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1 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.
2 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.”
3 07-Apr-2018 From Banking to Baking, Food Scientist turns Flour to Gold It took Beatrice four years of trying out everything from jobs in banking to manufacturing before she finally dug deep into herself to discover that her happiness and business success lay in an old family tradition: baking
Beatrice Oghuma is from a family of bakers. She and her siblings grew up watching what their parents did both as leisure and full-time jobs.

“My mum was a teacher but she sold baked goods on the side to support the family. She also made birthday and wedding cakes on request,” Beatrice recalled. 

She also said that her father started a food manufacturing company, which produced baked goods and baking ingredients such as tortilla chips, icing sugar, brown sugar, and baking powder, to name a few.

Although the 2008 Food Science and Technology graduate from Bowen University, Iwo, Osun State knew all about baking and felt she had a passion for it, she only recently decided to make a living out of it after people advised her to turn it into a business.

“It's funny that I wasn't particularly interested in baking or food as a child. I guess it was imprinted in my subconscious though,” she said.

From banking to baking

Beatrice had a four-year cumulative work experience in various sectors, including banking, food manufacturing, healthcare and catering. After bagging a postgraduate degree in Nutrition and Food Sciences from the University of Huddersfield, United Kingdom, she clinched a £175-per-day banking job.

Business brief: Started 2013. Social media contact: Instagram: helens_cakes_originale
“After a whole day of tapping my fingers on my work table waiting for the shift to be over, I'll get home at about 8pm, go straight into the kitchen, bake till say 10:30pm, then frost and finish the cake till say 1:30am. I go to bed at about 2:00am and I'm up at 5:30am,” she mused.

As her clientele base grew, Beatrice was faced with making a tough decision: to commit herself to her well-paid banking job or resign to concentrate on baking. She chose the latter.

Family and friends

Family and friends were the first to patronize Beatrice when she was baking cakes part-time. In fact, her first baking was a N7,000 cake ordered by a friend. “It looked like a brick layer and a carpenter did a duo,” she joked.
"We currently have 30 different flavours, some of which I personally invented. I haven't found another bakery with that many cake flavours in Nigeria and just in case there are, I would say we are one of the very few bakeries with that many flavours"

However, the idea of resigning from her job to follow her passion was initially worrisome.

“The massive difference in income was a hard pill to swallow. It affected my mood and appearance,” she recalled. “Family and friends were worried and some felt I had bitten way more than I could chew. Regardless, they were supportive of me and the business.”

The silver lining for Beatrice was that she didn’t have to persuade people around her that she was passionate about baking. It was evident, and thus easier for her to earn their support.

Challenges in baking

Named after her mother, Beatrice’s Helen’s Cakes was registered in September 2013 and has had its fair share of challenges associated with the business. Her biggest day-to-day operational challenge is the risk of damage en route delivery due to delicate and intricate nature of cakes.

How does she reduce such risk? “We outsource our deliveries to a trusted company. Their vehicles have satisfactory shock absorbers and are air-conditioned. This helps ensure that the cakes arrive at their destination in one piece,” Beatrice responded. 

Also, increased awareness about healthy eating has dominated discussions around confectioneries. Beatrice had two things to say about it: “First, I'm a believer in moderation over elimination. Also, at Helen's Cakes we have cakes for specific diets.”

Lessons and fresh perspectives

With a good quarterly turnover, Helen’s Cakes has her slice of the Lagos confectionery market. Beatrice attributed this steady growth to her wide range of bespoke flavours.
 
“We currently have 30 different flavours, some of which I personally invented. I haven't found another bakery with that many cake flavours in Nigeria and just in case there are, I would say we are one of the very few bakeries with that many flavours,” she said.

Beatrice has learnt many lessons in the course of starting her business. “Passion is one thing, turning that passion into a business is something else entirely. Becoming an entrepreneur doesn't necessarily mean you get to rest more, and one plus two isn't always three,” she said.

She is learning to train and delegate responsibilities as well as how to keep better records of her inventory. She also follows trends on social media, to stay abreast of developments in the baking world. 

