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1 24-Jun-2018 Entrepreneur Brings Innovation To Construction Industry An entrepreneur's patience and resilience pay off as his start up creates ingenious solution within the industry.
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.

Business sense 

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.

Deliberate action

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. 
Business brief: Started 2015 Social media contact: Twitter @OshiokeE Instagram - 2iamedaustin
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. 

Next stage

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.”
2 17-Jun-2018 Niche Marketer, Kunle Onime, Reflects On Small Beginnings One of Nigeria’s leading experiential marketers shares his start-up experience and how he built a leading brand from scratch
It is not exactly clear if Kunle Onime’s success in brand marketing was designed or if it came as an accident. What is certain, however, is how the Edo State-born experiential marketer has carved a niche for himself as a pioneer, trailblazer and marketing disruptor.  

Born in Osogbo, Osun State, Kunle already had a broad worldview and awareness of the diverse cultures around him, having attended schools in Osun and Kogi states while living in Lagos. His broad experience would prove useful later in life.

Experiment and experience

Fifth in a family of seven, Kunle started his working career in the entertainment industry. He was a member of the management team to the late Ras Kimono before joining DP Lekki Ltd, as Promotions and Public Relations Manager. When the 1989 graduate of Philosophy from the University of Lagos left the organisation in 1993, he set up his own outfit, Siomtr Ventures Ltd. 
Business brief: Started 1999 Social media contact: Twitter - @kunleonime1 Facebook - @Kunle Onime
Kunle narrated how he came about experiential marketing: “I was sitting with Ali Baba and an idea popped into my head. I remember Ali Baba telling me to give it a shot. I didn’t have access to the Internet and knew little about what I was thinking. A lot of people thought I was mad because my idea was not only impossible, it won’t fly in Nigeria.”

And that was what many thought, until a leading beverage company reluctantly decided, out of Kunle’s persistence, to give him the benefit of the doubt. 

Kunle recalled: “Almost a year after my ‘crazy idea’ first came up, my friends at the beverage company felt I was giving them too much stress; so to ‘get rid of me’ they just gave me something to do. We were supposed to go to the market and talk to end users about their products, to make consumers feel the brand.” 

When Kunle’s idea became a success, the management decided to expand his experiential marketing idea. 

Teaming up with like minds

Unknown to Kunle, his brand of marketing and promotion hadn’t gone unnoticed. Soon, he had a life-changing encounter with unfamiliar people from an unexpected place.

“One day, we were at Oko Oba (a suburb of Lagos) when some expatriates drove in. I thought they were from the beverage company and had come to evaluate what we were doing,” he narrated. “Apparently they were businessmen from South Africa who wanted to set up an experimental marketing business in Nigeria and they said everywhere they went they were told there was this young man who was doing exactly what you guys are proposing.”
"Although they didn’t obviously understand my vision, they were interested in funding. It is a very familiar Nigerian business model. I quickly realised that and jumped out of that relationship and started doing it myself."
The men from South Africa thought they were going to pioneer experiential marketing in Nigeria. “We talked and before I knew what was happening, I was in South Africa for training. That was in 1996. I came back and we launched in Nigeria on March 5, 1997,” Kunle explained. 

When Kunle left the company as the Director of Operations in 1999 to start Marketing & Promotions Concept (MPC) Ltd, six staff members left with him. Such was the influence and quality he had in the industry. MPC started off with 10 staff.

Start-up Capital 

According to Kunle, financial requirements weren’t the biggest challenge in starting an experiential marketing firm. 

He said: “It wasn’t much of financial requirements but more on brands believing and trusting you to deliver. Of course, we needed some funding, and what I did then was to go into partnership with some gentlemen. Although they didn’t obviously understand my vision, they were interested in funding. It is a very familiar Nigerian business model. I quickly realised that and jumped out of that relationship and started doing it myself.”

That does not mean there are no challenges. One particular challenge continues to rear its head, 19 years after he set up MPC: “Government regulation is one of the biggest challenges in this industry. We have issues with government not giving us recognition. Having scaled the hurdles of government, you’ll be faced with the challenge of having to settle area boys. Worse still, you can’t get the support of the same government you have paid to operate against the excesses of area boys and local market authorities.”

In plain language, Kunle said everybody wants to extort an experiential marketer. However, he has something working for him – his vast experience and knowledge of his areas of operation. 

“The experience we have gathered over the years comes in. The relationships we have built over the years come to play and it is something you can’t just gain over a short period of time. To be modest, I have been to over 700 of the 774 local governments in Nigeria,” he stated.

With his vast network stretching to Guinea, Ghana and Sierra Leone, Kunle said MPC has the connection and relationship advantage. The company has 40 permanent staff and over a thousand ad-hoc staff, but it is the talents that Kunle has mentored that gives him the more excitement.

“I am proud to say if there are 100 agencies in this country, there will be 90 per cent of people who passed through me, maybe not as owners of businesses but as management members of strong agencies,” he mentioned. 

