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1 14-Oct-2017 We're Using Creative Arts to Redefine Business And Country - Entrepreneur A passionate, young artist is exploring the creative arts not only as a viable business option, but also for what it can do to change the country
As long as Nduwhite Ndubuisi Ahanonu can remember, he has only wanted one thing: to make a career from creative arts. Not for him the indecision and game of chance which many young people go through. 

Reminiscing on his early years, Nduwhite narrated how the Arts had always been a part of him. “If I can remember, I have always been artistic. Back in my primary school days, I remember drawing things like the map of Nigeria and the digestive system on the walls of our classroom. The funny part is that other teachers also wanted me to draw on the walls of their classrooms too and I saw it as a burden at first. When I grew older, I discovered that it was the most important part of my life. It is like everything I am and the reason that I am.”

It was therefore not surprising when Nduwhite chose to study Fine and Applied Arts at the University of Nigeria, Nsukka.  Upon graduation in 2000 and having completed his National Youth Service Corps year in 2001, he decided to settle down and do arts in Abuja, a rather awkward decision considering the derisive perception of Abuja as an uninspiring city of politics and government contracts.
Business brief: Started 2012 Instagram: nduwhite

However, Nduwhite had a clearly different impression about the nation’s capital.

He said, “Actually, I visualised a city where women could spend $500 on a scarf as advised by Napoleon Hills in his book, Think and grow rich, and I realised that the closest city to that description was Abuja. I have never looked at the city from a government contract or political perspective. What I see is a city with a lot of opportunities if you understand how it works and you are honest about what you do.”

In 2012, Nduwhite registered the International Institute for Creative Development (IICD) with the aim to train, promote and present creative persons and works for worldwide visibility and to ensure that Nigeria’s arts and culture community effectively meets the global demand for art and creativity.

According to him, the challenges he faced were enormous. “Finding art and cultural workers and funding were a huge challenge,” he revealed, “Although we tried to train workers, they were random persons who were seeking employment and not passionate about the industry. Funding was a challenge because it depended on me selling my works.”

The IICD’s chief executive officer’s faith in Abuja soon paid off when in October 2013, he moved to his current location at 4 Oguda Close, off Lake Chad Crescent, Maitama.  

Nduwhite had just sold an art for around N500,000 and spent about N450,000 of it on purchasing a framing machine. Since then, his centre has attracted art trainees, individual artists, exhibitors, individual and corporate clients and the general public. With performing art, book reading, music, movies and fashion to go with it, the IICD could be said to be Abuja’s one-stop shop for creativity.

Asked if he considered his centre elitist, he said, “Creative arts are not only visual arts, it comprises other forms of art as well, including music, drama, dance and even functional arts like fashion. We are creating new citizenry for creative arts, that way we get to inspire new interests and take advantage of the fluidity of today's social citizens. Creative arts don’t necessarily have to be elitist.”   

With embassies, big hotels, foreign cultural institutes and wealthy individual art collectors topping his clients list, the IICD could be said to have conquered Abuja.

Nduwhite believes now is the time to take his business to other parts of the country.  “We have plans, first to own our permanent art space and build a strong corporate team. Then we intend to begin to replicate what we are doing in Abuja in other parts of Nigeria.”
“I have never looked at the city (Abuja) from a government contract or political perspective. What I see is a city with a lot of opportunities if you understand how it works and you are honest about what you do”

There are many things which inspire Nduwhite, but nothing gives him more joy than the fact that his “dream is someone else’s need” and the platform he has created for up-and-coming artists to flourish. He foresees the emergence of creative arts disruptors on a scale never experienced before in Nigeria.