Strategy for growth

So far, Beatrice has relied on her personal savings and support from family to nurture her business, although she hasn’t ruled out the possibility of obtaining a bank loan. Currently with one staff, Beatrice intends to employ more staff as part of her expansion plan.  

“I see an empire that would attract both local and foreign investors as well as partners because of its vision. I see people wanting to own Helen's Cakes franchises in Africa and the world at large.”
4 31-Mar-2018 Entrepreneur's Leap Of Faith Produces Breath-taking Results An entrepreneur determined to chart his own course and succeed, chases his dream from Kaduna to Lagos
Steve Baba Eko's journey to advertising and entertainment began as a leap of faith. The story of his rise to the position of chief executive officer of X3MGroup - a conglomerate of media, entertainment and advertising concerns including X3M Ideas, Media 100, Zero Degree and X3M Music - is a study in courage.

How did Steve grow from a young boy trying to break the shackles of poverty in Kaduna to having some of the most financially attractive clients in Lagos including a leading telecoms company, a bank and pay TV provider?

A humble beginning

He recalled how it all started: “It started at 16. My parents were so poor and I said to myself, ‘If I stay with these people my destiny is sealed as a poor person’. I knew I won’t go too far in life if I stuck around. So I thought I should pack my bag and leave for a place where I could increase my odds.”

Business brief: Started August, 2012 Social Media: Instagram - @stevebabaeko; Twitter - @steve_eko; Facebook - @steve Babaeko
He moved to join his uncle, who was an engineer at a hotel and started working for him as a personal assistant, handling his secretarial duties. “It was from there," he said, "that I got money to attend the Ahmadu Bello University (ABU), Zaria.”

The 1994 graduate of Theatre Arts went to the Nigeria Television Authority Kano for his National Youth Service Corps before making the crucial decisionwhich has made him one of the most sought-after creative persons in Nigeria today.  

Steve weighed his options. For two weeks, he was researching at the Kaduna Library on what aspect of creativity he could go into and finally settled for advertising.

“I read an interview Lolu Akinwunmi granted Vanguard newspaper in April 1995 and he spoke about how cool advertising was. I was already a member of the Creative Writers’ Club at ABU. I discovered that advertising might be the thing for me. But in the entire northern region then there were very few advertising companies.”

No guts no glory

Knowing his strength was in creativity and copyrighting, he made a list of the advertising companies in Lagos where he would love to work. On June 8, 1995, he said goodbye to Kaduna and moved to Lagos.
"It occurred to me why they were offering me that little: the proposal looked good on paper but I did not have the track record. The following morning, I called my lawyer and got Extreme Music registered."

He narrated the nostalgia that followed his sojourn to an uncharted territory: “To be frank until I got to Ojota I didn’t know what I was doing. I just felt advertising was my calling  and the hub was in Lagos. My uncle had contacts in Lagos because he had worked at a hotel in Lagos. So I went there and met the general manager and claimed I had an interview in Lagos and my uncle said I should come to him (which was not exactly true). The man just called the chef and told him to take me in. I ended up staying there for two years.”

Steve wanted to work at Prima Garnet but secured employment at MC&A as a trainee copyrighter. He spent five years honing his skills at MC&A before the big break came.

Dream come true 

Steve finally got the opportunity to work at his dream company when he moved from MC&A to Prima Garnet. He explained how in 1998 he veered into entertainment: “Fela had just passed on and Dede was so depressed that we had to step in as his support system.I started managing him when he fell out with his manager. That was how my interest in music was awakened. I didn’t stop managing Dede until 2000. In those times, I realised that there was a gap in the music industry.”

Steve’s opportunity in the music industry came in disguise. His boss at Prima Garnet who had a stake in a music label asked him to do a proposal on how to reposition the label for profitability. He felt he did a good job and requested N5m as consultancy fee to implement his plan over a three-year period. However, he was offered N250,000.

“It occurred to me why they were offering me that little: the proposal looked good on paper but I did not have the track record. The following morning, I called my lawyer and got Extreme Music registered.”

Today, X3M Music is one of the top music labels in the industry, boasting of artists such as Simi, Praiz and Sammy.

