Muhsin Kari — Navigating the almost non-existent Nigerian woodwork industry

Navigating the Nigerian woodwork industry is synonymous to surviving in a desert. This can be very tasking considering the harshness of the environment and the low availability of required resources.

In this interview with Muhsin Kari, the founder of Kari woodwork, he discussed the challenges of operating a woodwork business in Nigeria, and his vision for Kari woodwork in the long run.

Muhsin Kari

How did you start your journey in the woodwork craft?

Woodwork has been my passion for many years. I started because I loved it and wanted to make stuff for myself, but professionally, I started when a friend asked me how much it’ll cost to make the replica of a book I made for myself. In my head, I was like, oh, someone is willing to pay me for this? That was my light bulb moment.

So I made the book for her then-boyfriend, now-husband in February 2019 during valentine.

Afterwards, I put it up on Instagram, and before I knew it, I was trying to keep up with orders for that particular book.

Interesting. Kudos to your friend for that push. I’m curious to know what inspires you and influences your creative process.

I’ve always been a creative person, and gladly, my educational background in the medical sciences never restrained me.

I draw, I rap, I produce music.

My creative side also extends to my business. When someone tells me to craft something for them, I try to deduce their kind of person, pick the necessary details, and proceed to make the order to their specifications.

However, if you talk about what inspires me to wake up in the morning and continue to push on, firstly, it’s the fact that I love what I do; I work from Sunday to Sunday and can be at my workshop from 7 am and not leave till 1 am because as far as I’m concerned, I’m having fun and not working.

Secondly, I pull a large part of my inspiration from the memory of my late father. I believe he’s looking down on me, and I want him to be proud.

Oh, that’s a big motivation right there. May his soul rest in peace. Well, passion is one thing while business is another aspect. What challenges have you faced in the woodwork industry? How did you overcome them?

The major challenges are environmental-related, and they stem from being a business based in Nigeria. Nigeria challenges everything you know and have. It tests your patience, your tolerance, your resilience, your mindset, and your mentality.

Electricity is a big challenge for us. 90% of our tools need electricity to work, and electricity is unavailable most times, so we run on generators, which increases cost price, noise pollution, and stress.

Supply is another challenge. The Nigerian woodwork market is almost non-existent. There are limited wood types available even though we have every kind of tree you can think of in the forest. This setback is due to the negligence on the part of the government for refusing to set up institutions and companies that will make these trees useful for use, hence, we almost always have to import the raw materials and products needed to finish our jobs.

I kid you not, I’ve had a project where I had to cut down the tree myself. The particular wood was unavailable in the market. So it was either I import or cut the tree and process it myself. I opted for the latter, and processing it alone took about a month because we didn’t have the facilities to properly process the wood.

In addition, there is no established body without challenges. Staffing and finding competent hands are the internal challenges I’ve had to deal with. My line of work involves lots of hard work and creativity, and sadly, not everybody understands the concept of putting your all into your work.

That’s quite sad. Talking about inadequate staffing, are there training/internship opportunities at Kari woodwork?

Yes. Preparations are ongoing for new classes. Once we finalize them, we’ll put up the information on Instagram. The classes should start in a month.

Okay, creatives. You should put your eyes on Kari woodwork’s Instagram page if you’re interested in learning about woodwork. I went through Kari woodwork’s Instagram profile and saw several pieces from books to earrings to boxes, and many more, will you say you have a specific niche?

Okay, when it comes to business, I believe in starting small and letting the business reach its peak because that’s where you take your direction. In my case, I started with a book, and over time, more people reached out to me to craft different things.

So when you talk about niche, we are open to crafting almost everything made from wood at Kari woodwork. Likewise, a large part of the products we introduce is influenced by market demands.

A versatile company right there! Interesting. What are your long-term goals for Kariwood? Where do you see Kariwood years from now?

Long-term goals? I see expansion. We currently deliver all over the world. Our products have been delivered to the UK, US, Dubai, Ghana, Amsterdam, Canada, and many other countries.

The long-term goal is to have a worldwide conglomerate that’ll turn into a franchise where we would have Kari woodwork showcasing awesome pieces in different countries.

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