His words: “I have always admired the roles of people like Bisi Sliva, Victor Ehikhamenor, Bruce Onobrapkeya, Tantua Diseye, Bishop T.D Jakes and Olu Tayo, but I see new players coming; I see great artists emerging and a higher interest in the industry.”
2 07-Oct-2017 How I Defeated Stereotypes To Achieve Business Success – Entrepreneur’s Moving Story This week, we bring the remarkable story of a persistent entrepreneur who had to surmount negative mindsets and stereotypes to become one of the most sought-after high-end confectioners in Abuja
Shoppers in Abuja who frequent the Dunes Centre, an upmarket shopping mall at the highbrow Maitama District of the city, can’t but notice Waffle Stop, a confectionery outlet, which was opened in March 2017. Its founder, 26-year-old Aisha Shuaibu, narrated how the establishment of Waffle Stop came to be, against all odds. 

Aisha fetched a chair from the corner of her shop and sat down to tell her story: “The idea for the business came in 2015, but at that point we were still trying to figure out the execution process. It came from when I was doing my postgraduate studies in Turkey. The programme was not engaging me enough because I had classes only on weekends. I thought about this business but wondered if it would work in Nigeria. It took some time to convert the idea to business.”

When it was time to start the business proper, Aisha, who also holds a degree in Business Studies from a United Kingdom university, was confronted with a peculiar kind of challenge – her upper middle-class background and social stereotypes. 

Business brief: Started 2016 Instagram: wafflestopabuja
She recalled how those factors came to play: “I come from the North, from a conservative background. To come back home after a long time in school and start talking about business was not an easy thing at all.”

She smiled: “Between 2015 and 2016 when Waffle Stop started, I was attending events to promote it. It was a trial and error period; I used to invite my friends over to tell me what they thought. I converted my dining area at home to a workspace and started out as a home delivery business. My plan was to leave the house for a befitting location by 2017, and that is exactly what happened.”
Judging by her fairly well-off background, one could wrongly assume that funding wouldn’t constitute a challenge for Aisha. But it did, no thanks to people around her who tried to talk her out of her idea. 

After working as a research analyst for a Swiss energy company and as an assistant manager for an Asian fusion restaurant, a few of her friends wondered why Aisha wanted to start making waffles. It didn’t look – or sound – like a bankable business.

She narrated her dilemma: “I struggled to raise the funds for my business because people told me what I was doing was not likely to sell. This almost created self-doubt along the line, and I wasted a lot of time before starting.  I later realised that it was my responsibility to sell the dream and when it is sold, the support would come. And it came.”

Registered in 2016, Waffle Stop moved from Aisha’s dining area to a small place offered to her by friends as an interim intervention before finally moving to its current location at Dunes Centre, a mall Aisha had provided media consultancy services for. 

“I struggled to raise the funds for my business because people told me what I was doing was not likely to sell. I later realized that it was my responsibility to sell the dream and when it is sold, the support would come. And it came”
According to her, she broke even in a matter of months by adopting a marketing strategy almost unique to Abuja, the Federal Capital Territory.

“In Abuja, there is no marketing tool more powerful than word of mouth. In fact, one of our strongest assets is our network. I have been in Abuja since 1999 and know a lot of people here, including those I went to school with. Your network is your most important asset especially when you are starting out; they will be the ones to support you and give you feedback. We believe that by satisfying our closest friends and associates, we encourage them to promote what we do.”

Aisha goes the extra mile to satisfy her customers, even if it takes importing some exotic fruits needed to keep her confections delightful and unbeatable. “Most of our ingredients are sourced from local suppliers. However, exotic fruits such as kiwi fruit and blueberries are not available locally so we order them from abroad, as well as other rare ingredients,” she said.
3 30-Sep-2017 'Life Lessons Taught By My Parents Made Me A Serial Entrepreneur' A young bilingual graduate armed with courage and life lessons from his parents launches a start-up that may change the Abuja fashion and transport landscape very soon.
Upon graduation from the Fatih University, Istanbul, Turkey, Shehu Usman Yakubu already had a life other youths would envy. He had seen many countries and was bilingual – he speaks English and Turkish, which landed him an immediate employment as an international correspondent with Ebru TV (a privately owned Turkish broadcast company with branches in the US and Kenya).  That was shortly after completing his NYSC in 2013. However, Yakubu was driven by an entirely different passion.