Raising capital and other challenges

After five years at Prima Garnet, Steve served as creative director for another advertising agency, One-for-One, for seven years before summoning the courage to stand on his own.

“I was in my 40s and the fear of the unknown was my greatest challenge. I remember telling people that I had left One-for-One and was running my own ad agency called X3M Ideas. Whenever they wished  me good luck it just felt like they were mocking me.” he said.

Steve started X3M Ideas with the money he borrowed from his wife and the N8m he saved with the aim of buying a second-hand Range Rover Sport. “My wife advised that people who buy N8m cars should have N80m in their account. I listened to her and the money came handy.”

Message for young entrepreneurs

From seven staff in 2012, Baba Eko’s X3M Group presently boasts over 100 staff. He attributes his success to dedication and discipline. “I worked for my former boss for 12 straight years and the greatest thing he did for me was that I was able to learn everything I needed for my business to thrive today. That passion for service has to be rekindled among young people.”
5 25-Mar-2018 Serial Entrepreneur Defies Odds, Keeps Taking New Territory In a rare display of can-do spirit, Bunmi disproves the saying that a rolling stone gathers no moss by creating a string of prosperous small businesses along his growth path.
Bunmi Shola Adeniyi is the textbook definition of a serial entrepreneur. Rather than wallow in self-pity after a setback, he would pick himself up, dust himself and move on to the next thing. While his mates were preparing to enter the university immediately after secondary school, he made a deliberate decision to defer his ambition.

In the beginning…

A pensive Bunmi reminisced: “I lost my Dad when I was young, and I am the first son. After secondary school, I had to start doing different menial jobs. I found myself in Bwari, Abuja where the Nigerian Law School is located, washing clothes and cars for law students. I saved some money and it took another four years after secondary school before I could go to the university.”

Unknown to the 39-year-old graduate of Business Administration and Management from the Ekiti State University, Ado Ekiti, it was his Abuja experience that prepared him for the difficult road ahead.

Social media contact: Started 2007 Instagram: @adeniyisolabunmi Facebook: Don Adeniyi Sola Bunmi
After venturing from laundry business into fashion and entertainment, with Public Relations to the bargain, Bunmi has proved an exception to the saying that a rolling stone gathers no moss. 

He recalled, “I had a laundry outfit, a video club and a business centre. From there I opened a fashion shop because I noticed that many people loved tie-and-dye fabrics from Ogun Stateand it was profitable .I also had apprentices who were working for me.” 

Bunmi has not forgotten that the laundry outfit was his flagship and it was revenue from it that he used to establish other businesses. At a time, he had up to 25 staff, working for him in his ‘chain of businesses’.

Change of plan

If friends thought that finally, after graduating, Bunmi would continue with business as usual, they were mistaken. He simply packed up, gathered his capital, registered a company and relocated to Lagos.

"I got a piece of land and started cultivating moringa. I paid for the land three times. I was duped twice. It was the third time that I met the real owner. Today, I have almost 90 per cent of the property around the area where my business is located."
He explained the rationale behind his decision: “Coming to Lagos, I had to start MQ Global Limited, because I had a better understanding of business based on the different seminars that I had attended. MQ Global Limited does general businesses; anything that comes my way I do, I just needed a company with a bank account and a standard letter-head paper to run business.”

In Lagos, he went into commodity importation, wholesale and retail of agro-allied products and – wait for this – visa assistance, as well! When he travelled on a short trip to India, he discovered yet another business.

“I travelled to India for a course and moringa was everywhere. They were doing a lot with moringa. On getting back to Nigeria, I got a piece of land and started cultivating moringa. I paid for the land three times. I was duped twice. It was the third time I met the real owner. Today, I have almost 90 per cent of the property at my current location.”

The big break…

The moringa business was so successful that Bunmi had dozens of accredited distributors in and around Lagos selling various moringa products that he produced.

However, during another business trip, this time to Israel, yet another business idea struck him: helping people to set up farms and agricultural  estates. Through aggressive marketing and special offers to buyers Bunmi has expanded his own land holding, creating the High Hill Farmers’ Hub, a private agricultural estate located at Ahaba village in Wasimi, Ewekoro Local Government, Ogun State.

