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1 10-Dec-2017 Switching From Biochemistry To Baking Opened New Doors For Me – Entrepreneur First Class graduate of biochemistry shares story of how she’s building a successful career from baking
Oyindamola Adeoluwa always wanted to have her own business, but she wasn’t quite sure what that business would be. It took an accidental conversation with a fellow corps member at the Abuja orientation camp of National Youth Service Corps (NYSC) in 2013 for her to decide.
 
“I met someone in my Abuja NYSC camp very randomly and we developed a friendship,” Oyindamola recalled. “She told me that she had been baking cakes casually for a while and I talked her into making a business out of it with me being the business manager. We carried on in a partnership for just under a year before we went our separate ways and I continued in the business.”
 
She is a First Class graduate of Medical Biochemistry from the University of Leicester, United Kingdom. Her parents wanted her to pursue a career in the medical field, thus it was no surprise that her decision to go into confectionaries was met with some resistance from family and friends.
 
She explained how they received the news of her going into baking: “I had always maintained good grades; I have a first class honours degree in Medical Biochemistry so everybody expected me to go on to study medicine or at least pursue a career in the medical field.  But I was absolutely uninterested; I wanted to run a business. I admire the medical profession and all it entails but it’s just not my calling. So yeah, friends and family were not initially thrilled and probably thought and hoped cakes would be a short-term dalliance.”
Business brief: Started 2016 Instagram: @decadenttreats_ng
Oyindamola’s father was particularly bent on securing a medical-related placement for her during her youth service. However, fate had other plans. When the medical placement was not forthcoming, she happily switched her Place of Primary Assignment to an events company. She went on to work there for almost two years, post-NYSC, and was able to run her confectionary business along with the job.
 
She registered Decadent Treats as a Private Limited Liability Company in May 2016 and it was the same family and friends who helped her to secure her early clients. “NYSC was my first time in Abuja so I didn’t really know anybody. A colleague at the events company introduced my cakes to her circle of friends and then there were more referrals. Other friends and family also helped in word-of-mouth marketing.”
 
Because she didn’t plan on being a baker from the onset, it was difficult to initially decide if it was what she wanted to do when she started in 2013. However, it neither took long nor much convincing for Oyindamola to metaphorically see the writing on the wall.
 
She recalled how. “I would work at my day job all day and then have to bake and decorate cakes till late in the night. And in the beginning, we were baking in my partner’s kitchen in Asokoro. I would finish work in Wuse II, drive to Asokoro to bake and then back home to Gwarinpa in the wee hours of the morning. It was mental but it was also my moment of truth.”
 
These days, Decadent Treats has three full-time staff, a part-time accountant and various contract staff. With a “handsome” turnover, we asked Oyindamola what she does differently to stand her out in the crowded confectionary business.
In the beginning, we were baking in my partner’s kitchen in Asokoro. I would finish work in Wuse II, drive to Asokoro to bake and then back home to Gwarinpa in the wee hours of the morning. It was mental but it was also my moment of truth.

Her response: “We manage to stand out because of two things; quality ingredients and show-stopping designs. We are constantly researching new recipes, ingredients and techniques to keep in step with international counterparts. Each product we send out is a marketing tool so we put in a 100 per cent and we don’t compromise. We hope that this consistency results in a larger customer base that will in turn help us grow and increase capacity.”
 
Some 30 per cent of Oyindamola’s baking ingredients are sourced from overseas. This means price fluctuation due to exchange rate. She also faces the challenge of poor electricity supply. But by far, her biggest constant challenge is how to stay relevant in an ever-changing business.
 
She said, “Being a creative field, there is a requirement to keep things fluid and current in order not to run the risk of becoming irrelevant and losing your customer base. This is where constant research and upgrading of skills become critical.  Anytime I feel stagnant  , I take a step back from work and focus on learning new things for the business.”
 
This has led Oyindamola to undertake various training courses outside the country, including at the prestigious Savour Chocolate and Patisserie School in Melbourne, Australia.
 
She is also already thinking about diversifying her business. “We are in the process of floating a specialty bakery company called Eclairs.ng, dedicated to crafting delicious varieties of the French pastry, Éclair. We also run a food and drinks display rental company called Abuja Props Rental.”
 