Kunle said this could only be achieved when one is able to deliver value greatly by understanding the people, their cultures and values. “We make sure that we under-promise and over-deliver. That’s the way to wow your clients,” he concluded.
3 10-Jun-2018 Entrepreneur Gives Local Snack New Life After musing for years about what to do with his favourite local snack, Tolu gives kokoro new lease of life
Entrepreneurship was hardly Tolu Fashanu’s immediate dream. His father wanted him to study Business Administration, but he opted for Mass Communication because of his love for broadcasting and ICT. As fate would have it, the 2010 graduate of The Redeemer’s University, Mowe, Ogun State, got off to a great start career-wise, during his National Youth Service Corps (NYSC) year.

He reflected on his service year: “I did my youth service in Imo State and that was where I started my career in mass communication. I served at Heart FM, Owerri. Everything was going fine and there was no reason to complain.”

“Opportunity with interest”

After completing his NYSC, Tolu returned to Lagos where he took up freelance broadcasting at the University of Lagos radio station. It was a far cry from what he hoped for. It was during that period that he took advantage of what he called “an opportunity with interest”.
Business brief: Started 2015 Social media contact: Twitter: @teescrunchykokoro Facebook: Tees crunchy cornmeal snack
“I have been a fan of the local cornmeal snack called kokoro since childhood. I grew up eating it and I loved it. I used to get my supply from Abeokuta, from where it originated,” he narrated. “I kept indulging in eating kokoro and one day, for the first time, I bought it in Lagos and the taste was different.”

Upon investigation, Tolu realised that the variety of his favourite cornmeal snack sold in Lagos had short shelf life because it had to be freighted in from Abeokuta. Lagos was eating stale kokoro. “I decided to deliver kokoro that will not lose its original taste to Lagosians ,” he said. 

Stiff resistance…

If it was tough to raise capital for the business, convincing potential financiers that the capital was going into the production of some not-so-popular local snack was daunting for Tolu especially when his parents had not recovered from the financial burden of sending him to a private university.

Tolu narrated his dilemma: “When I told my parents I wanted to do kokoro business, they asked if I was out of my mind. My mum was particularly stunned. My dad was more open-minded but they both said I should think of something else.”

Unhappy but not deterred, Tolu was convinced that his idea was worth a try. He enlisted the assistance of a neighbour who helped out with a business plan and encouraged him. “She actually projected my dream, but I knew if I wanted to follow her business plan to the letter, I wouldn’t start at all because it involved millions of naira. I convinced myself that I could start small,” he stated. 

Peculiar business, peculiar challenges

Starting small was not without its own challenges. He decided to woo sceptics by giving away free sample packs of kokoro, and it cost him a bit.
"She (my neighbor) actually projected my dream, but I knew if I wanted to follow her business plan to the letter, I wouldn’t start at all because it involved millions of naira. I convinced myself that I could start small."
“It was the price I had to pay. I didn’t take advantage of social media until later and the free samples went on for three months out of the little I had,” he explained. 

However, the reception was encouraging. Tolu said it was what even kept him going in the early days of his business. He recalled: “I remember giving some to an aunt who encouraged me greatly. She opened my eyes to the fact that once it goes round and people like it, I’ll start having competitors.”

There were other challenges too, such as distribution and the linguistic barrier, especially for a product that appeared to be a hyper-local brand.   

“I approached a distributor who deals in plantain chips to help me distribute thekokoro along with his plantain chips,” Tolu recalled. “After some time, he told me that street hawkers were mostly Igbo who could not pronounce kokoro. Some of them even called it cockroach! I immediately recalled the products because I didn’t want them to get stale in the distributor’s warehouse.” 

He had to employ support staff to reach consumers directly, apart from using friends and family who also sell the snack in offices.

Next level

With three part-time staff whom he trained himself, Tolu intends to take kokoro to as many retail outlets as possible: “I am still growing. I am still learning but I can assure you that it is not a bad business. My destination is to have kokoro in different flavours. You know, Pringles is made out of potatoes and you can see its reception everywhere. That is my vision – to put the local snack in every major supermarket and home.”
4 03-Jun-2018 Entrepreneur's Unusual Textile Design Puts Her On The Map After years of study and pursuing her dream, Oyidiya finally takes top spot in competitive textile design market
One thing that thrilled Oyidiya Ajike when she was growing up was how her father, a civil engineer, designed things. Her father, she said, always left his engineering signature and ingenuity on any project he handled. His most obvious signature was on their house, and it was where Oyidiya’s love for design took hold and began to blossom.

In the beginning… 

She recalled: “My father is a retired civil engineer. I grew up around design. Obviously, having my father as a civil engineer exposed me early to design. He was quite good at it and you could see the extra creativity and aesthetics that went into the design of the house we lived in and the décor.”

Despite her love for design, Oyidiya’s parents steered her towards a different path; but even on this path, the seed of creativity already sowed in her childhood years would still find expression.  
Business brief: Started 2008 Social media contact: @ivo_luxurytextiles @hudayyabycoutureliving
“My father’s colourful and dramatic designs influenced my attraction but that didn’t necessarily mean I was going to study civil engineering,” the Abia State-born entrepreneur stated. 