Not without its challenges

In spite of his ruggedness and spirit of adventure, Bunmi had his peculiar challenges. His family didn’t approve of his choice of occupation. He recalled: “The people around me have always been civil servants. When I left school my mum said, ‘You need to get a job in the civil service.’  I replied, ‘I am not getting a job. I know what I want to do.’ Then I started getting calls from everywhere, relations and friends asking, ‘Is this how you’re going to live?’” The story changed when his businesses started looking up. Bunmi also said he had difficulties hiring the right staff, people who shared his vision, and regretted not having a mentor. In fact, the latter was the main reason he relocated to Lagos.

More empires to conquer?

Bunmi plans to go into agro-processing and farm mechanisation businesses. In addition, he wants to produce organic fertilizer, process fruits, import farm equipment and train the next generation of smart farmers.
6 17-Mar-2018 How To Start Small: Lessons from a Successful Beautician Five years after starting her business with only N30,000, Margaret's business moves to the next level
Margaret Kehinde Akande is the founder and chief executive officer of Awele Bath & Body Works, a beauty parlour that aims to meet its clients’ skincare and healthcare needs with its unique blend of nature-centered products.

After graduation from The Polytechnic Ibadan, it didn’t take long for the Ekiti State-born graduate of Secretariat Studies to realize that she wasn’t cut out for a regular paid job.

Margaret recalled how she quit her paid job: “After graduation, I got employed by the Methodist Church of Nigeria and I was there for a while. But I discovered that being an employee was not for me; it doesn’t work for me. So I resigned and went into the production of coconut oil for skincare and healthcare purposes.”

Believing that what is worth doing is what doing well, the mother-of-three enrolled in a business school to learn more about how to run a business. And in 2013, she registered Awele Bath & Body Works.
Business brief: Started 2013 Social media contact: fb/awelebodyworks

How the journey started

“I was working as a consultant for a cosmetics company then," she recalled. "In the process, I discovered that I had a passion for skincare. Anything that had to do with cosmetics came to me naturally.”

Her decision came at a time of growing public awareness of the benefits of natural skincare products. The awareness also increased competition among producers of natural skincare products. Margaret knew that for her business to survive, she had to do things differently.

She said, “I decided to carve a niche for myself first with my business name, Awele. I wanted to be indigenous and set myself apart from others.”
Although Margaret started by producing, packaging and marketing coconut oil, customers started demanding other related products. “People started asking me for other products apart from coconut oil for skincare or healthcare,” she explained, “They wanted cream, soap, etc. So I included the packaging of shea butter, and later added the production of black soup.”
"Consistency and remaining strong even in the face of discouragement are important"

Start-up capital

Margaret's effort to raise capital is a lesson in prudence and thrift. “I started with less than N30,000," she recalled. "I bought coconut oil for about N10,000 and spent about N3,000 for packaging. I registered the company with about N7,000 by going to the Corporate Affairs Commission office to register the business name myself and save cost.”

When Margaret realised that she needed training to understand skin types and care, she took a part-time course.

She gradually grew the business and eventually saved enough to rent a shop, and secure  a small loan from her cooperative society.

Challenges

Starting a business as a nursing mother was a big challenge for Margaret. “My second baby was just a few months old when I started. I had to juggle being a wife, a mother and a business owner at the same time,” she said.

She also couldn’t afford to hire any staff. She sourced, produced, packaged and sold her products all by herself - making herself a one-woman riot squad of sorts.

“Another challenge I faced," she recalled, "was when I wanted to start producing and packaging black soap. I wanted to pack it in a container but there was nobody to teach me how to do that. I had to start experimenting. It took close to six months before I was able to get the texture I wanted and to keep it at that texture.”

Breakthrough

Margaret initially depended heavily on referrals and word-of-mouth marketing. However, things took a positive turn for her sales when she attended the annual Lagos Trade Fair. The contacts she made at the Fair gave her business a boost.

She also attributed her success to consistency. “What has kept me so far in the industry are consistency and good quality.”

What the future holds

Margaret hopes to fully automate her operations beginning from this year (2018). “We want to open up distribution to more customers and expand the retail side so that we can make more impact,” she said.