Oyindamola is working hard to ensure that her business becomes bigger and better with pop-up stores all over Nigeria. She has come a long way from that first cake she baked in 2013. “It was the ugliest cake yet we were so proud of ourselves,” she said smiling, “I shudder to think about that cake now!”

2 03-Dec-2017 Self-Taught Entrepreneur Excites Tough Beauty Market Young makeup artist takes on a crowded market and finds a profitable niche
Some think it only takes a lipstick and an eye pencil to become a makeup artist. So saturated is the industry that standing shoulders above other so-called makeup artists might be a tall order, especially if you initially didn’t enjoy the support of those who should be your first set of clients – family and friends.

Titilayo Yussuff decided to take makeup art seriously after graduation not only because she enjoyed it, but also because she had a point to prove. 

She recalled: “It started initially as a hobby five years ago while I was in the university. I became fond of makeup and started acquiring some products, watched a couple of videos and blogs, which I got fascinated over the transformations. So I decided to take a bold step and started practicing which led to my first makeup gig in my church back then and that was how Hermosaa evolved.”

Business Brief: Started: 2015 Social Media Contact: Instagram: @hermosaa_ng Facebook: fb/Hermosaamakeupstudio
Hermosaa is the name of Titilayo’s makeup art parlour located at Kampala Street, Off Adetokunbo Ademola, Wuse II, Abuja. 

Although Titilayo was an undergraduate when she started as an amateur makeup artist, the Business Management graduate from the University of Wales did not think she would stick with her hobby for long, much less make a career out of it. 

“To be honest, I seriously considered a 9-5 job after NYSC, as my aunty felt that securing a job would be safer,” she admitted. “But deep down inside I knew that life was not for me. I wanted to be in control and I had plans of running a business someday. Being an entrepreneur was something I always dreamt about so I decided to take that risk.” 

Although Titilayo wanted to be taken seriously from the start and sought the support of family and friends who, naturally, are the first set of clients in her line of business, it took some effort to get convince them.

She said: “My family and close friends persuaded me to get a job but I was able to convince them to give me a chance to prove myself.  To be honest it was never easy. I had to secure a little space, market my brand, register my business, source for products and build my clientele base all at the same time and by myself. It took a while but eventually I got referrals from friends and family.”
This may sound cheesy, but there’s a huge difference between DIY and when makeup is professionally done

Titilayo registered Hermosaa Make Up Studios Ltd in March 2015 and has experienced a lot of changes in the makeup business in the years she’s been around. But what was that big break and when did it happen?

She recalled, “I used to wake up early on Sundays especially to put on make up to church just to get people’s opinions. It eventually got me my first big job, which was a bridal gig. I was so scared and excited at the same time as I didn’t believe someone could trust me to do their make up knowing full well I was just an amateur. It went very well and from there I got referrals.”

She also prides herself on being a self-taught make-up artist. “I remember back when I was in the university, I was able to save up some money from my part-time job. I bought few products, stayed up watching videos and reading blogs as I couldn’t afford a makeup school so the only option I had was to sit down and teach myself. Yes I am a self-taught makeup artist, it took a lot of practice, patience, passion and criticism but I got there.”

What sets her service apart? Her response was simple, “At Hermosaa, it is all about simplicity and class. We aim to enhance and not alter our client’s appearance.” 

In a world of DIY, who really needs a makeup artist? Titilayo smiled: “This may sound cheesy, but there’s a huge difference between DIY and when makeup is professionally done. The application, longevity and very importantly, what suites each individual, only come with the professional touch.”

Judging by her clientele base, this strategy can be said to be working for Titilayo. She has worked for former President Gooodluck Jonathan, Ondo State First Lady and TY Bello among other high profile clients. 

She has also been featured on fashion programmes on MTV Base and Spice TV. 

She must have made it big and does it mean she charges a fortune for a make-up gig? Titilayo replied: “I charge based on the type of event they’re having or attending. For example, a wedding guest will be charged differently from a bride. Our turnover varies on the season and type of services, but I can tell you at Hermosaa we make it a priority that we are profitable every month.”

