My Business Story

Moving Story Of Mathematician Turned Fish Farmer

A Master’s degree holder swallows his pride and finds a thrilling life as a budding fish farmer

With a first degree in Mathematics from Bowen University, Iwo, Osun State and a Master’s degree in Actuarial Science from the University of Lagos, one would think that Folusho Olukinni is destined for a career in the financial. Yet, while he was trying to joggle numbers and calculate risk, Folusho had his eyes on an unrelated sector – fish farming.

Recalling how it all started, Folusho said, “I started this business even before I finished school, so after school, I just decided to face it and focus on it. My brother and I initially set up the farm in 2011; I can say that I have been into this line of business for about six to seven years. At first, my brother was running it so I was only helping out but I took interest as time went on and after university, I went fully into it.” 


Business brief:
Started: 2011

 
What Folusho and his brother started in 2011, mid-way into his studies at the university, has become Olukinni Farms, an integrated fish farming farm involved in hatchery, rearing and feed production. 

Interestingly, Folusho’s initial idea of himself as a fish farmer was to source and sell fingerlings to other fish farmers. 

He said, “When I first started, I didn’t do everything at once. I used to buy fingerlings to sell to other local farmers, but I soon realized that if I wanted to make more profit, I had to go into other aspects of the business.” 

That was the first of many lessons he learnt in the trade.

Another lesson Folusho learnt was that in fish farming one has to improvise and work smart. For instance, when the cost of purchasing the starter feed for his fish rose from N3,000 to N9,000 within three years, he knew profits were going to be affected if he didn’t invent.




“While other farms may buy fingerlings, we hatch our own. That cuts costs for us. We produce our own feeds and ‘smoke’ our fish. Other farmers don’t do it, but we do it all.”


“In the beginning when we started," Folusho said, "we felt we had no choice but to just manage. But later we had to improvise by looking for other sources of ingredients for our feeds. For example, you can see now that we are planting our own corn. What we do is to harvest when ready and process our own feeds. It has helped us to cut cost to the barest minimum without compromising quality.”

Processing his own feed has helped perfect Folusho’s quality control skill. 

In what seemed like a half smile, he said, “I remember a time I used an expired fish meal unknowingly because I was under pressure to make the purchase. And then I just discovered that the fish were not growing as fast as they should. It was then I realized that I used expired feeds. That was a really low moment, which strengthened my resolve to source feeds locally.”

After investing over N6milion naira since inception, there are things Folusho would love to see improve in fish farming. 

He said, “There is still is the problem of electricity, because this business runs mainly on power as we need to constantly change the water almost every day. We need to pump water with the pumping machine and that requires electricity. There is also the problem of labour; it is not easy to get good hands willing to work as fishpond attendants. They feel it’s a dirty job.”

To avoid expending too much cost on power, Folusho told us that he has learnt to stretch himself and his staff whenever there is public power supply. 

“Whenever electricity comes,” he said, “we have to quickly change over. We don’t joke with that. Somebody is constantly on the lookout for whenever they bring light, even if it is 2am, and we make the most of it.”

Although he has not recouped his investment yet, his annual turnover is about N1.6million and he believes that in the business of fish farming, the more you invest the higher your profit.

He said, “If we can get more funds to expand, there is a huge market for fish in Nigeria. However, we spend too much on feeds and power, and then we put back the little profits into the business. But the business is more profitable when done on a large scale.”

Folusho’s entire capital has come from his savings and from family and friends. And he thinks that this approach has aided growth.

He enthused, “The unique thing about our business is that we try to cut cost from beginning to the end. For example, while other farms may buy fingerlings, we hatch our own. That cuts costs for us. We produce our own feeds and ‘smoke’ our fish. Other farmers don’t do it, but we do it all.”

The CEO of Olukinni Farms told us how lucrative the business could be.

Folusho said, “Often, clients come quarterly because the fish can be harvested in about four to five months, depending on the size you want to achieve. A standard table size, for instance, can be harvested in six months. Clients come every three to five months. The truth is that because of the huge demand for fish, even one single client can buy up everything you produce.”

Listening To Clients Is The Secret Of My Business Success – Makeup Artist

An entrepreneur shares a story of how listening to her clients has proved to be her most valuable asset

These days, every other lady with a lipstick and an eye pencil is a makeup artist. The industry is so saturated that standing shoulders above “the lady next door” might be a tall order. However, our guest has found a way to manoeuvre in one of the most inundated industries, and she shares the story of how starting small didn’t scare her.