Last word

“The first thing basically for any entrepreneur is passion. Whatever field you choose, you have to be sure that you have passion for what you are doing. It keeps you going. Consistency and remaining strong even in the face of discouragement are also important.”
7 10-Mar-2018 How Entrepreneur Grew From One Smartphone To Big New Media Player With just a phone and the sheer will to succeed, this entrepreneur started a blog, which has grown into a major media brand
The name, Tosin Ajibade, may not ring a bell, yet OloriSupergal is fast becoming a leading media brand. Tosin, a social media strategist, blogger, content creator and influencer, launched the platform without knowing that she was onto the next big thing. She is also the convener of the increasingly popular New Media conference.

OloriSupergal.com is a go-to source for celebrity scoops, beauty and lifestyle information and entertainment news.

Tosin recalled that when OloriSupergal started as a blog in February 2010, she could never have imagined that it would grow to become one of Nigeria’s most sought-after on-line media brands, especially among millennials.

How it started

She recalled, “What I call my business today started on my mobile phone. I wanted to be a model at a point in my life and I went for as many modeling auditions as I could. I once used my school fees to do a shoot; I wanted to be a model, but it didn’t work out. When I failed at modelling, I took an interest in TV.”

Tosin’s newfound obsession for entertainment soon met opportunity when she got her first job in 2008 as a front-desk officer at a soft-sell magazine. “I had the opportunity to meet with celebrities,” she said. “The job gave me the opportunity to see inflesh-and-blood, the people I could only see on TV, at no cost. I started posting my encounters with these celebrities on Facebook. That was where it all started.”
Business brief: Started 2010 Social media contact: Instagram: @olorisupergal
When the 31-year-old graduate of Accounting from the Lagos State University started blogging, it was customary for bloggers to use their names or generic aliases as the masthead. How did she buck the trend?

She said, “The name Olori means Queen in Yoruba and Supergirl came from the name Superman. I wanted something different. I didn’t want Miss Duchess or Miss Berry, so I gave myself Olori and super-girl from one of my favourite cartoons.”

Initial challenges

Although Tosin, who holds a Certificate in Media Enterprise from the School of Media and Communications, Pan-Atlantic University, Lagos, started with just her mobile phone, her costs started rising when she decided that she needed professional help to manage her blog. She recalled, “I was faced with some difficulties. I didn’t have a laptop so it was either I used my phone in the office or waited till after office hours to use the cybercafé. On weekends I was spending a lot of time at the cybercafé – 9am to 9pm or 9am to 10pm – each day. At a point, guys actually thought I was into  cybercrime. I had to switch from café to café.”At home, Tosin also had to convince her parents that what she was doing didn’t amount to a waste of time, energy and resources.

“When I got my first laptop and mobile Internet, I moved from the cybercafé to my house. I’ll run the generator for hours and my dad was always complaining, ‘What are you doing? What is it that you are doing? You sit at home all-day in front of the computer wasting your time...’ I didn’t even know what I was doing to be honest.”

There was also a time when getting invitations to events was daunting simply because she did not belong to the mainstream media.
"I once used my school fees to do a shoot; I tried to push myself as a model, but it didn’t work out. When I failed at modelling, I took an interest in TV"

Defining moment

Even though it seemed things were not working out initially, Tosin kept pushing herself. She sought for advice from other bloggers and Internet users.

Looking back, she said, “My first job was five thousand naira on Facebook. Then it was weird for me to charge people to promote their brands on my page. When I switched to Twitter, one of the first brands I promoted was the discounting site, DealDay.” Other doors opened. She went on to work with several media and entertainment organisations, including NET.ng, Acada Magazine and LaffMattaz Incorporated.

What next?

Tosin has added Travel Africa Story, an African tourism content platform to her media menu. She also wants to train the next generation of digital entrepreneurs. She started her mentorship programme in 2015, which she hopes would help younger digital entrepreneurs.

Her advice: “It’s either you make a good decision or a right decision. If you make a good decision, move ahead. If you make a right decision but fail, be determined to start all over again.”

