area and found a gap in the furniture business, so I locked in by organising a group of carpenters and employed some as well. That is it.

Do you ever feel like you are treated differently by your male counterparts?

Mbama: Not really, except for the banks that do not believe a woman can drive a manufacturing company in Nigeria. When I mean manufacturing in Nigeria, I mean with all raw materials purchased from the Nigerian market.

Is there something about being a lady that makes you awesome at this particular job?
Mbama: Yes, I take my time on every design I make and ensure it is innovative and satisfying to clients. Secondly, I am able to organise and manage the workers despite their shortcomings.

What advice would you give to girls that are thinking of getting into careers that have traditionally been dominated by men?

Mbama: There is this saying that ‘what a man can do, a woman can do better,’ just be positive. They should identify some organisations that are into women empowerment and key into their goals.

What sort of attitude does your line of work require in regards to earning respect from workmates, employers and customers?
Mbama: Positive attitude all the time, tolerance and keeping to your promises of quality client services. 

What or who has been your biggest influence in getting you to where you are now?
Mbama: Genevieve Mbama, my sister-in-law, she is director in Oracle and my husband, Peter Damian Mbama - GMD RegCharles Group. Then finally, His Excellence President Goodluck Jonathan.

How did you get into Youwin competition?
Mbama: I shared my needs for finance with a couple of people and then my sister-in-law saw the advert on paper and informed me, so I logged into their website and completed the questionnaire.

Were you ever looked down upon as a female carpenter either by family or male colleagues? 
Mbama: No, if you know me you will know that nobody will look down on me because I brought style into the Nigerian carpentry business and as a professional, I am respected for any work I do.

Have you ever thought of trying out a different job or has carpentry been what you always wanted to do?
Mbama: I have worked in places like KPMG, former Citizens Bank, Lagos Business School (LBS) and I resigned from LBS and started a consulting firm Kodec Connect Consulting Ltd, which focuses on training and recruitment of support staff, research and corporate events management. This was before I won the YouWin competition and headed for Real WoodWork Ltd where my carpentry skills have come to play. I have the passion to improve and change lives and the best way is to get into a profession that can provide the platform hence RealwoodWorks Ltd.

What do you think the government can do to encourage more females into the field of carpentry?
Mbama: The YouWin initiative is fantastic. However, we should have more vocational and technical schools focusing on women that are interested in carpentry.

Do you think it’s fair that women don’t always get the same respect when it comes to trades like this?

Mbama: Nothing is fair in life. Women should brace up and do their thing.

Where is your favourite/most fun place to conceptualise ideas for your work?
Mbama: When I am on an outing with my husband, during interactions with fellow entrepreneurs and during empowerment conferences.

What have been your major challenges on the job?
Mbama: Having to get workmen or women to see carpentry as an avenue for them to explore, has being my biggest challenge. Most see the carpentry idea as one that should be for drop-outs or people who aren’t literate for a white-collar job. Getting the support of financial institutions is also a big challenge. 

How have you been able to blend your family life with your carpentry career?
Mbama: It has been terrific. My husband has been supportive in this regard. We have worked out the strategies and it is working perfectly well. I give each the attention it deserves which does not make them interface. It is a perfect blend for me. 

Have you got any tips for inspiring young entrepreneurs, especially women?
Mbama: For every woman out there, the sky is not your limit, you can do much better. Find your passion, pray about it. If you are married, work it out with your husband and if you are not married drive it with passion.

This interview originally appeared on

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