Finally, we asked where she sees Hermosaa in the foreseeable future. “I see Hermosaa expanding with branches all over the country,” she said. “Our products being sold in up class retail stores around the world and I see a brand recognized for only quality products and services.”

3 26-Nov-2017 Graphic Designer Turns Hobby Into Thriving Business A creative artist who took graphic design as a hobby has turned his passion into a successful venture enlisting the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, amongst others, as clients.
Nothing gets Harry Bassey animated as a conversation about graphic design: “I’ve always had a love for art and design, so even in my spare time I would constantly study and research about it. I was job-hunting and things were not going my way, so I decided instead of sitting idle I could use this opportunity to chase a passion of mine,” he told us.

For some, graphic design and art may be just a hobby or side hustle, but for Harry, it means a lot more.

Sharing his passion for the profession, Harry said, “I’ve never viewed the profession as just a hobby. It’s something that I have been interested in most of my life I knew there were opportunities in this field with lots of room for growth if done the right way. I knew that if I dedicated myself to constant growth, acquisition of skills and adaptability, the sky was the limit. It’s more than graphic design; its art, it’s marketing. It’s being able to convey a message to an audience through the mediums I choose to work in.”
Business brief: Business started: 2014 Instagram: @hebconcepts
Harry was so convinced that he could stand out in the overcrowded field of graphic design that he started HEB Concepts from personal savings and help from family and friends.

His first job was not encouraging, but he was not deterred by the experience.

Going down memory lane, he recalled, “My first paid job was creating a logo for a friend’s clothing company. The pay was almost nothing but when you want people to take a chance on you sometimes you have to pay your dues, and that sometimes involves not really focusing on the pay but instead the opportunity.”

As an entrepreneur, he understands and has mastered the benefit of starting with the people closest to one. According to him, they are the ones who initially believe and invest in you.

Harry said once family and friends endorse you, you are in business. “The projects just start coming in and once the projects started coming in for me with more consistency, and I could see based on my past work that clients really trusted me with the growth of their business, I knew I was in business. Being entrusted with that responsibility really made me understand that I had something valuable to offer and I shouldn’t take it for granted.”
When you are a creative there are no defined work hours; you don’t just clock out at 5pm as long as there’s work to be done. Every project is different. You have to treat each client uniquely and tailor the experience to suit them, making sure they leave satisfied

Although Harry works alone most of the time, his company, HEB Concepts, has a network of designers, artists, printers and creative people whom he draws from whenever he wants to realize a client’s vision.
Does he think that technology and graphic arts software have diminished the human touch in creative work?

Harry said, “Technology and software are just tools; it is the individual behind them that makes the difference. A computer programme does not give you the creativity, vision or foresight to determine how to best communicate the client’s message. Everybody has access to a camera but still it’s those with the innate talent and that have dedicated time to honing that skill that stand out. Technology and software constantly improve a graphic artist but at the end of the day it is the ingenuity of the people behind it that makes the difference.”

He shared some of the challenges of starting HEB Concepts: “Building awareness of my services and communicating to people the value of those services were a challenge. Art is subjective, people place different value on what a design or advertisement means to them or their business. When you see a company as successful and has been existing as long as Coca-Cola, yet you still see the investment they make in marketing and promotions and that’s because you can never become complacent relaying your value to your customer base.”

Harry has designed for Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, CBS Group, Silverbird, Jolene Hair and Cosmetics, Dunes Center and many other high-profile clients relying on three creeds: adaptability, evolution and collaboration.

“When you are a creative there are no defined work hours; you don’t just clock out at 5pm as long as there’s work to be done. Every project is different. You have to treat each work uniquely and tailor the experience to suit them, making sure they leave satisfied. You can never know enough; no one person possesses all the skills and talent to meet every need.”

Harry hinges HEB Concepts’ continual growth and increasing capacity on these principles.
4 18-Nov-2017 Young Entrepreneur Shares Exciting Story Of Greenhouse Farming A young entrepreneur who started out helping a neighbour on his farm has ended up creating a modern farm that would leave many green with envy
Feyisayo Fatodu has always considered himself a hands-on person, and farming is not new to him. Growing up, he used to help out on their neighbour’s farm.
 