The 2012 graduate of business management narrated how he kept his eyes on his dream even while he was on a paid job: “I started working with Ebru TV as an international correspondent but two years later I resigned and started working in a Turkish construction company. My desire to start my own business, especially a fashion company, was always there.  I had started doing business even when I was working and during my last year in the university. I registered the business in 2012 and organized a fashion show in 2013.”

According to Yakubu, his desire to be an entrepreneur stemmed from wanting more from life, which, as his parents taught him, could only be achieved through giving a little extra. “I was brought up in an independent way and my parents always made me feel that if I wanted more from life I had to do more. I was already into producing shoes when I was in Turkey. I sold them to clients here in Nigeria, some in Mozambique.”

Business brief: Started 2012
The Kogi State-born General Manager of Sabali Global Synergy showed early signs of being a serial entrepreneur when he switched from making shoes to designing clothes. He remembered how, despite not making profits from his fashion business, he kept on going and pumping his wages into it.

He said, “For the first three years of my business, I was not making any profit. I was using my salary to supplement the business because I had the vision and knew that you will need to struggle hard for anything before you achieve it. I stayed focused on the brand name, because my belief is that when you have a brand name, it becomes easier for you to breakthrough.”

It was this obsession with branding that deepened Yakubu’s urge for business, leading him to venture into branding and outdoor advertising. He had seen how advertising is creatively deployed in other countries, wanted to move away from the conventional media and billboard advertising.
"There are 180 million people in Nigeria, and I believe there are not enough designers or advertisers to meet our needs. If the whole of Abuja came to me, I wouldn't be able to cater to them for lack of capacity"

“The taxi advert caught my eyes. I felt that it’s something my company can also do in Nigeria, something we can do in Abuja,” he told us, “Although I had the dream for almost three years, we only opened the office for business in February doing ground work. We launched just weeks ago,” he continued.

Spotting taxis with wrap-around ads is not new, but Abuja residents might have observed around 30 taxis with LED displays on their roofs. 

Yakubu explained why it took long to launch and why for now the number of cabs carrying them are limited: “In Nigeria there is no one-stop centre where one can push their ideas, this makes it difficult for people with ideas cross all sorts of hurdles. We are dealing with the Abuja Municipal Area Council (AMAC) to get licenses for the cabs we are engaging. We get regulatory clearance from the Advertising Practitioners Council of Nigeria (APCON) and approval from the taxi union. Between now and next year, majority of the green cabs in Abuja will have the LED displays atop.”

With over N5 million of his savings and financial support from family invested in his fashion house and slightly more in funds in the outdoor advertising, Yakubu believes that there are enough opportunities to go round, depending on one’s creative imagination and determination to succeed.

“There are a few things that will make you stand out in anything you do: quality is one, another is creativity and the third is your clientele. There are 180 million people in Nigeria, and I believe there are not enough designers or advertisers to meet our needs. If the whole of Abuja came to me, I wouldn't be able to cater to them for lack of capacity. There is room for all, just do your thing right. My designs and branding and style, constant reinventing, creativity and clientele base are what stand me out in the fashion and advertising worlds.”