Oyidiya initially started studying medicine in Nigeria before opting to move to the United Kingdom, where she eventually earned a degree in Pharmacology and Physiology. 

But her passion was still somewhere else. She had the fire of entrepreneurship burning in her and she indulged it by registering her first business in 2008, even before completing her studies in the UK. 

She explained: “When I finished my first degree I went back to school to study interior design, and then went on to the Imperial College Business School, where I studied business management in 2011.”

Returning home to do business

The Managing Director of IVO Textile said she started with the seed capital saved from working in the UK. She got some support in the form of work space from an architect friend who bought into her concept and vision.  

However, Oyidiya knew that passion for design alone would not break her into the flooded interior décor market in Nigeria. She decided to specialize in textile design, where she would have more freedom to express her creativity. 

“Textile design takes a slightly different angle to interior design because for my own personal aesthetics I love beautiful and luxury-looking textiles. I knew that even though I wanted to be an interior designer, I wanted to focus more on fabrics and textiles for the interior design industry,” she said.  

In retrospect, it was a strategy that worked. But Oyidiya confessed that it took some experimenting and improvisation to make her brand what it is today.
"Building the capacity of the people I worked with was difficult. I found it difficult to convey and translate my ideas to people. Having people to see the vision and see it through the way I wanted things done was a challenge."
“Although I had to think about how to create my niche in the market, I still had to start as an interior designer and source for jobs and all that,” the CEO of IVO Textile said. “However, it wasn’t fulfilling for me because I wanted to be a textile designer able to create and sell my own collection,” she added. 

When Oyidiya didn’t immediately have the means to achieve her aim, she decided to start stocking other people’s brands. She supplemented her décor with investing in the catalogues of upmarket internal brands, while bidding her time. 

“It was two, three years ago that I decided I had tested the market enough to start producing and pushing out my own collection,” said.

Challenges, Lessons and breakthrough 

A disruptor, Oyidiya was confronted with a peculiar challenge when she started IVO Textile.  “Building the capacity of the people I worked with was difficult. I found it difficult to convey and translate my ideas to people. Having people to see the vision and see it through the way I wanted things done was a challenge,” she said.

Being a high-end brand, Oyidiya also faced some challenges when foreign exchange rates started to fluctuate in 2015. And there are the usual challenges faced like all other small and medium scale businesses run in Nigeria. 

However, there was a specific encounter which tested Oyidiya’s resolve in 2015: “We had six projects all at the same time in Kano, Bauchi, Anambra, Imo and Abuja. We were shipping goods every week and my goods were seized by the Customs Service, but our clients showed understanding and we were able to resolve the snag and deliver.”

Oyidiya started IVO Textile with one tailor and a secretary/assistant but had to learn a basic business lesson along the way as her business grew.

“At some point when we were growing, I had too many staff and was struggling with keeping them on permanent terms,” she said. “We had about six sales assistants, about eight installers, there were customer service assistants, tailors, personal assistant and all of that. I had to restructure my business to make access to staff more flexible.” 

Oyidiya said although her business has grown, her definition of success is when progress is continuous and sustained and lessons learnt along the way are used to improve the business.
5 19-May-2018 Fadoul-Abacha; Lifestyle Entrepreneur Builds Empire Through Sheer Persistence An entrepreneur who knew she didn't want a white-collar job but wasn't quite sure what she wanted, digs deep into herself to find an answer and launch a dream
Huda Fadoul-Abacha is a nonconformist. No one needed to tell her that she was not cut out for any form of regimented 9-to-5 career. However, an opportunity came up that would test her conviction.

After studying Microbiology at the University of Abuja, the 2008 graduate got a chance to do her National Youth Service Corps (NYSC) at the Office of the Accountant-General of the Federation in Abuja in 2009.

Huda narrated how that experience reinforced her belief about white-collar job: “I was just going through the motions. Everything seemed predictable and boring. I wanted to experience life my way and didn’t want to be living life with a schedule. So I decided to go into business.”

However, there was a setback. Huda didn’t have sufficient entrepreneurial skills and a business plan. So she randomly picked a trade and started at it.

She recalled: “I started with interior décor. From there I tried my hands at making chairs and doing minor renovations for people. It was growing and I was doing relatively well but I realised that I wasn’t passionate about it.” Business brief: Started 2012 Social media contact: fb.com/hudayyacouture

What next?

Huda told us she realised later that she was more passionate about fashion than interior décor and decided to go into it. But this time, experience had taught her to first test the waters.

“Although I registered my business in 2012, I didn’t take off immediately because I had to be sure of what I was going into and I didn’t have the finances and capacity to start off immediately,” she said.

The chief executive officer (CEO) of Hudayya Couture Limited said because of her lack of capacity, she couldn’t immediately seek funding for fear of failure. This limitation made her device a means of survival.