Although he looked forward to a white-collar job when he was in school, he knew it wasn’t what he wanted to do all his life. After working in Brussels and the UK, Feyi moved back home to pursue his many business interests.  
 
Feyi said, “I visited the Netherlands last year and saw the number of greenhouses that littered the sides of the highways. This increased my interest in greenhouse farming, so I started reading up extensively on the topic and also spoke with farmers who were accustomed to the more traditional methods to compare both methods. With greenhouses, I am able to produce tomatoes and fresh vegetables all year round with minimal acreage.”
Business brief Started: April 2017 Instagram: @kijani_farmsng
Greenhouse farming is an all-year-round, space-managed high-yield cultivation under regulated climatic conditions. To put greenhouse farming into perspective: it yields up to 4 tonnes of tomatoes in a six-month season from a single 8m x 24m or 192m2 greenhouse, compared to the traditional open-field tomato cultivation which, with best agricultural practices, yields a maximum of 7 tonnes per hectare (10,000m2).
 
Greenhouse cultivation of tomatoes replicated over one hectare yields 19 times more than the traditional open-field method. “The numbers don’t lie if you get the processes right” he said.

However, the practice is associated with high cost, making it difficult to compete in the market.
 
But Feyi said he devised a method to stay competitive. “I have zeroed down my market and focused on a specific clientele for the short term. As the business expands, we can then expand our target market to supermarket chains and foreign off takers. For us to compete with our bigger rivals and ensure quick sales, we need to focus on our main customers.”
 
By “specific clientele” Feyi means the mid-level to upscale restaurants in Abuja, which can afford to pay a premium above what traditional farm produce commands for fresh tomatoes and vegetables with a longer shelf life.
 
Logically, more greenhouses mean more farm produce for Feyi. However, the peculiarity of his method of farming has affected his expansion plan. He narrated how he was technically disqualified from the Bank of Industry loan scheme during his farm set up: “I was told they didn’t give loans for structures (greenhouses). In my line of business, greenhouses are the needed equipment, which I tried to explain to them, but I was still ineligible for the loan. I have just heard about a CBN fund for SMEs and the Tony Elumelu Foundation grant, which I plan to apply for in the near future.”
 
Another challenge Feyi expectedly faced in starting a greenhouse farm was finding the right staff. “Getting the right workers with the technical know how wasn’t easy,” he confessed. “I had to go through a few people before getting the staff I have now. In my opinion, as a startup in the agricultural sector, it is important you hire knowledgeable workers to stay in the game as this usually translates to higher profits". 

The off-takers love fresh tomatoes and vegetables because they have a longer shelf life. In fact, the off-takers are the reason we exist.
Luckily, he received support from international agro-business companies such as Dizengoff Nigeria, which provide training and other technical support for greenhouse farmers and attendants.
 
The public's perception of Feyi’s farming method has been encouraging so far, and this excites him. “Everyone I have spoken to about my business has shown interest. A few even want to visit the farm to see things for themselves. Also, the off-takers love the taste and look of the fresh tomatoes and vegetables and the fact that they have a longer shelf life compared to open field produce. In fact, the off-takers are the reason we exist.”
 
Feyi, who holds a master’s degree in Renewable Energy Management from Newcastle University, United Kingdom, received tremendous support from family and friends when he started out, but now he needs more funding to increase productivity and explore the use of advanced technology.

An optimistic Feyi said: “I’m in this long term, so I want to see the business increasing its number of greenhouses, increasing the number and quantity of its produce. Increasing the number and varieties of crops we grow is part of the plan.” 

Looking to the future, he added, “Kenya is the lead exporter of Rose cut flowers to the EU, there’s no reason why Kijani Farms can’t explore that market in the future. There are also plans to develop a website showing our stock levels, making it easier for registered off-takers to place orders at the click of a button. Automating certain aspects of the greenhouses as is done in countries like Kenya is also in our plan.”