Talking about reinventing, Yakubu is already fixated on his next move: “I want to set up a standard underwear company that can export to every part of the world. I also want to make standardized baby clothes; I see this businesses in other countries and believe they can contribute foreign exchange to Nigeria.”
4 23-Sep-2017 I Built My Multi-Million Business From My First Profit Of N2,000 - Entrepreneur This week, we bring you the inspiring story of an entrepreneur who set his eyes on lofty dreams; he started by humbling himself as an apprentice to a friend who didn’t even have shop at the beginning
As a Banking and Finance graduate from the Kwara State Polytechnic, Ilorin, Kabir Giwa had lofty dreams for the future. Given his academic background, he fancied a white-collar job at a reputable financial institution.
After graduation in 2000 he returned to Lagos, the country’s business and financial capital and home to the headquarters of the big banks. His search for a job in a bank was long, harrowing and fruitless.
Kabir recalled an encounter with one of his friends during one of his job-hunting days: “I went to Ikeja to window shop.  In fact, I had N20,000 in my bank account but to get a GSM phone at that time, one needed around N40,000 to N45,000. As I was going round, I ran into an old schoolmate, Afolabi, we both graduated from the Polytechnic at the same time. He asked me what I was doing and I told him I was still in search of a job. He then asked me if I could join him at the GSM Village (in the Computer Village Ikeja, Lagos) where he was selling in phones on the street. I didn’t initially like the idea of working in that very chaotic environment. But Afolabi told me that there were graduates working there too.”
Kabir didn’t give his friend’s offer much thought, especially because his friend didn’t have a shop in the market. Business brief: Started 2000 If he joined him, he asked himself, in what capacity would he function?
Two weeks after their first meeting, Kabir went back to the Computer Village, just to catch up with his friend.  The Iwo, Osun State-born entrepreneur narrated how that second meeting changed his life forever: “Afolabi asked why I had not come to join him and I told him I hadn’t made up my mind yet. Then he said the reason I hadn’t made up my mind was because I was a lazy man. I told him that I wasn’t a lazy person but I didn’t want to do it because it wasn’t my dream. That he called me lazy challenged me.  I needed to prove to him that I am not a lazy person. 
I decided that I needed money to start selling phones by myself. I discussed it with my younger brother who said somebody kept some money with him and wasn’t ready to use the money immediately. My brother suggested that I sound out the owner of the money
Therefore, I started work that same day, at the close of work, he gave me transport fare.  When I got home, I thought over what had happened again and decided to resume fully with him the next day.”
For several weeks, Kabir ran did whatever needed to be done including running errands for his friend. He wanted to quit but with his transport fare and a meal a day guaranteed, that little comfort was better than doing nothing. Most importantly, he was fast building his trading and marketing skills and expanding his network.  
He recalled: “I decided that I needed money to start selling phones by myself. I discussed it with my younger brother who said somebody kept some money with him and wasn’t ready to use the money immediately. My brother suggested that I sound out the owner of the money. I spoke with the person and he agreed to borrow me the money. It was either N25,000 or N30,000 – I can’t remember exactly.”
Supplemented with his life savings of N20,000 Kabir  bought and sold his first merchandise, a Samsung R220. The glow on his face as he narrated his story revealed how much it meant to him to have made N2,000 profit from that sale. He became encouraged to increase his daily profit by putting back all the profits he made back into the phone business. This paid off as his finances began to grow gradually. In 2006, six years after his first sale, he secured his own shop in the market.
However, his breakthrough came three years after, in 2009.  He explained: “In 2009, I registered my company as Kaybec Technology Limited, that same year, I secured a UK visa to meet with my suppliers in England. We were able to form a partnership and they agreed to supply me goods on credit. That was how we grew from one small shop to acquiring another bigger space where we diversified and began to sell laptops. Interestingly, although I started with phones, people rarely know me for phones now. I’m better known for being one of the largest computer sales outlets in the computer Village, Ikeja.”
Kabir sold his car to stock up his shop with his new products, but that transition from phone sales to computers didn’t come easily. There were months when he made very little sales and yet he had a staff to pay.
Exchange rate fluctuation has also proved to be a major headache for him: “My business was and is still affected by the exchange rate. We are still battling price fluctuations because I have goods bought at the old high exchange rates yet I have to sell them at current lower rates. Price fluctuation is one of the main challenges in importation business.”
He is, however, confident that the day would come when he would become one of the largest computer suppliers on the continent. That dream, he said, would be easier to achieve if the government created a more stable exchange rate environment in the country.
5 16-Sep-2017 Encounter Transforms Graduate From Small Beginning Into An Accomplished Businesswoman A young woman's encounter with her visiting aunt opened her eyes to a new opportunity that gave birth to a thriving business.
When Nkenchor Blessing Ogorchuckwu graduated in 1996, she had already braced up for a bleak labour market. After her National Youth Service Corps she got married and relocated to Lagos with her husband. 