She said, “I was doing fashion delivery service, because I just get specifications and design them and take to the clients who are mostly family and friends. I was doing that until a year later when I felt I had gained enough experience to approach my parents with a business plan for their support. I also showed them what I had saved to show seriousness.”

Funding

With interior décor, Huda said she didn’t really need much to start. But when she moved into fashion, it required more capital. “I needed a place but couldn’t afford one immediately so I started from home. I had an aunt living in Gwarinpa (Abuja) who had a spare room so I worked from there with one machine,” Huda said.

Once she was certain she had enough drive in her to survive in the fashion business, she approached her parents for support.

“They supported me but it wasn’t to the extent I was expecting. They encouraged me to start small. I got a small place in an estate and started from there. Luckily, I was already making for friends and family and they kept patronising me. I started there with three machines. From there, three tailors became four and then five.”

Challenges

Huda’s business story sounds easy, only that it isn’t. The co-partner of Hudayya by Couture Living explained that it took some resolve and tenacity for her to take on and excel in the fashion business.
"I realised that a lot of things tailors told me were impossible were actually possible. They just didn’t want to do complex and detailed designs. I had to fire those who weren’t ready to adapt to my signature style."

She narrated some of her challenges: “When I started, I didn’t have any training. I just knew I was passionate about it and there were not many fashion schools that could deliver what I wanted. I was just learning on the job and making mistakes and learning from my experiences.”

Her lack of capacity in the fashion business put her at the mercy of the tailors she worked with. She later travelled to Dubai, UAE, to study fashion and returned better equipped.

Her time in Dubai exposed Huda to the solution to another challenge she was facing: “I realised that a lot of things tailors told me were impossible were actually possible. They just didn’t want to do complex and detailed designs. I had to fire those who weren’t ready to adapt to my signature style. In the process, I lost many tailors and clients because we were unable to meet up with demands. But in the long run, it was a good decision.”

Hudayya also said electricity was a challenge which increased her overhead tremendously, making it longer to break even.

Hudayya niche market

Huda has created a niche market for herself in bridal fashion. She said social media has helped to push her products.

Looking back, she said: “Your work has to stand out and speak for itself and for you. Social media has been one of our veritable marketing tools. We’ve had clients calling from the US, UK and Guinea who got to know us through social media.”

Huda now has a fashion school, Hudaya Fashion Academy, where would-be fashion entrepreneurs are trained to save them from learning the hard way.

She advised aspiring fashion entrepreneurs not to use their capital to fund their personal lifestyle and they should be sure it is actually what they want to do because the market is quite competitive.

She added: “I will also advise that they go to fashion school first and get entrepreneurial education. They should also intern in a fashion house for a while in order to be well positioned to compete.”
6 13-May-2018 Amazing Story of A Fashion Reporter's Big Leap Aisha, who started as a fashion reporter in a newspaper house, reveals how she later took the fashion industry by storm
Aisha Abubakar never thought of becoming an entrepreneur; not at the time she took the leap of faith. The Kebbi State-born 2010 graduate of Geology from the Ahmadu Bello University (ABU) Zaria got a good job as a reporter after her National Youth Service Corps, and thus had little reason to worry about entrepreneurship. 

Interestingly, it was at her duty post that the opportunity to become a fashion entrepreneur presented itself – and she grabbed it with both hands.

Journey Into Fashion 

Since it’s not every day that a good paying job allows an employee to think about starting a business, we asked Aisha how she started: “After my NYSC in Abuja in 2011, I got a job with Leadership newspaper in the LeVogue department. It was a weekly lifestyle pull-out. I was in LeVogue for a while. Because I had to go out and do interviews, I met a lot of people who influenced my career path.”
Business brief: Started 2013 Social media contact: Instagram: aishaabubakr_ng Twitter: @aishaluxurydesigns Facebook: Aisha Abu-Bakr Luxury Designs
The nature of her job with Leadership newspaper involved red carpet events, weddings and other social gigs. Aisha said writing for LeVogue exposed her to meeting fashionistas. “Sometimes the interviewees (thinking that I know a lot about fashion) would request that I help them fix one thing or the other in terms of their appearance,” she recalled.

One day, one of the ladies Aisha met at an event wanted her to help make a dress. Because Aisha had learnt tailoring in-between school and NYSC, she decided to make the dress herself instead of giving it out to a tailor: “I told her I was a tailor. She said I should go ahead and make the dress.”

When she began sewing for the women she met while covering events, Aisha still didn’t immediately think of making a career out of fashion design, but things changed gradually. 

She said: “When I started styling the women I met during LeVogue, I changed my mind and thought of making a career out of tailoring. I registered my business in February 2013 and that’s how Aisha Abubakar Fashion was born.”

Edge in a crowd

Aisha said she leaves a striking signature on the fabrics she designs. The problem with Nigerian fashion brands has always been meeting international standards, especially the finishing details. She was determined to make a difference.