Feyi’s greenhouse farm, tended by two full-time and an additional part-time staff, could be modest for now, but its owner has big dreams including venturing into processing and packaging of its produce, exports and even floriculture.
5 11-Nov-2017 Sisters Turn Childhood Baking Passion Into Big Business Two sisters who grew up enjoying a TV show on food have turned the pastime into a goldmine
Kachi and Chizzy Amajor were born and raised in the United States of America and grew up in Texas. According to Kachi, their favourite TV show growing up was "Sweet Dreams", a baking show anchored by Gale Gand and aired on FoodNetwork. It was a show Kachi and Chizzy rarely missed and which became the foundation of their love for baking.

Kachi reminisced on how their interest in baking gradually transformed into a business idea: “I started taking baking more seriously at high school. By the time I was in college, my sister and I started our own business by selling wedding cakes, birthday cakes and so much more.”
Kachi, a graduate of the University of Texas, Arlington, and Chizzy, who graduated from Howard University and Georgetown University, both in the U.S., moved to Nigeria in 2013 for the very first time in their lives.

Business brief: Started: April 2017 Social media contact Instagram: @Stelladulcebakery Website: stelladulcebakery.com
Kachi recalled: “Nigeria has so much to offer and we just had to come and experience it for ourselves. We left our comfort zone and jumped out on blind faith knowing that success was the only option once backed with determination and perseverance.”

However, their relocation was of mutual benefit, as they brought with them a Western confectionery idea blended with local convention.
“Being born and raised in the US has definitely had an influence on our baking styles,” Kachi told us. “We like to incorporate American southern flavours from Texas, Georgia, Mississippi, etc., and tastes that are nostalgic to our experiences. We are bringing our childhood favourites to the Nigerian market. We arealso developing recipes that truly showcase all the amazing flavours that Nigeria has to offer.”

Stella Dulce Bakery, named after the Amajor sisters’ mother, has been setup in Abuja as a place where the two sisters are taking confectionaries to the next level with exceptional passion for baking. However, Abuja and other major cities already have many bakeries. So what is Stella Dulce doing differently?

Kachi was excited by the question. She said: "We incorporate different international flavour profiles that represent the countries that we have travelled to. Stella Dulce only uses high-quality ingredients and we spend extra time on the intricate details to ensure that each product we make is as unique as the people who order them from us. We use international baking techniques from Swiss and French approaches to Texas tried and true best practices."
The Amajor sisters are using the lessons learned from their flourishing careers in public and global health to build their bakery brand with the goal of bringing international standards and quality to their customers’ doorsteps.
We are bringing our childhood favourites from the United States to the Nigerian market. We are also developing recipes that truly showcase all the amazing flavours that Nigeria has to offer

Kachi vividly remembered the first sale, which persuaded them that they were on the right track and deepened their interest: “It has to be a Ben10 car cake that we made for a little boy’s birthday. He absolutely loved it! He probably wanted to play with it more than he wanted to eat it. As is common to many start-ups, our first sales came from family and friends. Then it grew from there with recommendations. We are finding that the way we started in the United States is the same trend that we’re seeing in Nigeria.”

With growing health concerns worldwide, healthy-eating enthusiasts often criticise the confectionary industry for the growing obesity, especially among children.

We asked Kachi if Stella Dulce Bakery makes healthy desserts. She said: “Honestly, you’d be surprised how fruit and veggies can be incorporated into desserts. Mother Nature has given us so many natural sweeteners and healthy fats that can be used rather than butter and sugar. We are developing a vegan line of recipes that are just as rich and flavourful as our guilty pleasures. No sugar, no eggs, no dairy, all natural flavours that are derived from healthy sources like nuts and natural oils.

Learning how to produce on a large scale was an initial challenge when Stella Dulce started. Also, obtaining quality ingredients in Nigeria has been a constant challenge, according to Kachi.

“We ensure that our ingredients are the best and we are ready to go above and beyond even if it means importing the best ingredients to guarantee superior products for our customers,” she said.

In spite of the crowded confectionary space, Kachi said Stella Dulce a high-end bakery with a bright future. She said, “Our priority is delivering excellence in everything we create. All of our customers are high profile, no matter how big or small. We treat every customer like a super star. Whether you are ordering a single cupcake or hosting a star-studded event, you are going to be treated like the king or queen that you are!”
6 28-Oct-2017 Graduate Engineer Charts Course In Jewelry Business A young civil engineering graduate finds her footing in the intricate and alluring world of precious stones
Despite her degree in Civil Engineering, Eyakenoabasi Bob (Eyak for short) always wanted something more than a regular job. 

