My Business Story

Entrepreneur Discovers Inner Passion While Pursuing Her Dream

An entrepreneur who wanted to be a journalist listened to her inner voice and found direction from what was supposed to be a temporary job

Victoria Folasola wanted to be a journalist and never quite realised she had a passion for teaching until life's challenges led her to her actual dream. 

She recalled a reluctant decision which changed her life forever: “When I finished my secondary school in 1995, I was looking for admission into higher institution and because there was delay then, my brother in Ilesha  said, ‘Come and try out this school.’”

That was how she enrolled in Osun State College of Education, Ilesa, where she studied French and English.

During her time at the college of education, Victoria realised that her inner passion wasn’t news reporting but knowledge impartation. “It was like I was redirected to the right path,” she enthused.

The Abeokuta, Ogun State-born educationist, who bagged a National Certificate of Education in French and English in 2001, taught in some private schools in Ilesa after graduation. In that period, she kept having a hunch to go further.

She recalled: “I proceeded to the University of Ilorin, Kwara State, where I studied Linguistics and Nigerian Languages and graduated in 2006. I decided to acquire more knowledge in the education sector, so I worked with quite a number of private schools, mainly in Ekiti State.”

Business Brief:
Started 2009
Social media contact
Twitter: @FolaSolaOluwole
Instagram: @folasolaoluwole

After three years of working as a teacher in private schools, she asked herself if she couldn't do more. She knew she was pushing herself too hard and fast,but running her own school at a young age became almost like an obsession.
Victoria took a bold step: “I relocated to Lagos. I was shuttling between Lagos and Abeokuta before I finally settled down in Abeokuta to establish the Leaders Maximum Academy, Lala, Abeokuta, in 2009,” she said. 

She was well aware of the challenges involved in starting a school. But this was her “redirected dream” and she wasn’t ready to give up on it.

With the help of family and friends, and a little loan from her church, Victoria started her school. It was a classic case of starting small, as she had only three teachers and seven students, four of whom were her cousins. 

Fast-forward to 2017: Leaders Academy now boasts of 25 staff (teachers and caregivers) tending over 100 pupils.

Asked what her initial challenges were, Victoria said: “The major difficulty I faced as an entrepreneur was trying to convince people to come on board. I couldn’t secure loans and couldn’t convince parents to enrol their children. Five years ago in a particular session I lost close to 50 pupils to schools around me, because parents’ were very demanding. In this sector, the attrition rate of pupils is higher than the rate of gaining them.”

Apart from the above, Victoria also faced the challenge of indiscriminate increase in rent and teachers who merely used her school as a springboard.

She explained how she took all the challenges in stride: “I joined the National Association of Proprietors of Private Schools (NAPPS) and it helped me a lot. I also joined a co-operative society and was doing thrift. The buildings you see here at our permanent site were put together gradually; the day of 100 blocks, 50 bags of cements and so on…”

“I want to be able to see successful people in life and say he/she was my student"

Growth at Victoria’s school has been phenomenal. Aside from the completed structures for her nursery and primary sections, there were other buildings under construction at the school premises. Victoria said they were meant for a secondary school.

“We plan to start a secondary school very soon,” she told us, “and we don’t want it to be like the way we started the primary school. We want the secondary school to have its own premises right from the beginning.”
Judging by her success in a relatively short period, there has to be a selling point – a unique value she is adding to education – that has remarkably turned her fortunes around.  

Victoria smiled, “We teach life skills. We focus on agriculture, vocational studies and sports. We believe it is not all about academics.  Trainings in these areas too can assist pupils to make it in life.”

What then does she want to be remembered for? “I want to be able to see successful people in life and say ‘he/she was my student’. I want to see children doing well. I want to see the level of moral decadence in our society reduce drastically through efforts I am significantly part of.”

Against All Odds, Entrepreneur Turns Hobby Into Thriving Business

After a spell of resistance, entrepreneur finds his first client in the family and turns his camera into a valuable business asset

Professional photography is a threatened occupation. Or isn’t it? In an age when computers, smartphones and image-enhancing apps appear to have made commercial photography redundant, one young man has decided to dig deeper and carve a niche for himself.

Recalling how he got into photography, Henry Oji said, “I think photography found me. Growing up, I’ve always loved art  but I was never allowed to explore  it because mum said artists don’t make much.  Sometime in 2011, I got a camera for leisure and fun purposes and that fun has metamorphosed into what it is today.”

What buying a camera for fun metamorphosed into is Big H Studios, a commercial photo studio Henry registered in 2012, while still at his day job until 2016. 

Of course, dumping white-collar job for professional photography would always be a hard sell to a family, which had already made it clear that Henry did not belong to the creative industry.

Business brief:
Business started 2012

He narrated how his family received his decision: “Coming from a corporate sector and going into the creative sector was never going to be easy. How do you explain to your folks that you want to leave a steady stream of income and start taking pictures? You’ll hardly find any Nigerian parent who would welcome such news, but today I’m grateful for all the support I get from my family. It wasn’t always so but they didn’t also kill my dream even though they had the power to do so.”

