From what started as an admiration and a desire to be involved in sports somewhat, Tunji Brown has finally warmed his way into the sports world.
The Lagos-based entrepreneur runs a wholly Nigerian sportswear manufacturing firm called Owu Sportswear.
“I grew up supporting the Nigerian league and the desire to always be involved in sports since I don’t do sports personally,” he told Reuters.
I never thought that a Nigerian can produce a jersey that we'll be proud of.
He said he then started paying close attention to “what is actually going on in the Nigerian league with regards to kitting and we decided to go into production of sportswear”.
Brown set up a shop in the sprawling Nigerian commercial capital Lagos in 2008 with the hope of providing sports kits for teams playing in the local league.
He also wanted to create a local alternative to the more expensive jerseys produced by international brands such as Nike and Adidas.
In 2010, Owu Sportswear produced sportswear for its first professional football team, the Oyo state based Shooting Stars of Nigeria.
But it was not an easy ride getting the local teams to accept his brand.
“There’s actually been a lot of challenges ranging from fabrics, availability of fabrics, acceptance by teams to do Nigerian brand, to be kitted by a Nigerian sportswear manufacturer,” Brown said.
Today with a staff of 30, Tunji Brown’s Owu Sportswear provides kits for 20 local teams.
And fans of the teams also appear to have grown used to the Made in Nigeria jerseys.
Chairman of the Mountain of Fire and Miracles, a local football club which is Owu Sportswear’s client, Godwin Enakhena said: “I never thought that a Nigerian can produce a jersey that we’ll be proud of, that we can put on, that the governor from Lagos state will put on, … you know big people … will put on and the first comment would be wow, was this made in Nigeria? I mean, hey, I wear it proudly wherever I go”.
Owu is currently worth about 39 million naira (200,000 U.S. dollars).
The company hopes to one day become the brand of choice for Nigeria’s ‘Super Eagles’ and other African football teams.