While she was still looking for her dream job, her favourite aunt visited the family – the visit opened a new chapter in her life.

Nkechi remembered vividly how it all began: “My aunt told us about a new Business brief: Started 1997 flourishing business of sachet water production, popularly known as pure water. You know, we used to buy water tied in unbranded nylons in those days. My aunt suggested that I should go and learn how to package water. She said if I learnt it, I could also teach her so that she could produce it for her big restaurant in Umunede, Delta State. To show me she was serious, she left some money for me to buy the machine and nylon to start.”

A graduate of Geology from the Nnamdi Azikiwe University, Nkenchor and her husband, Kenneth decided to give the business a try.  The following day, they set out to meet the woman her aunt directed them to see who had been in the business of sachet water.
“I remember how we sealed four bags and my husband packed them into his car and said we should go and sell them. We drove from FESTAC to Apapa Sunrise (in Lagos) and supplied to a woman selling food there…only to collect the proceeds two days later”

Nkenchor recalled: “The woman directed us to Ojo Barracks’ Mammy Market (in Lagos) to source for the nylon.  We got there and saw how the nylon was cut in a roller; it usually comes in a tube. We bought a kilo at N400 and bought the sealing machine she told us to buy for N2,650. They also printed on the nylon for us for N400. Everything we spent was less than N3,500.” 

After several failed attempts at sealing water with the manual machine, Nkenchor and her husband decided to return to their business adviser for more guidance. The woman asked her son to go with the Ogorchukwus to demonstrate to them how pure water was sealed. It was like magic. 

She recalled her first sachet water ‘production’: “I remember how my cousin and I sealed the first four bags in one of our rooms and my husband packed them into his car and went to sell them. We would drive from Apapa Sunrise (in Lagos) and supply to a woman selling food there. She complained that there were some sachets leaking, and we told her to sell the ones that weren’t leaking and keep the leaking satchets. We didn’t collect money from her. Two days later we returned to her and she gave us money for the sachets she sold.”

From sealing and supplying four bags of sachet water, Nkenchor moved up to 10 bags, then 20, 50 and 100. She converted one of the rooms in their two-bedroom apartment to her factory and was assisted by her husband, his cousin and her brother. A few months later, she made her first expansion plan.

“At some point a few months later I thought we should expand the business,” she mentioned, “So we went to Ojo Mammy Market, rented a shop, bought another machine and employed two more hands. The business grew very rapidly.”

It was at Ojo Barracks that Nkenchor met her first major challenge. Sachet water was beginning to gain popularity and the then Director General of the National Agency for Foods and Drugs Administration and Control (NAFDAC), Prof Dora Akunyili, started to enforce the registration of sachet water businesses.

She narrated: “They closed down every sachet water business at Ojoo Barracks, so we moved the business to FESTAC but NAFDAC soon came there too. My husband consulted with some other producers to register with NAFDAC as one entity. So, about five of us came together under the name Silco Water. We were producing under the same name before we later registered our own separately.”

“The hand-sealing machine was phasing out. People started buying the automatic sealing machine known then as self-seal machine; it is a multipurpose machine called FFS – Fix, Fill and Seal. We were able to buy one initially and kept buying as we made more profits. When we got about five of the machines in 2009 and saw that the business still had potential to grow even further, we approached our account officer in a defunct commercial bank, who helped facilitate a loan repayable in three years.”

The business Nkenchor started in one of her rooms at home in 1997 is known today as Snowflakes Table Water, a well established and highly successful drinking water production factory located on a large expanse of land inside Festac town in Lagos with 30 permanent staff and 30 other casual workers, about 10 drivers and close to 40 marketers. They have also expanded their production line, adding table water and water dispenser to their brand.