“I told myself details and finishing matter,” Aisha said. “That I should be able to make a dress that can be displayed in any fashion house anywhere in the world.” She said over time, she has specialised in making patterns, which has helped her to get her designs right.
"Sometimes, the people working with you won’t show up at work after the (sewing) pattern is ready. And the client would be expecting you to deliver at a given time. I shared the challenge with my mentor and she advised me to change my operational model."

Raising capital 

Aisha said she raised her start-up capital from family and friends. “I started small but it didn’t deter me from pursuing the dream,” she told us.
Her most critical challenge starting up was electricity. She said she has spent a fortune buying diesel for her generator. But she also experienced a peculiar challenge in the form of employees’ attitude to work. 

She said: “Sometimes, the people working with you won’t show up at work after the (sewing) pattern is ready. And the client would be expecting you to deliver at a given time. I shared the challenge with my mentor and she advised me to change my operational model. If you work on Monday, you earn for Monday. If you don’t show up to work on Tuesday, I will call another tailor and you won’t earn for Tuesday. This change of personnel operation has helped me surmount that particular challenge.”

Although Aisha started with two sewing machines in 2013 and a handful of clients mostly family and friends, she now has 10 staff, with 16 sewing machines.

She has learnt from her mistakes: “I didn’t have much time to market the business properly and didn’t have any business knowledge because often we overlook the importance of having business knowledge. It made growth slow in the beginning.”

Future growth plans

One strategy that Aisha has deployed to a great effect is observing her competitors. “I noticed that a lot of bespoke tailors were beginning to do ready-to-wear brands. Also, our industry may not be structured but people have started opening up retail stores. So I have also diversified a little,” Aisha said.

Her ultimate vision is to announce to the world that Nigerian designers have come of age.

She wouldn’t end without advising up-and-coming designers to harness their skills and learn the business aspect of fashion. She also thinks that designers should have an area of specialisation and grow at their own pace.

She said, “If you have three clients, you don’t need to have a shop at Ademola Adetokunbo Crescent, Wuse II. You don’t need to spend N5 million to get a shop, leaving you with only N500,000 to buy fabrics. Invest in your product; social media has made things easy; you can sell online.”
7 06-May-2018 Continuous Re-invention Keeps Entrepreneur Ahead Of Peers A relentlessly innovative entrepreneur shares success story
You may call Efe Omoregbe a rolling stone in the entertainment industry – but he is a rolling stone that has gathered moss. 

He has been a musician, producer, brand communicator, talent manager, and songwriter or creative content developer. And in each of these roles, his talent has shone bright. 

Asked what best describes his work, Efe responded: “My work is primarily focused on music, brand communications, marketing and content development. I like to see myself fundamentally as a writer, because all I do is based on the very background of writing, of creatively finding mediums of expression whether in music, TV, radio or live events.”   
Business brief: Started 2002 Social Media Contact: Facebook: @EfeO.Omorogbe

The description, “creative entrepreneur”, is perhaps the best fit for the Delta State-born all-round entertainer.

In the beginning…

As a schoolboy in Warri and Sapele in Delta State, Efe had always been drawn to creativity. For the better part of two decades, he was happy to experiment with all genres of music. It was a familiar feeling in what was the golden era of contemporary music in Nigeria.

Efe narrated his sojourn: “Hip-hop was big back then in Sapele, that was in the mid 80’s. Between 1983 and 1988, I was in secondary school and within that period we did everything; we formed groups, recorded demos, and all that.
"The challenge was to make my passion pay my bills. There was no point in my life where I was unsure what to do with my life. My number one to five options were music. So, it was the process of learning how to make it a business that was my challenge."
We played instrumentals and sang on them. Later, we went into studios to do multi-track recordings. After school, we were doing rehearsals and rap presentations. We stormed all the school parties, Children’s Day, Independence Day and what not. We performed at every local stage available.”

Efe was so talented that after secondary school, he landed a music contract. However, with an eye on university education and a contract that promised big and delivered little, he opted to accept admission to the University of Lagos to study English Education in 1993.

It was at UNILAG that Efe launched his first attempt at music management when he registered his music label and ‘signed’ his first act – his seven-year-old brother. Efe felt that they churned out good music, although they failed at the business aspect of music.

He recalled: “I tried to release our official first album for Sleek (his artiste). It was like a six-track project.  It failed woefully. We did a great job if you ask me, production wise. But we didn’t pay attention to promotion and marketing. We didn’t have a plan. We assumed that people will hear it and will take it for the great work that it was and that it will develop its own wings.”

After that, he took a break to master the business of entertainment.

Guiding hand…

After school, Efe was lucky meet Ayo Animashaun of Hip-hop World magazine who offered him a job as an editorial officer in 1997. It was an opportunity for him to show his talent and to continue his education as well.

He added, “The challenge was to make my passion pay my bills. There was no point in my life where I was unsure what to do with my life. My number one to five options were music. So, it was the process of learning how to make it a business that was my challenge. My challenge was not unemployment. Of course, I got a job.”