Support from family didn’t come early. It means that Henry didn’t have the liberty to formally learn the trade he was passionate about, and that slowed down his progress. 

He recalled: “The major challenge I’ve faced is not going to school to study photography or art. I would have avoided some mistakes, but I don’t regret because I’ve learnt from them and it has formed the photographer that I am today. I’ve also spent a lot of time on self-training – online videos and classes to make up for not having a formal education in photography.”

Ironically, Henry’s first client turned out to be his sister. Even at that, he didn’t request full payment for the service he rendered. But it was a good omen, considering the fact that Abuja doesn’t appear to be a place where photography could flourish as a sustainable business.

Henry was optimistic when asked how he was keeping busy and profitable in a capital city renowned more for politics than for creativity: “Abuja is a budding market. Everything is growing and blossoming at its own pace. A lot has changed in the industry since we started. Professionals used to be brought in from Lagos and other places to do jobs here because no one takes the creative space in Abuja seriously, but I like to think that the best time to pitch your tent in any sector is when it’s not recognized. That way you grow with it and form a strong base there. A lot of my colleagues are doing great things here.”

Professionals used to be brought in from Lagos and other places to do jobs here because no one takes the creative space in Abuja seriously, but I like to think that the best time to pitch your tent in any sector is when it’s not recognized.

A 2006 graduate of International Business from the East London University, England, Henry knows a thing or two about sustaining a budding business. But there was one key thing he didn’t know about commercial photography before delving into it. “Surprises and challenges come with the job and I’ve learnt valuable lessons and become better with them. However, one notable surprise is that I didn’t know how capital-intensive this field of photography was,” he told us.

How then did he overcome the challenge? “I went into photography when I had a 9-5 job. I only went into it full-time two years ago, so I used the proceeds from my day job to fund some of my equipment purchase. My mum owed me at the time and the moment she paid I put it all back into my business. My family has equally helped immeasurably.”

Although the King’s College alumnus has never taken a bank facility because, according to him, it kills business if one doesn’t have a proper repayment strategy in place. Henry is open to some sort of sponsorship for the next phase of his expansion.

Looking to the future, he said, “We moved into our own space two years ago,we are looking to expand and explore other value chains in the creative sector  like printing, training and equipment rental. We currently operate a photography school, which helps in grooming the next generation of photographers in Abuja. We plan on reaching a wider range of people with these services in the nearest future.”

Resolute Fashionista Builds Successful Business Out of Personal Loss

An entrepreneur whose business started as a joke makes a fortune in fashion designing

Adeleye Olanipekun’s journey to entrepreneurship was a fascinating, if not amusing, one. Although he always wanted to be his own boss, the 2015 Political Science graduate from Covenant University, Ota, Ogun State, didn’t realize he was going to be bossing high-end headgear. 
“It’s a funny story because I had this one favourite face cap I used to wear, and one day I left school for Lagos, and I was on a bike and my baseball cap flew off. I was hurt so badly because a vehicle ran over it and ruined it. From that day I decided to make another one myself. A 9-5 job was a no-no for me.  I never wanted to work for anyone. I always wanted to be the boss and run my own thing, but I didn’t know it was going to be designing caps,” Adeleye narrated.
Adeleye graduated in 2015 and participated in the National Youth Service Corps (NYSC) the following year. In the seemingly saturated Lagos fashion market, how has he been able to cut a path?
“Everyone is doing everything in Lagos; once they see something is working everyone jumps on it,” he said. “However, the beauty of my brand is our ability to remain consistent in terms of quality and always deliver way beyond the customer’s expectation. Branding is how we have remained profitable. We have identified our ‘kings only’ target market and, at the end of the day, you just have to understand your niche market and realize that your products aren’t for everyone.”

Business brief:

Social media contact:
Twitter: @Modagiovani_
Instagram: @Modagiovaniclothing

Indeed, what else better buttresses Adeleye’s “kings only” selling point than an encounter with one of Africa’s most sought-after music artiste? He shares his happenstance with David Adeleke (Davido): “My first client was David Adeleke. I also remember my friends Chimela Polo and Teye Adekeye; they were the two guys who put me on. I had finished production and the product was good and ready to be delivered to the market. A friend of mine, Teye, called me and asked where I was and I told him I was in school -- this was about 7:30pm. He said Polo had shown my cap to Davido and he liked it and asked me to come over. I was excited but there was no way I was going to get an exeat to leave school. So I decided to sneak out of school with a friend of mine that drove me to Lekki. I told him straight up to please rock my caps and hopefully post pictures, and he said he would.”
Adeleye was cautiously optimistic about his encounter with Davido. He headed to a house party at his friend’s and slept over, only to wake up to calls and social media buzzes about his product. An excited experimental entrepreneur recalled how things turned out: “Everyone was calling and hitting me up, telling me I had blown. Next thing, I opened up Instagram and there I saw my cap with Davido and the entire HKN label members rocking it.”

The major key is that you must always deliver that standard you’ve set at the very first point and continue to raise the bar higher.

