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Nwaubani wears it well

Last update - Thursday, July 16, 2009, 17:55 By Metro Éireann

Katrin Schmidt meets Frank Nwaubani, who has followed his parents’ footsteps into the second-hand clothing trade with his firm Westerpark International

Helping people is what motivated Frank Nwaubani to start his Dundalk-based business – a  textile recycling firm called Westerpark International, which buys leftover donations from organisations such as Women’s Aid and the Irish Cancer Community.
“We send [the clothes] to the places where they’re needed, mostly to African countries, but also to countries such as Iraq,” explains Nwaubani. “Often, clothes which are leftovers that they couldn’t sell in their shops, we buy and send it to Africa. The clothes that are not good enough to get a full-recycling process are later on used for cleaning.”
His parents in Nigeria had a business in second-hand clothing, so Nwaubani knew the area inside-out, so to speak. “I’m doing something that I started way back in Africa.  The second-hand clothes business is very important, especially in developing countries where people are less privileged. Second-hand clothes sell faster and are quite affordable for people.”
Business is going well, and Nwaubani takes pride in assisting the people of developing countries. “All my life I wanted to give back aid to humanity. I like that I can reach out to people... a good percentage of profits of my company go to Africa,” he insists.
Despite the success, it has been a challenging venture:  “It was not easy to establish a business from a financial point of view because I didn’t get bank loans – I was on my own financial strength and I didn’t know how this was going to work out,” he explains. “There were high costs, it was capital intensive and I had to face many, many challenges.”
Furthermore, the economic recession hasn’t entirely bypassed Nwaubani. “At first I thought the economic downturn wouldn’t affect me because nobody can run away from me,” he jokes.
“But big income is no longer there, so people are no longer able to afford exchanging clothes. We have to cope with that. But so far so good - though we are affected, we’re not as much affected as other companies.”
Away from the office, Nwaubani is well attuned to the Irish way of life. Besides being partial to a good Guinness once in a while, he is very fond of dishes enjoyed by a typical Irish family.
“Irish food is very similar to African food. My favourite food is chicken curry and mashed potatoes. It’s so delicious,” he says. The businessman is also involved in football; he even owns a football club, which is trying to enter itself into competition. “This can be seen like a project, where people get well integrated into the Irish system through football.”
Besides missing his mother, it’s Nigeria’s sunny weather that Nwaubani most yearns for. The rain serves as a reminder of home. “Whenever you’re feeling cold, you know where you’re coming from.”

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