Temitope Sotomi recalls: “I started this business in 2012, even though it was registered in 2014 after I had received some advice from my family and friends who all knew that about my passion for makeup and creativity.”

Temitope was an undergraduate when she started as a makeup artist. The Business Administration graduate from Babcock University decided upon graduation in 2012 that she wasn’t going to chase any of those blue- or white-collar jobs that weren’t even available in the first place.


Business brief:
Started: 2014
Instagram: @tdollsmakeovers


She said, “I didn't work for anybody before starting this business. I have not had any paid job; this is what I have always done for a living. I started this business immediately I finished school.”

It was in 2014, when Temitope registered Tdolls Makeover International, a makeup, artistry, beautifying and costuming business specialising in engagement and bridal makeup, headgear (gele) tying, eyelash fixing, photoshoot makeup and runway fashion makeup. 

Asked if she was one of those who just dabbled into the makeup business because everyone else is into it, she said: “I trained at the House of Tara under the Professional Makeup Class. Makeup was what I really wanted to do, so I knew I had to get a credible certification, and I did.”

From the start, Temitope wanted to be taken seriously in the makeup business, she knew that one thing which sets the likes of Tara apart from the “roadside” makeup artist was the class of their clients. For this reason, she knew one thing she had to get right from the beginning was a good, high-end location. 




“Normally, on weekends and during holidays and festive periods when there are lots of parties and celebrations everywhere, there is more money to be made. However, things have changed a bit, especially with the recession”


She said, “I had some challenges getting a good location which would attract the type of clients we were targeting. It was not easy and it is still not easy to get a place here at Allen Avenue. After managing to get a location through an agent, another problem was convincing potential clients to try us out - howeverwith God on our side we were able to surmount that challenge.”

Setting up a makeup parlour at Allen Avenue may not sound like a lot of investment, but for a fresh graduate with little or no savings of her own, capital still had to be raised. How did Temitope raise the required capital to start Tdolls?

Temitope said, “Getting the money to start was a problem because I had just left school, had not worked anywhere and only had very little money of my own. My late dad and uncle really helped in providing the necessary fundsneeded in executing the business. Mylittle savings also proved helpful.”  

Temitope has experienced a lot of changes in the makeup business in the three years she’s been around. Prices of her accessories and costumes, which are strictly imported items sourced through merchants, have skyrocketed. This has forced an upward review of what she charges and, in turn, reduced patronage.

She said, “Normally, on weekends and during holidays and festive periods when there are lots of parties and celebrations everywhere, there is more money to be made. However, things have changed a bit, especially with the recession. I am always worried about the prices of things. Eye lashes for instance are imported and now very expensive.”

However, Temitope is certain that Tdolls has come to stay. She believes that with an average of 20 clients a month, including brides and grooms, party clients and clients on entertainment locations, she can continue to sustain her establishment. For her, keeping existing clients and attracting new ones are crucial to sustaining Tdolls. 

Explaining part of the secret of her business success, she said, “We continually identify with our clients’ needs and use them as a inputs in decision-making process, because we know that this is central to competitiveness.. By doing this, we hope to build up a considerable client base all over the country.”

There are several lessons Temitope has learnt from managing a small business from scratch. It has helped her decision-making ability and taught her how to be independent. But in her line of business, what does she consider to be the most  important lesson to have learnt?  

“I am always trying to do something new with makeup. You cannot be in this line of business and not be ready to learn or update your knowledge because, every day, fresh patterns and more advanced costumes enter  the market. You need to keep improving and you can’t survive for long without diversifying into producing your own beauty products,” she stated. 

Although Tdolls currently averages a modest N1million annual turnover, Temitope is proud of the effort she has so far put into growing her business. Her prices range from N5, 000 to N20, 000 for party guest makeup and N50, 000 to N300, 000 for bridal makeup packages. She therefore doesn’t believe that the market has reached saturation.

She said, “Makeup artists are making money. Every weekend, there are occasions and people walk in to do their makeup and tidy themselves up. So, yes we are making money, but we are a very small establishment and we are just trying to find our feet in the business.”

Tragedy Led Me Into Business Of Saving Lives

Not one to waste a tragedy, Olamide Brown turned a family grief into an extraordinary career of saving lives

IDEA: Mrs. Olamide Brown is a doctor as well as a trained helicopter pilot. In 2012, she founded Flying Doctors Nigeria, an air ambulance company. But how she entered into the world of entrepreneurship was unorthodox, to say the least.

