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Wisdom Tales From Made Entrepreneurs, Mrs. Ibukun Awosika (CEO) Sokoa Nigeria Ltd



I am here this morning primarily because I believe in what this Centre represents. As a Nigerian who is passionate about my country, I believe that it is greatness to unveil the truth about Nigeria and facilitate other people around us. One of the most painful things is to see a lot of family train children through the universities or the polytechnics. It is more painful when for two, four, five, six, seven or so years after graduating from these institutions; most of them can still not work, not because they are unwilling but because there is no work. There are about a hundred and fifty million of us. Whether we get the figure right or wrong, the bottom-line is there are a lot of us we need to carry along. And the only way we can facilitate them is to arise and deal with it positively, creating true value.

My assignment this morning, which is to look at entrepreneurship as a viable option to white collar jobs, is a duty I must carry. I would start by telling a little of my own story often mistold in many places. I understand that it has been read on the internet. One of the areas we have to work on is the area of our journalism, so that they can accurately report news and give information correctly.

I went to Ife (University of Ife, now Obafemi Awolowo University) and studied Chemistry. Was it because I loved Chemistry? No. I could pass very well in school, and I passed the sciences. I also loved Arts and I could draw. Initially, I wanted be go into Architecture. Anyway, I got into the university to study chemistry. Did I enjoy my university days? No, because I didn’t even like Chemistry. In-between that, I wanted to be a lawyer. I put in a lot of effort to see the Dean of Law to accept me into Faculty of Law. But I have to fail the chemistry for chemistry to release me to Law and Law wanted me to pass with the best result in order to accept me into Law. It was all confusing. By the end of that year, I changed my mind about wanting to become a lawyer. I decided I wanted to be an Accountant. So, I started taking a lot of electives in the Department of Accounting.

I took elective courses in Accounting from Part Two to Part Four. I made sure I went to serve (National Youth Service Scheme) in Akintola Williams & Co (now Delloitte). I also did that so I could take my accounting exams with the hope of just going to work in a bank later. Like many young people, I thought it was a good idea. When I got into Akintola Williams, within the one year of my service, I discovered that I hated Accounting. I was good at the figures but I hated the idea of moving from one company to the other going through old dusty files. I didn’t need anybody to tell me this. I was too restless to just keep following some certain procedures that are laid down. I was so restless and I needed to be able to express myself as there was no room within auditing to do that. At the end of my service year, even though they offered me permanent employment, I turned it down, I served in Kano and I came back home. My parents were wondering what to do with me. I wanted any job, anything I could do. But the first job I found was with a furniture company and I didn’t care. I took the job because I just wanted to be busy and I only lasted three and a half months with that company. But it was three and a half life defining months for me. Within those months, I discovered why I wanted to study Architecture in the first place. Within the context of furniture, I discovered I could play around with space. I loved the process of creating and designing furniture. I could turn this place around but, I hated that because they were Lebanese and their values were quite warped. And without thinking much, I said to myself I could do this, and I could do it right, and I left that company to start a manufacturing company.

Do I have capital? No. The three and a half months were critical to my life story. Within those months, I saw the inside out of furniture making. I understood what is involved. Did I ever think I could go into furniture making before then? No. I never did. Not for a second did I think of doing that. But from the onset, I made up my mind that any customer who is interested in my product should pay 70 per cent upfront. So what do I need a start-up capital for? The customers provided the capital.

Did I have a factory? No. Did I have workers? I could only afford to hire carpenters, but I didn’t have to pay them for one month. They operated from their workshop. Their service was in advance but their payment was in arrears. I also had labour in advance. Did I have the machines? No. But all the machines and machinists were available. I paid per unit of what they produced for me. I didn’t need a generator because they would provide their own generator. I was paying them for what they did. For spraying, I discovered that I could rent a spray gum on a day-to-day basis.


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