In 2019, National Youth Service Corps (NYSC) graduate, Stephen Teru, made a positive impact in the Old Netim community in Cross Rivers state, Nigeria by volunteering his carpentry skills to furnish a health center and two schools in the area. Despite studying animal biology at the University of Jos, Teru had developed a passion for carpentry, which he learned from working with a local carpenter.

He used the community’s abundant supply of Malaina trees to produce desks, tables, benches, and shelves for the schools, which had previously faced a shortage of furniture.

The project, which he carried out with the support of the local community, generated widespread attention and Ediale Kingsley was one of those that first syndicated the story. Today, he owns a furniture business called Terucraft Furniture. He speaks with Ediale Kingsley in this interview.

How did your 2019 viral story of your NYSC goodwill affect your journey in life so far?

Popularity is good for business. Made new friends across the country and beyond. Got an express appointment with the Ministry of Agriculture.

Can you tell us about the journey of starting and growing your furniture company?

Sincerely, I never thought I’ll be doing this business until the last week of my POP. I had to go back to the workshop as an intern to refresh my skills and get updated with the new power tools in the industry. 3 months later, I officially registered with CAC, purchased some essential tools, and I began leveraging Facebook to advertise my work. It wasn’t smooth and easy. I stayed weeks without a job, but I never stopped posting furniture Ideas. Long story short, there’s never been a day without something to do in the workshop for the past two years!

What inspired you to venture into the furniture business?

My own project inspired me. After the project went viral, I was invited by several top businessmen and women across the country. Most of them shared their stories: how they got started, and the journey to where they are. After all those interactions, I couldn’t be more inspired.

How do you approach design and innovation in your products?

Designs are abundant on the internet. So, I mostly don’t think from scratch. I try to modify what someone else has done. More so, I love interacting and sharing ideas with my clients… it’s amazing how we build a strong business relationship that way.

Can you share some of the challenges you’ve faced in running the company and how you overcame them?

There are several challenges. Mobility/logistics is one. Furniture is expensive to transport across long distances. Working space was another challenge. I had to rent land. Power/electricity. And capital. I’m still hoping for capital to move the business to the next level.

Can you tell us about your recent wedding and how it has impacted your life and business?

The wedding was the most beautiful thing ever. Interestingly, my wife is an entrepreneur too. Highly business minded. I must say that we’ve been learning a whole lot from each other. And we can only get better. To God be the glory.

How do you balance your personal and professional life?

Personal and professional life. First, a business account is different from a personal bank account. Sometimes it’s really hard separating business from other activities. But the finances must be separated. That’s key!

What are your future plans for the company?

Future plans. I look forward to moving from building-ordered furniture to having showrooms where people pay and carry. With an ultramodern production factory and functional logistics department. I want the company to stand after I am no more

How do you see the furniture industry evolving in the next 5 to 10 years?

The furniture industry is constantly changing. Manual methods are almost completely being replaced by automated machines and tools. It’s all going digital. And the materials are going beyond just wood.

Can you share some of the successful projects you’ve worked on and what made them successful?

Projects.

We’ve furnished a handful of houses within and outside Jos. We’ve built furniture for countless offices and households.

We started producing simple chairs and sofas in our first year. But with an increasing customer base, our designs are improving and we now handle sets of sofa that ranges from 500,000 and above.

What advice would you give to someone who wants to start a business in the furniture industry?

Advise. Even when you have all the capital, learn the skill first. You can start small. It’s in fact important to start small… it’s a learning process. It’s not always about the gain. Customer satisfaction is your ticket to future contracts and deals. Be consistent!

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