She recalled: “I never really had a job and I don’t know whether entrepreneurs are born or made. When I finished medical school, I was thinking: what could I do to really make myself successful? But at the same time, something else happened to me. My sister came to Nigeria and she got very sick and we wanted to organize an air ambulance for her, but in the process of doing that she died. So I had the urge to come back to Nigeria and try and do something that would prevent that kind of situation from happening to any other person.”

Business Brief:
Over 5 years ago
Website:
flyingdoctorsnigeria.com


WHAT NEXT? Providing air ambulance services might seem like a high-end luxury business reserved for the rich, until one considers the difficulty in accessing quality healthcare in Nigeria and many other African countries.


“In places like Nigeria and Africa as a whole,” Olamide said, “we have limited healthcare budget. We can only access high-level hospitals in certain areas, and it’s even more important in Nigeria to be able to move patients from one place to another where they can be cared for in case of emergency.”

Capital, making the necessary connections, regulatory issues and a stifling business environment were some of the initial challenges Olamide faced. But for one of the youngest graduates of Medicine in England, her mindset was perhaps her biggest challenge.




“I think mindset is very important in starting any business. The more you grow as a business person, the more you realize that 20 per cent of the issues and challenges are outside, while 80 per cent of the issues and challenges are about you”


She said, “I think mindset is very important in starting any business. The more you grow as a business person, the more you realize that 20 per cent of the issues and challenges are outside, while 80 per cent of the issues and challenges are about you. I read an article entitled “How to start a business if your father is not Femi Otedola”. I used to feel that maybe if my parents were richer I would have been more successful, but until I got rid of that mindset, I never really had any business success because I was sort of overwhelmed in feeling I was not from a rich background, and it limited my progress.”

Today, five years after it was established, Flying Doctors operates in 10 African countries and has diversified into other areas apart from providing medical emergency service. They include medevac, medico-logistics services, remote site medical solutions services, medical infrastructural development and medical training services. How did Olamide raise capital to start such a huge investment?

BREAKTHROUGH MOMENT: Looking back, she said, “I saved anything I could from any stipend I received. In England, I had to share accommodation with about 12 other people in order to reduce my accommodation cost due to the business I was planning to come and start. It was about personal sacrifices and not living in any unwanted luxury.”

Her company prides itself on being the first indigenous air ambulance service provider in West Africa and “has the largest network of ground and air ambulances in West Africa”. However, there have been ups and downs in her effort to keep Flying Doctors in business.  

SETBACK: It’s not been an easy road. She said: “I think one of the low points was when I was having cash flow issues. As an entrepreneur, never ever allow yourself to be in a situation where you cannot pay salaries at the end of the month. Always have cash, no matter what. People say keep at least three months’ salaries, but I keep like one and half years of salaries because I never want to be in a situation where I am sourcing for money to pay salaries or operational expenses.”

Flying Doctors, which has a shortest response time of 20-30 minutes, was at first conceived as a charity by Olamide and started with a single jet model accessible to only less than one per cent of the population. Smaller types of air ambulances have been added to the fleet as well as commercial flights operation, which is about 10 per cent of the business.

Olamide said, “I think that ability to always recreate is what stands us out; we are always looking at inventing the best ways of what we are doing. We are always trying to change things up. We are always trying to be different. That is something very unique about me and about the business we do.” 

CURRENT STATUS: With investment in Flying Doctors running in “some millions of dollars”, there is one thing Dr Ola, as she’s fondly called, would have done differently – keeping proper financial records.

“Most of the time, as women, we start businesses without really having proper financial records,” she said. “I think for the first year in business, I didn’t have a proper financial record. I think it is important if anyone is to start a business to have a good financial record – knowing how your business is growing.”

For Olamide, the air ambulance service industry is still small, thus competition is needed and welcomed. “It makes you more efficient and grows the industry, so competition is something that we can deal with.”

As for Flying Doctors Nigeria, she expects it to become a pan-African company in the next five years.

How I Found My Way Through Packed Tech Space

Young entrepreneurs who think the tech space is crowded should read the story of how Mark Essien cut through the maze and found his niche

In 2013, Mark Essien was convinced there was a huge opportunity in online hotel booking services and returned home from Germany where he had gone to study. But, first, he had to figure out how to get funding and how to assemble a suitable team; and his knowledge of the hospitality industry was very minimal.


Mark recalled: “One of the major initial challenges was not being able to get enough money to start the business, and it was also difficult getting the best talent, because when you are starting a new business it is very difficult to get the best people to come on board. When I started, I didn’t know anything about online hotel bookings and hospitality.”