Armed with better business knowledge, he tried his hands on projects such as Mega Mob before settling for Now Muzik. It was in the course of it that he met and worked with A-list celebrities, such as Tunde Ameobe and Sunny Nneji.

Efe recalled: “When I registered Now Muzik I had to find a partner. But, unfortunately, we lost one of my partners a few years after restructuring Now Muzik. But we moved on and made progress slowly. Things picked up faster when I started taking myself seriously; the moment I put a value to my time.” 

Efe has been in the forefront of combatting piracy and enforcing copyright laws in the music industry.

What it is today…

One of the things Efe decided to do early on was to create a value chain of businesses around his passion: music.  

“We run a marketing firm,” he said. “What we did for years was that in the course of operating Now Muzik, we had to respond to every major challenge that we met. When we have a product to push and we needed marketing solutions, we created marketing solutions. We have Now Marketing and Distribution. When we need to promote and push, we have Now Media Publicity and PR.”

With staff strength of 30 and still growing, Efe stated that the application of  lessons learnt along the way is one of the reasons for his success.

“I can only add that the future for us is very, very bright,” he said.
8 28-Apr-2018 Hip TV Boss Shares Amazing Success Story An entrepreneur, whose dictionary does not contain the word, "impossible", makes great strides in media and entertainment, after years of perseverance
Ayo Animashaun’s success story is an entrepreneur’s dream, but it was built over the years, one bold step at a time. From print to TV and then events marketing, how the Chief Executive Officer of Smooth Promotions conquered the music and entertainment industry is a story worth sharing.

Life-changing book

Although an indigene of Lagos State, Ayo was born and raised in Ilorin, Kwara State, where his building contractor father had settled. After living the first 16 years of his life in Ilorin, he wanted to move away to other places where he could explore.

He recalled: “My uncle was in Kaduna, so I chose to go to Kaduna. I ended up at the College of Administration and Business Studies, Kaduna.  That was where I started building a dream around music and entertainment.” 

His interest in music and gift of song writing soon made him a lyricist to friends and colleagues. Ayo would photocopy his lyrics and hand them to his friends to perform for free. Later, he started charging a token to cover cost.
Business brief:Started 2007 Social Media Contact: Instagram: @ayoanimashaun, Facebook: @OfficialHipTv
Ayo recalled the life-changing encounter he had with, well, a book – Napoleon Hill’s Think and Grow Rich: “It was the first book in its genre that I read and it changed everything.  I believed the principles I read in the book and held on to them. My dream was to publish a songbook that would be popular and accepted nationwide. It was a simple dream but it was a big deal to me then.”

Suddenly, Ayo was fired up to achieve his dream but had no means. He had to use his only asset (a three-in-one record player) as collateral for a N1,000 loan and depended heavily on the goodwill of his printers to print his songbook.

“We printed 300 copies but I begged the guys to give me 50 copies to take to the Central Market in Kaduna to sell,” Ayo recalled. “When I got to the market, I sold everything. So I went back to the printer and collected more copies and sold. We printed 2,000 copies and then 5,000 copies.” 

The big leap (or so he thought)

The modest success recorded by Ayo with his songbook created a hunger to achieve more. He felt he had a good product, which had to transcend his local market. 

Asked what his next move was, Ayo responded: “Fame magazine was big in those days. I used to read it and see big names such as Dele Momodu, Kunle Bakare and the rest. So I called Kunle Bakare and explained my dream to him and he said I should come to Lagos. I went to my parents and told them I was going to Lagos. They advised me to pursue my dream. I went to Lagos with my mum’s pick-up van.”
"Never starve that which opens the way for you. If the stream flows, you’ll be able to drink from it. That was how we were able to move from 6 staff to 10 to 18 to 35, and then to 98."
Ayo’s breakthrough did not come as easily as anticipated. He needed help to bankroll his music magazine but it wasn’t forthcoming. In the interim, he did odd jobs to keep body and soul together. At some point, his pick-up van was what put food on his table. But he persevered.

Soon, a silver lining beckoned: “I started writing one or two music pages for Fame. One day, Dele Momodu, Femi Akintunde and Kunle Bakare were around and they were like, ‘There seems to be a market for what this guy man is doing.’ I got N19,000 for typesetting and colour separation. Every other thing we did was on credit. We printed 5,000 copies of Hip-hop World magazine and it sold out. It was circulated along with Fame so it was everywhere.”

Not all that glitters…

Everyone thought Ayo had arrived, after all his magazine was “everywhere”. However, Ayo wasn’t making any money and wanted to quit. But for the advice and lifeline he got from well-meaning people, his dream may have collapsed because agents were not paying him for the sale of the magazine. “They will ask me to print another edition and I’ll print but to collect my money would be a problem,” he lamented.

Turning the corner…

There were music awards before the Headies (formerly Hip-Hop World Awards) but Ayo thought there should be an award, which would reward artistes who succeeded against all odds and cater for all genres in a unique manner. Now in its 12th year edition, the Headies was established in 2005, but its first edition took place a year later.