She learnt a trade by default: her mum was a high-end jewelry dealer. But rather than settle for mere buying and selling of jewelries, Eyak decided to put her engineering knowledge to work by being the goldsmith herself. She reasoned that was one sure way to fill “the precision gap” in the jewelry market in Nigeria. 

Eyak described how she opted to become a goldsmith instead of a builder of roads, skyscrapers and bridges: “I have always been around jewelry; it's something that fascinates me and makes me happy. While growing up and watching my mother sell high-end jewelries I developed a flair for jewelry, as I saw the smile she put on people's faces and decided to make my first collection. I got great feedback from people that saw the pieces on me and many requested to have something similar made for them.”

Business Brief Business started 2016 Instagram: eyak_bob Facebook: Adorn by Eno
Those in the jewelry industry know something for a fact: more than anything else, jewelry -- whether to a goldsmith, a dealer or the end user -- is an art. 

And at the heart of every art are loyal followers. So when Eyak decided to turn her passion for making jewelries into a business, she knew it had to carry a distinct signature to command loyal clienteles.

Beaming excitingly, she stated, “My products speak for themselves; they market themselves. Adorn by Eno products turn heads and get people asking questions whenever it's spotted. Most of my clients come from referrals, and maintaining high-quality products is very vital in this business.”

Of course, Adorn by Eno is Eyakenoabasi’s jewelry concern which she strongly believes will revolutionise the art of making worn ornaments. She hopes it will bring class and sophistication to the modern-day African woman through a blend of western themes and African style, with emphasis on beading and metal works. 

However, what Eyak wants to be remembered for the most is her push for made-in-Nigeria jewelries to be respected in the very exclusive jewelry market.

She said: “The two most important things to me are my customers and the need to promote made-in-Nigeria products. Adorn by Eno adds a personalised touch to our products to suit the customers’ needs. We want to promote Nigerian businesses and provide jobs for the locals who mine the gold and precious stones we use in making our pieces.”

According to the Akwa Ibom State-born 2014 graduate from the University of Swansea, Wales, neither the UAE/India merchants nor the thriving fairly-used, second-hand jewelry market could dampen her resolve to champion bespoke Nigerian jewelries.   

She stated: “Our made-in-Nigeria jewelries enable us to cater to the needs of customers quickly and to their desired specification. We make jewelries based on the personality and needs of customers. For example, I had a set called the Killaly set. It was a bestseller and came in silver with Zirconia crystals. Many people wanted it in gold, so we made that available. That is what gives us the edge; most people that import things to sell do not have that luxury to change and make things to customers’ specifications.”

Nigeria is rich in precious stones. We have one of the best blue sapphires in the world found in Taraba State. We also have a vast variety of precious stones such as tourmaline, emerald, amethyst and so on -- and even gold
Either it’s the engineer in her or the fact that she became a jewelry enthusiast quite early in life, one cannot but observe Eyak’s emphasis on quality. “Jewelry purchase is not everyone's priority. It's not a necessity but a luxury. It all boils down to building your clientele,” she told us. “It is important to have a luxury specialist that gives you accurate feedback and checks the quality of all new collections before they are released to the public.”

Adorn by Eno mainly sources its gems locally. A strong advocate of local content, it isn’t surprising that Eyak knows where to get what in Nigeria.  

“Nigeria is rich in precious stones. We have one of the best blue sapphires in the world found in Taraba State. We also have a vast variety of precious stones such as tourmaline, emerald, amethyst and so on -- and even gold, which is found in a good amount in Nasarawa, Zamfara, etc. The bulk of the gold we use is mined from Nasarawa, which is closest to us.”

Eyak started out as an apprentice with a local goldsmith. That was how she made her first pieces and started her journey as a goldsmith. The proceeds from the sale of her first pieces went into setting up her own workshop and buying equipment. 

She later went to Alchimia Contemporary Jewelry School, Florence, Italy, to hone her skills, all with the full support of her parents and other family members. She however added that, “I have some friends and a cousin who do not agree with my line of business.”