Among the day-to-day challenges the business faces in running are funding for expansion, irregular power supply, human resource management and dealing with marketers. 

However, she remains focused and determined. Her next plan is to add fruit drink production to a business she made a success of from knowing absolutely nothing about.
6 09-Sep-2017 We Failed At First, Tried Again, Now Business Is Looking Good – ICT Entrepreneur Three partners who first launched an IT company in Lagos and failed, decided to relocate to Ilorin and try again. Their persistence is paying off
Ayodeji Ogungbemi, Tayo Oshibowale and Tope Salako are childhood friends who grew up together in Ilorin, Kwara State.Ayodeji studied Computer Science, while Tayo studied Accountancy at Kwara State Polytechnic, Ilorin. Tope, the third partner, studied Microbiology at the Obafemi Awolowo University, Ile-Ife.

Like many other Nigerian graduates, the three friends dreamt of securing white-collar jobs at recognised establishments upon graduation. Tope in particular was eyeing an oil company in Lagos. When their job search yielded little result, the three friends decided to start a business.

Business brief: Started: 2008
Tope narrated how they decided to start an IT solutions company with specialty in identity management: “We started Sylus in 2012 after our National Youth Service Corps programme and after we had roamed the streets of Lagos in search of jobs that were not there.  Although the company was incorporated in 2008, we didn't do anything until 2012.”  
Ayodeji, now Sylus' Managing Director, had the skillset as an ICT graduate but it didn't take long before the friends realised that they would need more than business acumen to successfully float a business. They needed capital. 

“The software we developed could be effectively used to store and retrieve information without disruption. Only a few IT companies know about it”
Tope, who is the General Manager, Marketing and Strategic Planning of the company recalled how capital was a challenge at the beginning and how they overcame it.

He said, “Frankly speaking, we started the business with our savings from NYSC.  We started with less than N200,000. We got some laptops and a Blackberry phone to display what we were doing. We also registered our company and were able to produce our letterhead. That was all.” 

Located at Sunday Ogunyade Street, Gbagada, Lagos, Sylus soon hit familiar troubled waters – a harsh business environment and low, even skeptical clientele. The pain of that trying period seeped through Tope's voice as he reflected on it again. 

He explained: “First, we couldn't cope with the competition (in Lagos) and then people in Nigeria don't believe in start-ups. They believe in established companies, which have made a name. When we started, potential clients would say 'you don't even have an office; how are we going to trust your work?' They don't encourage beginners in this part of the world. Many people have creative minds; they have what it takes but if you don't give them the chance how would they succeed?” 

Frustrated but determined not to give up, the three friends decided to relocate their business to Ilorin, a familiar territory. They also decided to focus on identity management and computer-based test (CBT) software devices made popular by the post-United Tertiary Matriculation Examination (UTME) screening policy.  

Tope narrated how Sylus separated itself from the IT crowd: “We developed what we call Auto-Dent with our partners in China. It is software that is able to identify whoever you want to identify. Most of the software packages  people use for identity management is not durable enough when you're collating data. But with Auto-Dent it can be effectively used to store and retrieve information without disruption. Only a few IT companies know about it.”

The decision to relocate and narrow down the scope of their business soon paid off as the management of Kwara State Polytechnic, Ilorin, awarded the company its first major contract worth millions of naira to provide smart identity cards for 20,000 students of the school. 

Although Sylus has a few private-sector clients, public institutions dominate its client base. Thus, government policies and change in socio-economic climate directly affect business. For instance, Tope recalled how the suspension of post-UTME CBT test affected their business. 
“The cancellation of CBT affected us terribly because we conduct CBT for about three schools. In fact, we were about to conduct for Niger State Polytechnic, Zungeru, when they cancelled it. Its reintroduction is good for our business.  The recession too affected us last year. Many schools and agencies which actually budgeted for some IT-related businesses could not execute because of a shortage funds.”