“People thought we got a lot of money but we only got a total of 25million, having made a lot of noise that Nigerians should get ready for the mother of all events. People had put their job and reputation on the line for our sake,” Ayo stated.

In the end he delivered, although at a heavy personal loss. But it the award was the game changer.

Wrap-up

In 2006, Ayo started Hip TV as a syndicated music programme on pay TV (first aired in 2007). Four years later when he wanted a channel, he was denied. As usual, he persevered, waited for his opportunity and grabbed it with both hands when it presented itself. Today, the empire known as Smooth Promotions has 98 staff. 
He said, “Never starve that which opens the way for you. If the stream flows, you’ll be able to drink from it. That was how we were able to move from 6 staff to 10 to 18 to 35 and then to 98. It was from 2007 when we had good funding for the TV programme that I knew this was it. But if you have a dream, you never feel that you have arrived.”
9 22-Apr-2018 Turning Hidden Passion Into An Enterprise A casual encounter with an old friend turns out to be the Eureka moment for entrepreneur whose career needed a fresh start.
There is something different about how Temitope Ali-Agboola became a baker. It neither happened by design nor by accident, and Temitope does not pretend she was destined to be an entrepreneur.

The mother-of-two is the chief executive officer of Temi Bakes, a “distinctive baking company with a vision to become the foremost cake brand in Africa”. So how did she end up in a bakery churning out delicious cakes, desserts and sweet treats?

Difficult turnaround

Becoming an entrepreneur, let alone a baker, was not on Temitope’s to-do list. She was gainfully employed and things were going on smoothly at nine-to-five job.

The University of Lagos Mass Communication graduate narrated how the unexpected happened and changed everything. Business brief: Started 2012 Social media contact: Facebook - @temmiebakes Instagram - @temmiebakes “I was made redundant when I returned from maternity leave at a major telecommunications company, where I used to work,” she said. “I thought about what to do and I had a new-born baby and I was also battling a broken relationship. I thought everything was finished. I didn’t know where to start. A voice told me to run away from it all, so I went abroad because my family lives in the UK.”

Temitope thought she would find respite by running away from her challenges. However, it didn’t take long before she realised that fleeing didn’t solve her problem. According to her, “I needed to return home and make myself useful.” How? She had no idea.

Encounter

Sometimes, adversity stimulates creativity. This was exactly the case of Temitope, whose encounter with an old friend in the UK suddenly gave her life a new purpose.

“I met an old friend one day and she told me of another friend who had gone to Dublin to learn baking. She was like, ‘Do you remember Rita? She’s gone to Dublin to learn baking.’ That struck me. That moment, I said, ‘baking is it then!’ It was like hitting the nail on the head, it was my Eureka moment!” Temitope recalled.

There was a tone of nostalgia in the voice of the CEO of Temi Bakes when she talked about baking and she was eager to share it: “I remember back in secondary school, I used to try baking cake with my mum’s blender. It was mostly improvisation but family and friends ate and loved my amateur cakes. Sometimes, they would ask me to bake for occasions such as Christmas, birthdays, and so on. That was back in secondary school.”
"I returned home, knowing that I wouldn’t have to be looking for a job; but rather, I would become an employer of labour"
So when her friend mentioned someone learning to bake cake in Dublin all the way from Nigeria, Temitope thought to herself, “Someone travelled that far while I am already here in the UK wasting away, sort of…”

She descended on her computer and started searching where to learn baking in London. “I found Fair Cake. Their cakes looked like something that was photo-shopped, like out of this world. So I went for training there,” she said.

Her first training was a cupcake class from 10am to 4 pm. After that she went to Lambert College for further baking knowledge and training on types of treats. Then she went to a Nigeria baker in London and Cakes for Fun to learn some other things about the trade. She was now very equipped to return to Nigeria.

The return

Temitope thought about staying back in the UK to start her business, but she didn’t have a work permit. “I returned home, knowing that I wouldn’t have to be looking for a job; but rather, I would become an employer of labour,” she enthused.

She bought some of the utensils and ingredients she needed from the UK and was categorical about what she bought. “Just the basic ones that could be difficult or expensive to get in Nigeria,” she emphasised. 

Temitope registered Temi Bakes in 2012 upon her return and went further to acquire more training from Mix & Bake on baking and decorations.

“I started with baking cupcakes for family and friends, selling cupcakes to them,” she smiled. “They eat and come back and help refer me to their friends, colleagues at work, neighbours, etc. That was how Temi Bakes started.”

Starting small

Temitope didn’t feel she had to start with much in terms of capital. “I started with a small mixer. I bought bowls and spatula and some other items from the UK for around £20 (about N20,000 then).”

In all, she estimated her starting capital to be around N100,000, which was from her personal savings.

However, it wasn’t that simple with other challenges, especially staffing and expansion process.

