Before Edmund Oshioke earned his first degree in 2008, he already had a growing reputation as a “serial entrepreneur”. The Delta State University, Abraka, graduate of Accounting and Finance had made up his mind to be an entrepreneur right from secondary school. He was still a freshman when he registered his first business.
Reflecting on his early adventure into business, the father-of-two said: “My interest in entrepreneurship was so definite that it affected my grades in my second year. I was doing stuff while studying under my registered company name to augment whatever I was getting from my parents.”
However, Edmund admitted that the strong urge to go into business might also have come from peer pressure, especially from friends who felt it was cool to “do your own thing”, instead of working for people. “I registered my first company without proper guidance,” Edmund admitted, “The narrative was to register a business and start doing stuff around it. Although I did some transactions, it wasn’t much of a success for obvious reasons.”
However, the life lessons he took from it proved valuable in Edmund’s future business pursuits.
Upon graduation in 2008, Edmund resolved to be more focused on what he wanted for himself, “After university, decisions were deliberate and tailored along the line I wanted to follow. During NYSC in Abuja, I chose a firm where I could gain relevant management skills in the sector I wanted to focus on in life,” he stated.
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The Edo State-born management entrepreneur worked as general manager at a mining and quarry firm called Triumph, where he said he was practically responsible for running the company’s day-to-day affairs.
He was general manager at Triumph for six years and in-between set up a pharmacy and medical laboratory for his wife. “These experiences were formative and helped in what I am doing now. They helped me to take decisions and learn from mistakes,” he said.
Armed with six years of hands-on management skill and a network of contacts in the construction industry, Edmund went to the London Business School for a second degree in Finance in 2016. He also took a course in Construction Management at the Columbia University all in preparation for his ultimate goal.
Ready to take the industry by storm, he first of all explained what informed his decision: “During my time at Triumph, I met a lot of people in construction and civil engineering. I also learnt a lot about the construction industry. It was what I wanted all along.”
Edmund identified a gap in the construction sector. “From what we have in Nigeria,” he said, “indigenous construction companies are not trusted. So I wanted to set an example of a construction concern indigenously owned but with quality delivery which could match any foreign company.”
The result was Kamen Aggregates and Construction Company Limited.
Delving into uncharted territory?
When Edmund started Kamen, he had a challenge with capital in the broad sense of the word – human capital, fixed asset, financial resources and technical know-how.
Reflecting on that phase of his career, he said: “What helped me was my background as an Accounting and Finance graduate in both first and second degrees. And although it was challenging to convince people to come and put their money in a start-up, I was able to pull seed capital together to start.”
"I wanted to set an example of a construction concern indigenously owned but with quality delivery which could match any foreign company"
Kamen started three years ago with six staff, but Edmund admitted that it wasn’t as seamless as he expected: “We made some mistakes in the choice of staff at the initial stage. Getting the right persons to fill some key positions was a challenge. So, we had to employ and re-employ.”
Edging out the competition?
According to Edmund, focusing on quality and integrity have helped his business grow. He said: “It has earned us referrals and the biggest currency in the construction sector – reputation. What people don’t also understand is that working within a specific budget does not necessarily mean that quality should be compromised. That’s the misconception with indigenous construction firms. These are the things we try to correct at Kamen.”