To Adeleye, one of the surest ways to move up the ladder and remain on top in the world of fashion is to be consistent. “The major key is that you must always deliver that standard you’ve set at the very first point and continue to raise the bar higher,” he said.
And that is what he has been doing since he registered Moda Giovani in 2015 and had that life-changing encounter with Davido.
Surprisingly, Adeleye enjoyed the support of family and friends from the start, and he didn’t take it for granted. “Everyone supported me from the beginning. I remember my mum and aunt coming together to provide me with N250, 000 to start off my business. I was so excited when I received the money.”
Despite making over N750, 000 in the first two months of setting up shop, Adeleye didn’t think much of designing caps until the moment of truth hit him. “After finishing my NYSC, I got a job and at that point my collection wasn’t ready,” he said. “I was balancing a 9-5 job and my so-called side hustle at the same time.  But the business was doing well and everyone loved the brand and people wanted more.  Then I realized I had to take this thing seriously.”
His dream is to see Moda Giovani become a worldwide brand with it’s products available at retail outlets in the United Kingdom and other parts of the world.

I Turned Down Offer From Oil Firm - Entertainment Entrepreneur

Entrepreneur who turned down offer to work in an oil firm shares amazing story

Onoja Adole is an entertainment entrepreneur. He has hosted some of the most creative events in major cities in Nigeria, especially in Lagos and Abuja, and has collaborated with top brands such as Transcorp Hilton, Coca-Cola, Diamond Bank, 9 Mobile and Arik Air to bring outdoor entertainment experience to leisure seekers.

Asked how he got into entertainment, Onoja said: “I just had a passion for organizing parties from university. Although I looked forward to a 9-5 job after graduation, it was mostly for the experience. My eyes had always been set on the entertainment industry.”

In 2010, after some rounds of experimentation, Onoja, a 2006 graduate of English and Literary Studies from the University of Abuja, registered Delphino Entertainment.

He recalled how he got his first client. “I was already doing a series of events at the club with different themes. So a major drinks brand was looking for an event to partner with, to promote their products in the club. Since I was the only one hosting successful events in the club at the time, it was an easy decision for them. We ended up having a four-year contract that is still running.”

Business brief:
Started: 2010
Instagram: @delphinoent

It sounds easy, but considering that the social circuit in Abuja is hardly as active as that of Lagos, it takes a lot of hard work and guts for an entertainment entrepreneur to pull off some stunning events in the Federal Capital Territory.

The managing director of Delphino Entertainment attributed his success to consistency, innovation and peculiarity in the content of every event.
Even with its owner’s enthusiasm, Delphino Entertainment didn’t become asuccess overnight. There were initial challenges, which Onoja had to surmount.

Although his sister once gave him N150, 000 which he added to his savings at the onset, he still had a lot to work out to get the business going.

He recalled the early days of his business. “When I started, my family obviously wasn't in support, mainly because I had an offer from an oil firm already. My friends knew I had a huge passion for what I did and had no choice but support me, although they were wondering how I was going to make a business out of my passion in a city not popular for entertainment at that time.

For the first two years I wasn't making money, but I loved what I was doing, so it didn't feel like work.”

But Onoja built a strong team, drew up a plan, was consistent about what he wanted to do and courted media partnerships. These days, he is known for hosting the “Acoustic Night”, a unique entertainment event in Abuja popular for the secret twists it offers.

Delphino Entertainment has won several awards, including that of the Entertainment Company of Reckoning (2012), and Onoja was a two-time nominee of the Abuja Young Entrepreneurship Award in 2013 and 2014.

However, there is one recognition Onoja holds close to his heart. “I was excited to be nominated in the same category as Don Jazzy and Cobhams for the Entertainment Personality of the Year, Future Awards 2014,” he said. “I knew I wasn't going to win. All that mattered was being recognized. So I flew to Lagos and made the best of it by establishing more contacts in my industry.”

“My friends knew I had a huge passion for what I did and had no choice but support me, although they were wondering how I was going to make a business out of my passion in a city not popular for entertainment at that time”

In October 2017, Onoja attended the Forbes “30 Under 30” Summit in Boston, United States. He believes that the exposure presented by such forums is crucial to his aspiration to be among the top three entertainment entrepreneurs in Nigeria.

Another important success factor, according to him, is his team. “I have eight direct staff members but on the day of an event the number can rise  to 28. Their commitment and loyalty are very important; that’s why I only recruit passionate people. And our work is fun, never feels like work!”

Onoja is changing the entertainment landscape of Abuja one exquisite outdoor event at a time, especially with his Delphino Picnic series.  The self-motivated still has more left in his tank.

Only recently, he opened a lounge on Gana Street, Abuja, called QUO, with Wizkid and Davido among other celebrities present at the event.

“My passion and drive,” he said, “just never allow me take no for an answer. No one does what we do in the business. We don't imitate; we create our own models and events.”

He aspires to be one of the top three entertainment entrepreneurs in Nigeria and is giving his all to live his dream.

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, 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!”

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