“As our customer base expanded, I needed funds from time to time to keep up with the additional expenses. If you don’t have the capacity to deliver you need to look for a way to do it,” she lamented. “Also, absenteeism and inefficiency are not good for the baking business. Finding committed staff who won’t call in sick at crucial times is a challenge we face from time to time.”

Six years down the line, Temi Bakes has witnessed significant growth, thanks to referrals and the use of social media advertising tools. Temitope also relies on freebies and promos, which have helped increase her sales and kept her business profitable.

She has go on to study Entrepreneurial Management at the Lagos Business School and believes that it is only a matter of time before Temi Bakes will become the foremost cake brand in Africa.
10 15-Apr-2018 Entrepreneur Builds Thriving Fashion Business From Side Hustle An entrepreneur who wanted to be a broadcaster or nothing, is saved by a venture she started as part-time job
Marylinda Alinor had her career options figured out even before she was called up for the National Youth Service Corps (NYSC) in Calabar, Cross River State. 

She wanted to be a radio presenter or TV broadcaster. Luckily, the 2011 Theatre Arts and Mass Communication graduate from the University of Benin was posted to the Cross River Broadcasting Corporation (CRBC).

She was on the verge of living her dream.

As a backup plan, however, Marylinda decided to hone her makeup skills. She recalled, “I finished in 2011 as a costume and makeup major from school. After graduation from the university, I took a diploma course in makeup and beauty at an institute in Lagos. Somehow, I thought I needed to hone my skills, just in case.”

After youth service, she declined the opportunity to be retained as a TV presenter and an on-air personality.  

She smiled: “I just thought that Calabar was not for me. It was too quiet, too peaceful. I lived in Lagos all my life, so I am used to the fast life.”
Business brief: Started 2014 Social media contact: Twitter - @capitalDIVA Instagram - @capitalDIVA Facebook - fb.com/capitaldiva

Switching to Plan B

For Marylinda, it was either she worked as a broadcaster or nothing. When that opportunity was not forthcoming, she decided to activate her Plan B.

She recalled: “I said to myself, ‘You have this skill already, you are a makeup artist, you are a bead maker, so why not just make something out of it?’ That was how I started making beads. I was trying to earn a living, to avoid depleting my NYSC savings.”

Once Marylinda set her eyes on entrepreneurship, there was no looking back. From bead making, she went into other ventures, including shoe making, tailoring and designing costumes.  

“I learnt how to make footwear from leather, from fabrics and all of that. In two weeks, I had learnt what I wanted. And then this age when YouTube has everything, you can learn how to do virtually anything from YouTube. I went on YouTube a lot. I saw a lot of videos.  So, YouTube was my regular class,” she smiled.

Interestingly, she said that unlike bead making, which took a while to catch on, her leatherwork quickly gained acceptance.
"I learnt how to make footwear from leather, from fabrics and all of that. In two weeks, I had learnt what I wanted. And then this age when YouTube has everything, you can learn how to do virtually anything from YouTube"

Raising start-up capital

If Marylinda’s venture into business was fascinating, the way she raised capital for the business was no less thrilling.

“It was basically from my service year savings,” she said. “Throughout my service year, the Federal Government was paying us N19,800, the state (government) pays you, and sometimes, the place of primary assignment also pays you. So, I knew I wasn’t touching my federal ‘alawi’. It was sacred.” 

She continued: “I was living on N7,000 per month during my (youth) service year. I only spent my state ‘alawi’ and my stipend of N4,000 from my place of primary assignment. At the time, the state (government) was giving us N3, 000 every month. Whatever I had to do was within that N7,000.”

Marylinda’s mother and sister also offered financial support, and remarkably, she found a landlord willing to accept rent in instalments.

Challenges

When Marylinda decided to become a fulltime entrepreneur in 2014, her initial challenge was location. She lived in Ijesha (a Lagos-suburb), where clients were not willing to spend much on accessories. 

“Because of my location,” she said, “my profit margin was very low. The few who actually wanted to look good to parties didn’t feel they should pay much to look good.” 

Gradually, however, people got to value her work.  Marylinda hugely credited her event-decorator neighbour for the referrals, which improved her fortune.

On December 26, 2017, Marylinda suffered a major setback – her store was burgled and her goods were carted away.

She narrated her ordeal: “I remember I came in, and I was like, ‘What a Christmas gift!’ I was broken. My parents and family were scared. My friends knew how hard I had struggled to build my business to this level… I made a lot of slippers. We made bags, dresses and so on. We stocked up with everything. And then I came to the store, it was open and empty!”

What does the future hold?

With the help of family, friends and even strangers who were sympathetic to Marylinda’s story when she shared it on social media, she bounced back. She now values the power of her social media platforms as a marketing tool.

Marylinda believes, against popular notion that the fashion industry is saturated, that it will keep growing and she wants to be part of that growth.

She said, “We hope to be a brand big enough to be called the one-stop store for Nigerian made fashion items. The idea is to push the Buy-Made-In-Nigeria initiative. We are trying to produce things that can equal the standard of what we import from China, US and the rest of the world.”

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