Business brief:
Started: 2013
Website: www.hotels.ng


Mark knew he needed capital if he intended to hire the best hands in the industry to make up for his own limited knowledge, but he wouldn’t seek a bank facility.

“I think that banks in Nigeria are very risk averse; they only want to give out money when they are very sure, particularly for a business like this. Talking in 2013 to banks about the business of online hotel booking didn’t look like a sure business,” he said, smiling.

The Akwa Ibom State-born web developer was determined though, relying on his expertise and training and ignoring the challenges of achieving his goal. Immediately he finished his postgraduate studies in Germany, he came back and started Hotels.ng in Calabar. He started going round and signing on any known hotels.

Fast-forward to 2017. Hotels.ng now has over 9,400 hotels in 480 cities and towns in Nigeria listed on its platform, with an average of 500 clients a day attended to by 54-strong staff and scores of support staff.
 



“At the early stages of the business we ran out of money. That was when we left Anthony Village and moved to Yaba, and had to survive as a business on our own”


Hotels.ng has even been featured on such media platforms as the BBC, iWeb Africa and Forbes. And, according to its chief executive officer, it is the market leader in online hotel booking services, with an estimated 70 per cent market share.

Mark said, “Before we came there were two similar businesses called Nightstay and Naija Hotels. After we started, Jumia Hotels also came and then Hotel Now and Wakanow all entered the hotel-booking segment; so there is a lot of competition. I believe we are the market leaders, and we probably control about 70 per cent of the market in Nigeria.”

Located at No. 3 Birrel Avenue, Off Herbert Macaulay Way, Sabo, Yaba, Lagos, Hotels.ng has generated billions of naira for hotels and has an annual growth rate of 200 per cent. It is a stark contrast to when Mark struggled to make ends meet at the beginning.

He said, “At the early stages of the business we ran out of money. That was when we left Anthony Village and moved to Yaba and had to survive as a business on our own. I really had a lot of struggles where you had to make some money and spend it all on the business every day.”

Mark understands the danger of getting stuck and left behind in the fast-moving tech industry. After all, players such as Yahoo! Research in Motion, AOL and Myspace were giants of yesterday while the likes of Facebook, Netflix, Amazon, and Alibaba are the big players today.

He said, “I am always afraid and paranoid about that. I am always looking at changes in the industry so if anything is changing we can be part of that change, because if we cannot change with it, we will continue doing our business and then we will die without doing anything wrong.”

With big online retailers such as Jumia entering the online hotel-booking business, Mark’s worries are legitimate. However, he was quick to add that Hotels.ng has a comparative advantage.

“Our major competitive advantage,” he said, “is that we are very good with technology. Because of my background as a software developer, lots of things that cost others money we can do far cheaper, and that is why we continue growing and keeping our brands in Nigeria and around Africa.”

Developing a core team of competent staff has always been a priority. He said, “People who work in this company are really experts in what they do. For us, the first thing that we do is to find the most talented persons and make sure that they are working in this company.” 

So far, Hotels.ng has identified and trained 1,100 software developers, 30 of whom were selected for further training in the company. 

In 2015, external investors put $1.2 million in the company. Essien said it helped his expansion process and boosted Hotels.ng’s status as a key player in the hospitality business.

“We spend about $10,000 a month on marketing and advertisement these days, because we have grown. But for other businesses, especially budding start-ups, that is a lot of money. Now that we are going pan-African, we probably need to spend about $50, 000 a month on advertising.”

The investment paid off because, according to the CEO, towards the end of 2016, in spite of the recession, the company was able to make a profit.

Much of Hotels.ng’s success has been attributed to its founder’s mastering of the management learning curve. 

Tracing his company’s growth, Mark said, “When you grow from zero to 20 you can operate like a one-man business; from 20 to 50, you need to start delegating; and from 50 upwards, you need to start creating structures. Sadly, what happens is that many people are not able to get to one stage from the other, so when they cross the 20-people mark, they still want to run the business like a one-man business, which makes them start losing sight and they cannot go to the next level.”

The 36-year-old nominee for the Future Awards Africa Prize in Technology believes that Nigeria has what it takes to be the technology hub of Africa.

He said, “In Nigeria, we have built a lot of technology; we have created a lot that has allowed us to achieve a dominant position, and I don’t see any reason why we cannot do this across the rest of Africa and perhaps globally.” 

From Nuisance to Nuance: Entrepreneur Turns Junk into Masterpieces

If one man’s meat is another’s poison, there’s an entrepreneur who has also found that he can turn one man’s junk into a treasure trove. His story is a must-read.