Eyak wants to conquer the African jewelry market one city at a time. Next stop is Lagos, and then she sees “us taking the African market and international market by storm.”
7 21-Oct-2017 Ambitious Lawyer Friends Give Kilishi New Taste Two friends from different parts of the country ditch their law degrees for food business, and they’re raising the bar in the processing of kilishi, a local snack.
Uche Ezeozue and Minso Wathanafa have been friends since their days at King’s College, Lagos. Upon graduation in 2000, they proceeded to the University of Nigeria, Nsukka, and the University of Maiduguri respectively to study law.
 
Both went to the United Kingdom for their postgraduate degrees -- Uche graduating with a master’s degree in Commercial and Corporate Law from Queen Mary University of London, while Minso bagged a master’s in Maritime Law from the University of Swansea, Wales.
 
Expectedly, both dreamt of white-collar jobs -and they got them. Uche wanted to be an investment banker but ended up at an oil firm in Lagos and Minso was practising law and real estate management in Abuja.
 
Then, something happened: Uche came up with a weird business idea.
 
Business Brief: Started 2014  Social media:  Facebook: Golnar Foods Twitter: @Golnarfoods
Minso explained how it all began: “I know you may find this surprising especially because I am from the North, but it was actually Uche’s idea. I was busy with my real estate practice before Uche briefed me on the business opportunity. I saw potential in the kilishi business and became interested.”
 
For starters, kilishi is a dehydrated and spiced meat snack made in the northern part of the country and popular among travelers. 

How did Uche come up with the idea of kilishi business? He said: “Kilishi is a well-loved snack and every time I went to visit my family in Abuja, the number one request I got from my friends in Lagos was kilishi. It didn't make sense to me that you couldn't find kilishi in the supermarkets and had to wait for someone coming back from the North to fulfil your desire. I went to all the major stores in Lagos and I noticed there was no well-packaged, NAFDAC-approved kilishi available. The few brands available in some of the smaller stores were poorly packaged and could not be trusted. I knew I could do better in terms of quality and packaging, so I decided to explore the opportunity.”

"The few brands (of kilishi) available in some of the smaller stores were poorly packaged and could not be trusted. I knew I could do better in terms of quality and packaging, so I decided to explore the opportunity"
Kilishi, is often produced manually under very poor hygienic conditions: wrapped in old newspapers and almost certainly supplied by travelers returning from the northern part of the country.
 
But Golnar Foods, the company set up by Uche and Minso, is changing all that.
 
Uche was emphatic about the value they’re adding: “We are NAFDAC-approved and our kilishi is hygienically produced in our purpose-built facility. It is well-packaged in food grade pouches, properly labelled with all the required information and is available in Shoprite, Spar and most other major stores in Lagos and Abuja. We intend to roll out nationwide very soon.”
 
Purpose-built factory for kilishi? Yes. It’s a modest facility with lots of room for expansion, but it actually started in Uche’s kitchen. “A friend introduced me to a supplier and I ordered some nice-looking plastic containers from the US to package the kilishi. I bought about N30, 000 worth of kilishi to have a feel of the market and packaged them in the plastic containers with a sticker of my company name and contact details. My first batch sold out in a matter of days and I made a decent profit. I increased the quantity on my next order and sold out in a matter of days as well.”
 
Before Uche sold the idea to Minso, he was spending his lunch break delivering kilishi to friends and acquaintances. When he became convinced that the business would work, he quit his job and moved to Abuja to involve his trusted friend.
 
With their savings and the support of family members, the two friends were able to set up shop. They got a loan only two months ago, but might never have launched out if they had waited for the loan to start.
 
However, the business hasn’t been without the usual challenges faced by many start-ups, especially at the height of the exchange rate fluctuation.
 
Uche explained how Golnar Foods had been coping with the challenges: “We had to increase our prices slightly and introduce smaller packs to make our products more affordable. Our initial pouches and some other equipment were imported from the US. We had to switch suppliers from the US to China.”
 
Uche and Minso have big plans for16-staff-strong Golnar Foods in the future, including diversification, fully automated production and nationwide presence. They also want to export from Nigeria to other countries across Africa and set up a production facility in Europe due to meat restrictions there.
8 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.”
9 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.
10 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.”

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