Oluwaseun Babalola Bamiro holds a diploma in Computer Science and is the brains behind YNorth Store, Ibadan, Oyo State. He speaks with Rita Okonoboh on the best time to shop for school shoes, tips for choosing the right shoes and why picking the right school shoes is quality investment. Excerpts:
The passion for shoes
Right from school, I’d always been in business. Even in school, people called me businessman because I sold a lot of things then. School provided the training ground. So, I had it in mind that when I left school, I would not write a CV. That had always been my dream. My passion for shoes developed when my girlfriend, back in the days, who is now my wife, bought a pair of slippers for me. Some of my friends liked the footwear, so we contacted the shoemaker to make the type for them. So, through me, about five or six of my friends patronised the shoemaker. And I thought that I could sell directly to my friends. That was how the idea for making shoes developed.
The name, ‘YNorth’
The shoemaker then who made that slippers was using a foreign name, and I asked him ‘why not a local name?’ Then I decided that I would adopt the name ‘Why Not?’ When I decided to start my shoe making business fully, we reworked the name and that is how we got ‘YNorth.’
Passion for business a family trait?
No. I come from a family of educationists. In fact, when I started making shoes, my family members didn’t understand why I would drop a degree in Computer Science for shoe making. However, I was looking beyond what they saw at the time because I had a dream and I wanted to create a niche for myself.
Why school shoes?
When we started in 2010, three years down the line, many parents spoke to me about making school shoes, because of the challenge of getting quality shoes that would last long. In 2014, we started the school shoe project, making research on what making quality school shoes would entail. We found out that many parents had issues with the upper part of the shoes, but the soles were good. Also, environments differ. We discovered that children’s school shoes survive better when made with pure leather, especially because of the activities they engage in as school children. We also found out that Nigeria has quality leather but couldn’t produce the kind of quality soles that would be best for school shoes. As a result, we had to conduct another research on how to get quality soles, going as far as outside the country to places like China. So, to cater for the Nigerian weather condition and the children’s activities, we asked that a space be put between the sole and the upper part, so that we can sew it round, as additional protection to ensure durability. Our shoes are very durable and can be passed from one sibling to the other, and for parents who would not want that, they could give the shoes out to those in need, and even after long use, they would still look as good as new.
When is the best time for parents to shop for school shoes?
This is the best time because this is their season and there are ongoing promos. That’s also why we launched the new line of shoes now and we are also offering discounts.
Fitting children for school shoes
If possible, I would advise that the child is brought along for fitting. We discovered now that children are growing bigger than their ages so it is not easy to guess the size of a child’s shoes. It is not easy to assume a child’s size unless you already know it. The best bet is to bring the child for fitting.
This is my country and I understand that things are not easy, especially with the state of the economy. So, our prices are very affordable. We are also running a back-to-school promo, that is the ‘I Deserve New School Shoes’ promo and we offer a discount to those who patronise us.
Tips for choosing school shoes
With our environment, parents should look out for solid, pure 100 per cent leather shoes. Very good soles are also important. Also, many schools use black, so they also have to invest in quality shoe polish. They should avoid liquid polish because it spoils shoes easily. You know the shoes are polished on an almost daily basis and frequent use of liquid polish will shrink the leather.
Buying new school shoes
If a shoe is of good quality, honestly, you shouldn’t have to renew school shoes every term. For the average child, because they grow fast, when shopping, go for a size an inch above the normal size of the feet. This will ensure that the shoes are comfortable and will last for a long time. A good pair of school shoes should last for a session.
Message to parents on choosing school shoes
I would encourage parents to patronise made in Nigeria shoes. If we can sustain that for the next five years, a lot of things will change. When we started YNorth, I interviewed older men who used to be in the business on why they left and the reason they gave was that foreign products flooded the market and they could not sustain their businesses. The only way we can develop the nation is to buy made in Nigeria products, especially if the quality is the best you can find. We have a lot of customers already for the school shoes, and we encourage more people to go into it. When we patronise our products, we are making the change we want to see in Nigeria.
Features of school shoes
CHILDREN’S feet grow in spurts, and they require new shoes every three to four months. Most early toddlers (under 16 months of age) grow more than one-half a foot size in two months. Toddlers from age 16 to 24 months grow an average of one-half a foot size every three months. The young child, 24 to 36 months old, grows approximately one-half a foot size every four months, and children over 3 years of age experience increases of one-half a foot size every four to six months.
You should examine the depth of the shoe to make sure the top of the shoe doesn’t press on the toes or the toenails. Look for shoes with rounded toe boxes to give the toes more room for movement.
Remember, shoes should be comfortable from the start. If new shoes need to be “broken in,” it means either they were not properly designed or not properly fitted for your child’s foot.
Shoes consist of four parts: the upper, the insole, the outer sole and the heel.
The upper part of the child’s shoe should be made of leather, canvas or the newer mesh materials. Children’s feet perspire heavily, and the upper part of their shoes should be made of breathable materials. Leather or canvas allows the foot to breathe. Avoid man-made material, such as plastic.
Make sure the insole is made of absorbent material. You may want padded insoles. Most children do not need a special arch support. All toddlers younger than 16 months have flat feet and only fully develop an arch by the age of 6 to 8 years.
The outer sole provides traction, cushioning and flexibility to the shoe. Some very sticky and thick outer soles can make young children clumsy and cause falls and should be avoided.
Toddlers do not need heels on their shoes. Flat outer soles make it easier to begin walking. Older children can wear shoes with heels, but they should not be too high (taller than one inch), as tall heels can cause the foot to slide forward and cramp the toes against the inside of the shoe.
Additional information Source: American Orthopaedic Foot & Ankle Society website.