According to Tope, Sylus has a growing annual turnover, eight permanent and 20 part-time staff members. He said the company hopes to become the leading Identity management solutions company in the whole of Africa “with a zero per cent margin for error”.
7 03-Sep-2017 Entrepreneur Turns Waste to Wealth Habib Ahmed, a young entrepreneur passionate about saving the environment, turns litter into a goldmine
Habib Ahmed's adventure into business is proof that “opportunity comes to those who act, not to those who complain”. 

Recalling how he started, Habib Ahmed said, “Each time I came across heaps of waste, especially used plastic bags, I got angry and worried. Gradually, my anger began to motivate me into what I could do to reduce them.” 

Recycling plastic bags is not a new business venture; the challenge was how to marry the goal of managing the environment and that of making profit as a business. “I know in other countries things like used plastic bags, which have long biodegradable lifespan, were turned to wealth, but I had to first conduct research extensively into what I needed to do to convert garbage of used plastic bags into reusable products,” he stated.

At the beginning, Habib was worried that raising capital could be a big problem. His personal savings from being a supplier and small-scale contractor was at the time insufficient to start the business. However, once he put his mind to it, he decided that nothing, including insufficient funds, would deter him.

Business Brief: Started: 2016
“It took about a year to increase my savings,” he recalled. 

By 2016, Habib had saved enough to start Environmental Expressions, a plastic bag recycling, manufacturing and waste management services business with five workers.

According to Habib, the Chief Operating Officer, a typical production process begins with the collection of used plastic bags. “We go to dump sites. and collect the items. We partner with many 'scavengers', tell them the kind of materials we are looking for and the quality of materials that we want. They have their own team of collectors.”

“There are opportunities everywhere. Once you understand that and you are willing to allow other people to share a small part of the profit with you, you'll be fine”
Narrating further, Habib informed us of the most critical stage in the recycling process: “Once we finish collecting, we take the wastes to the factory for cleaning. We wash and dry the materials. It is important for the materials to dry properly because water does not go well with recycling plastic materials. Once we dry properly, we grind and melt them into strands, which are cut into small pellets. The pellets are then dried and taken into a blowing machine that would melt the plastic and blow it like bubble gum to expand it. That is how we are able to get the nylons which are collected as ropes and taken to our sealing and cutting section.”

Within the 11 months he began the business, Habib has increased his staff strength from five to 11, excluding the 20 or more “scavengers” indirectly employed to collect used plastic bags from dump sites. 

Does this mean the business is a money-spinner? 

Habib's frank response had some lessons in it: “The business is profitable depending on your source of raw material. Initially when we started the business, we would buy materials slightly processed to a certain level; so I asked, how could I increase my profitability? What if I did the processing myself from the scratch? That led me to dump sites. and “scavengers” who began to supply me with the materials. We approached an ingenious welder who fabricated the crushing machine for us and, with that, we were able to process the materials to a point where we could wash, dry and then use them in the factory.”

According to Habib, there were many times he had to convince and motivate himself that the business was worth going into. At such times, he believed that because he had properly planned his business, this helped him to carry on. 

“There are opportunities everywhere,” he said. “Once you understand that and you are willing to allow other people to share a small part of the profit with you, you'll be fine.”
8 26-Aug-2017 How Entrepreneur Built Fashion Powerhouse From Selling Boxer Pants Seyi Adekunle ditched his dream for white-collar job and turned his hobby into a cash cow.
When Seyi Adekunle was participating in the one-year compulsory National Youth Service Corps (NYSC) scheme in Akwa Ibom State in 2001, he knew his N3,600 allowee and an additional N1,000 stipend from his place of primary assignment would never be sufficient to prepare him for life after service. 

It’s especially so if he had to purchase nice suits and fancy shoes to hunt for jobs in oil companies or banks where he had always wanted to work.

