My Business Story

'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.”