Tosin, named in the 2015 Nigeria’s 100 Most Influential Women List, is also writing a book that she hopes to publish later this year.
8 04-Mar-2018 Medical Doctor Changing The Face Of Giftware Industry A medical doctor who shares the same profession as her parents, has branched off into merchandising, setting the giftware industry on fire
Samiah Oyekan-Ahmed’s parents are medical doctors. Therefore when she was admitted to the College of Medicine, Lagos State University, to study Medicine and Surgery at the age of 17, it seemed like a natural extension of the family tradition.Or so friends and family thought. They were in for a surprise.

“My journey to entrepreneurship started with me running a gift store from my cupboard in medical school at 19,” Samiah recalled. She kept at it, without sacrificing her studies. She tried to find out what personal items friends and classmates needed and supplied them from her closet for a small profit.

By the time she graduated, the young medical doctor and part-time entrepreneur had decided that the stethoscope was not for her. She immediately started her first company, Fusion Lifestyle Limited in 2009, and four years later, noticed a gap in the Abuja giftware market, which led her to set up another company, The Gift Source.
Business brief: Started 2013 Social media contact: Facebook/Instagram: Thegiftsource

How it started

Looking back, Samiah said: “I was looking for somewhere to do my residency training after my National Youth Service Corps (NYSC). A lot of factors got in the way of that and I wasn’t about to sit at home twiddling my thumbs; I decided to set up my own company. A few years later, I recognised the need for qualitative event favours and kids’ party packs in Abuja and The Gift Source was born!

The Gift Source has grown side by side with Fusion Lifestyle Ltd, the lifestyle and events company, which launched her into business. Samiah said, “Being a medical doctor and the daughter of two medical doctors, my dad resisted the idea (of going into business) at the beginning. This made me realise that sometimes you have to work a bit harder to prove yourself. Now both my parents are such huge cheerleaders of all I do. My husband has always been extremely supportive and my friends are used to my choice now.”

Finding capital

Samiah’s first post-graduation business was funded with the N750,000 that she saved from planning her wedding. It was a different affair when she started The Gift Source later. Samiah said she raised capital by ploughing back the deposit of her first order: “Based on the good name I had established for myself from my Fusion Lifestyle, it was easy for me to get my first order from a friend who needed wedding favours. She paid a deposit of N100,000 and I delivered her order and saved the remaining money.”

She continued that model until she saved enough money to buy her first batch of stock from the US.

Early lessons

Asked if selling high-end gifts is a sustainable business especially in a growing economy, she said: “You can only be in business for as long as you’re meeting a need. Once you can do this, and you are willing to put in the work, it is definitely worthwhile.”
"You can only be in business for as long as you’re meeting a need. Once you can do this, and you are willing to put in the work, it is definitely worthwhile"
To continue to meet the needs of her clients and remain in business, Samiah realised she had to structure her operations. She said, “A few things completely changed my mind set. First was attending a class with Tara Fela-Durotoye and Mrs. Ibukun Awosika. That was where the seed of growing a generational business was born in me. Then I read the Smart Money Woman by Arese Ugwu and attended another class by Tara on business structure, and that changed everything.”

Although she has always run the business full-time, those tools helped the mother-of-two to completely restructure for better efficiency.
Samiah summed up her early lessons: “Work can take over your entire existence if you let it; the amount of work your business requires to keep going is huge; and I also realised that I still have to learn and will never stop learning.”

Defining moment

Like many other import-reliant businesses, there was a setback The Gift Source suffered during the recent economic recession. The exchange rate affected the company, as it sourced its gifts from mainly the UK and the US, where Samiah has established partnerships with major gift companies.
However, it was a blessing in disguise, as she explained: “We overcame this by looking inwards and started producing gifts locally. We engaged local artisans and trained them to be able to churn out locally made gifts to international standards. Right now, one of our unique selling points is the interesting fusion of imported and locally made gifts which we carry.”


Future

Registered in October 2013, The Gift Source now has eight staff mentored by the medical doctor leader. Samiah plans to expand and diversify her business and in the process, help aspiring entrepreneurs in the gift business. “Our next plan is to move into wholesale. A lot of start-ups in the giftware industry struggle with getting access to quality gifts and even when they know where to get them may not be able to meet the minimum order requirements of international brands. We would like to take that stress off them.”