Seyi looked back at that time with a half-smile: “It was during my NYSC that I caught the vision to start something.  Initially, it was not for the sake of business but for me to make ends meet, to buy my suits, shoes, etc., in preparation for life after NYSC. So, I started making boxer shorts. There were some tailors opposite the secondary school where I was teaching. After classes, I would go there to fix buttons and do some basic tailoring chores. At that point, I didn’t know that was what I was going to do for a living.”

“From saving N50, 000, I began to save N100, 000 and then N1million. When the business grew to that point, I knew it was the right decision and I didn’t have to wait to be called for any paid employment”
Seyi, a graduate of Geology from the University of Maiduguri, soon found himself shuttling between Uyo and the commercial city of Aba, Abia State, to source for fabrics needed for the tailoring business. 

He recalled: “Some of my friends would go to Aba on some days to buy fabrics and I would follow them. Then I found out that I could make a shirt with N200 or N300 and sell it for about N600. However, I still was not doing it as a businessman but just to support myself and have a little extra savings.”

After his NYSC, Seyi left for Abuja to pursue his dream of landing a white-collar job. 

“I entered a night bus,” he said. “It was my first visit to Abuja.  I knew the city had a lot of organisations where I could drop my CV. Interestingly, I took along a few boxer shorts and shirts I had made for my friends; I wanted to do something by the side while waiting for a job.” 

That singular decision became perhaps the most life-changing decision for Seyi. In the days and weeks that followed, it opened his mind to the prospect of fashion designing for the very first time.

He stated: “My first job hunt took me to the then Standard Trust Bank. I had a friend working there, so I brought some shirts for him. While we were hanging out thereafter, some of his friends bought some shirts from me. Two days after, with the little money I made from the sales, I took a night bus to Aba, picked some fabrics from the market and gave them to my tailor.”

From there, Seyi began to express his creativity with fabrics. He was mixing colours, matching stripes and experimenting with various materials. That was how he sowed the seed that would later grow into Vodi Tailors. 

“A few months after I came to Abuja,” Seyi recalled. “I spoke to a guy called David, a tailor in Aba, and told him that I wanted to start something in Abuja. It took me several days to convince him as a young man who had never been out of Aba before to come and join me.”

Seyi was, however, still obsessed with getting a white-collar job. He continued to apply for employment even when he had set up his first tailoring shop at Gwagwalada, a suburb of Abuja, where he was paying a rent of N30, 000 per annum. As he waited for his dream job, his business was growing.

“From saving N50, 000, I began to save N100, 000 and then N1million,” he recalled. “When the business grew to that point, I knew it was the right decision and I didn’t have to wait to be called for any paid employment.”

From a small shop in Gwagwalada, Vodi Tailors has grown to become one of the most sought-after fashion houses in Abuja, with over 100 workers. It is now located at the upmarket Adetokunbo Ademola Crescent, Wuse II. 

Seyi confessed that providing creative solutions to customer’s needs and observing market trends were vital to his success. His clientele base has grown and he has diversified.

He said: “We are now into dry-cleaning (Vodi Clean) while the tailoring arm remains Vodi Tailors. The reason we went into dry-cleaning was because many of our customers complained about the handling of their clothes. Then the female section of the business came out of the fact that when our male clients received their products their wives would start asking how their tailor got to deliver so quickly. Can’t they start making for women?”

But, by far, the arm of the business that gives Seyi the most satisfaction is his fashion training school, which has turned out 1,000 graduates in 16 years and brought him face-to-face with the high and mighty, including the Borno State Governor, Kashim Shettima. 

Now Seyi has even bigger dreams: “I have travelled to over 10 countries to understudy how they produce their fabrics. I have trained in India, China, Austria and Switzerland, and I have seen fabrics being produced first-hand. So, it is my dream that one day we will be able to set up our own textile factory.”
9 19-Aug-2017 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.”
10 12-Aug-2017 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.”

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