IDEA: There are used tyres everywhere in Nigeria; just take a look around you. From mechanic workshops to heaps, street corners and roadsides, they litter everywhere and could sometimes be an eyesore and a road user’s nightmare at the same time. But one start-up has decided to take them off the streets in a quite unique way.

Olaide Adeyemi Ayodele had worked in the financial sector for 15 years, 10 of them in banking. In 2016, she decided to take advantage of two major situations to venture into waste management and recycling.

Business brief:
Started: 2016
Website: jdrecycling17.com


She said, “We have a family business of cleaning and fumigation. So in the course of the business, we realized that one of the challenges confronting Lagos and many other states in Nigeria was sanitation and waste management.”

According to Olaide, another factor which encouraged her to want to manage and recycle wastes was the effort of the Lagos State government towards ensuring a better sanitation and cleaner environment.

“There is so much waste in Lagos,” she said. “For example, vehicle tyres, plastic bottles, pure water sachet and the like, and the state government has been putting in so much effort to reduce this waste and its effect on the environment. My husband and I saw the damage that waste was causing to individuals, communities, towns, cities, companies and the nation at large and we decided to do something.”

WHAT NEXT? Olaide started collecting used tyres in October 2016 and, earlier this year, she registered JD Recycling, a firm which makes household items from used tyres. The mother of two and her three staff make chairs, tables, wall clocks, wall designs, landscape designs, wall planters, playground items and other utilities from used tyres collected from mechanic shops, dumpsites and in the streets of Lagos.

But why tyres, of all recyclable materials? 

It sounded like a familiar question. She smiled and said, “The fact that we can convert tyres of all sizes to something you can use to beautify your homes and environment makes our business unique. It is not the usual recycling system seen around. Our products are unique and exceptional. We knew tyres could be recycled but we did not want the usual recycling method. Through research, we were able to get these ideas.”

For between N10, 000 and N15, 000, one could purchase a chair made of a 14- or 15-inch tyre sourced by Olaide and her team for around N300. The process involves picking, washing, disinfecting, stapling, gluing, screwing and dressing, among others – it means a lot of work.

It takes from a whole day to up to a month for a product to be made, depending on its complexity. It is therefore understandable that the CEO of JD Recycling gets anxious whenever potential clients have a reluctant and hesitant view of her products.


“We saw the damage that waste was causing to individuals, communities, towns, cities, companies and the nation at large and we decided to do something”



Olaide said, “Turning vehicles’ used tyres to household beauty is a concept that is very new in Nigeria. Some people find it fascinating while others cannot just imagine having used tyres as furniture in their homes or offices. People’s mindsets were a major challenge in accepting our products. But we are gradually getting over that and gradually getting there.”

The graduate of Accounting from Yaba College of Technology, Lagos, devised a means to confront people’s attitude by being innovative. 

BREAKTHROUGH MOMENT: She said, “We created different products like wall clocks, wall hangers, tables, chairs, garden planters and playground items to expand our sales options and to suit different individual or corporate needs. What this means is that we are able to produce different items such that no matter who you are or what you do, you will need one of our products.”

She also has to constantly “convince them with quality” because, in her words, quality is at the heart of making products like hers.

Although JD Recycling currently averages a modest 10 customers per month, Olaide believes that once awareness about waste management and recycling is intensified, sales will increase.

She said, “We are making different efforts such as partnering with furniture and interior decoration companies regularly going for exhibitions, connecting with people through adverts and we are registering and partnering with Lagos State regarding what we do. We are also approaching schools, both public and private, to train their students and we are making our presence known online.”

SETBACK: Inadequate capital has so far prevented Olaide from venturing into other forms of recycling. 

Asked if she has sought financial support, she said: “Everything we started was with our savings, though we wouldn’t mind getting help from the bank due to the expansion of the business being planned. For instance, we intend to expand our business to recycling pure water sachet but, for now, because of funds to buy machines, we only pick pure water sachets and sell to companies that process them. The truth is that we were very reluctant to approach any bank for obvious reasons.”

CURRENT STATUS: She lamented about extremely high and unrealistic interest rates, unnecessary delays, cumbersome paper works, uncertainty about securing financial support at the end of the day and the fact that no Nigerian bank would lend start-ups money without collaterals. It is however a means she would like to explore.

For now, though, Olaide’s immediate concern is how to put her jigsaw, drilling machine, staple machine, gum gun, rope, glass cutter and hammer to work to make a masterpiece out of yet another environmentally unfriendly discarded tyre!


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