Does she miss practicing as a medical doctor?
“To be honest, no I don’t. Even though my exit from the profession wasn’t planned, I definitely do not miss it. I’m not sure I was suited to the profession to begin with.”
9 24-Feb-2018 Complementary partners redefine Digital Branding The chemistry between two friends who met accidentally has produced one of Nigeria's fastest growing brands
Chinonso Anyaehie and Mofolusade Shonaike are co-founders of Branded.ng who possess complementarily distributed talents.

Chinonso has a background in Computer Engineering with hands-on experience in information and communications technology.

Mofolusade, on the other hand, holds a degree in Chemical Engineering, with an MBA from the Lagos Business School. She is a natural at networking.

Business brief: Started 2016 Social media contact: Facebook: fb/branded.ng Instagram: @branded.ng Twitter: @brandedng
Chinonso recalled how the duo connected at first sight, “I met her (Mofolusade) through a friend. We met at a fast-food restaurant and she told me about her project. Along the line, we felt we could work together as partners because she had a huge network and she had that emotional stability. She can relate with people more. I was just a graphics designer; she’s is a people-person.”

Before then, Mofolusade had worked in banking and manufacturing,and had just quit her job to take care of her first child. To stay engaged, she started a gift consulting business and after running it for a year she realized that switching from a full-time paid job to private business was no joke.

Chinonso too had his challenges. He worked as art director, graphic designer, web designer, programmer and digital marketer for various companies, including SPAR Nigeria and Yudala. He started Running.ng but his high occupational mobility rate deprived him stable network of clients, hence the importance of collaborating with Mofolusade.

“When I met Chinonso, I asked him to look at my website. He simply understood everything involved,” Mofolusade explained, “He told me the issues he had with all the businesses he was doing and his struggles. Then I told him we could do this together.”

Branded.ng is a digital content development concern and has thrived on the synergy and understanding of its founders.

It has created content and branding for businesses such as Maikafalox, Recycle Point, Wellness Spectrum, Go Healthy Africa, Easy Shop, Easy Cook, Wall Expression and August Secrets.
"I always tell people that you cannot ignore the role of a lawyer and an accountant in your business no matter how small your business is."

But it didn’t just happen that they worked well together, as Mofolusade narrated: “We initiated a trial period before we decided to incorporate the company. We had a lot of nasty fights in the beginning but what has helped us is communication and then we had to get a lawyer that was trained for suchsituations. I always tell people that you cannot ignore the role of a lawyer and an accountant in your business no matter how small your business is.”

Like many start-ups, there have been challenges. Getting the right hands, sourcing capital and securing an office space were some of the hurdles Branded.ng had to scale.

According to Chinonso, they had to be creative and shrewd in addressing these challenges.

“Our kind of business is more of service, so we don’t need so many overheads or raw materials,” he pointed out, “We just have to put ourselves out there, market ourselves ,get clients and render services. All we needed was internet access and somewhere to execute the project.”

As part of cost-cutting efforts, they sourced virtual staff on freelance services website, Fiverr, and used an office space in a hub.

There is also an important business lesson Chinonso learnt the hard way: “When we started, I  did not want to render services to small businesses. I want the big businesses. There was this client I lost who went on our website and saw that Branded.ng did not do low budget jobs. I was trying to convince him when he called me that it was a mistake. He was disgusted and left.”

Since then Branded.ng has focused more on small businesses and start-ups. The two founders have even put their experience to writing in a book titled The Game Plan, which is a summary of what has worked for them.

“Don’t try to do everything on your own; build a team,” Mofolusade advised aspiring entrepreneurs, “Try to keep your overhead low. You know when a lot of people want to start, they think they need a big office, ‘we need branded cars, we need this, we need that’ and they are distracted from the actual work.”

Chinonso added that, “If you want to start, try and partner with someone with technical skills. If you don’t have a technical person you will find yourself spending much on technical things like building a website and building an app and all that.”
10 18-Feb-2018 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.”

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