Lending my Voice
The debate between being an entrepreneur vs being an employee is a constant theme. The emergence of e-entrepreneurs and their considerable success has continued to re-echo this discourse. Our aim here is not to idolize being your own boss nor to overemphasize the importance of that monthly salary alerts. I just want to lend a voice to the topic, my own voice.
We all should aspire to be in charge of our destiny or to be our own boss. Majority of contemporary business owners in Nigeria and Africa at large were born out of necessity. Africans are so gifted, resourceful and creative that we allow our living conditions to spur us onto opportunities and a lot of Afro-business owners have succeeded immensely. This is joyful to watch and witness. Apart from being an entrepreneur by necessity, there are also entrepreneurs by birth or family tradition. My mum for instance grew up being her own boss, she learnt from her Dad and her role decades ago was to hawk polythene products. Ignore the previous product name please, she was selling nylon-bread. Picture your Agege bread, the plain soft nylon which envelopes it was what she sold and how they made a living. I dabbled my hands on that business for a while but I did not have the patience to stay put plus my hands kept on getting burnt from the hot element used in making the nylon back then. She would hawk these products from Opo-Malu to Baboko cutting through Maraba and linking up Sabo Oke and Challenge.
I don’t even doubt how stressful this trek was because I’ve taken that route before. No I wasn’t hawking nylon, I was trekking back home from school strolling from GSS Ilorin to Stadium road via post office and walking the train tracks while sweating profusely like a rabbit . I always ended up with a headache the next day. Don’t feel sorry for me please, I was always too happy to drop my transport fare for extra fried yam from the old woman at the food court. Back to my mum, well she later exploded in her own way and now owns a polythene manufacturing plant with contemporary machineries to support her operations and to fulfil clients demand. Interestingly, she goes out “hawking” her products till today, now she does it in a nice looking truck while she sits next to the driver and always leaning forward. The fact that she still heads out with the truck speaks volume, she has her own “drive” and she has never really earned a monthly salary, apart from the fact the irregular monthly stipend from her husband.
I would have followed that path as well, I actually followed for a while to be honest, learnt the trade, understood the process and figured out who my clients were and the other key aspects of the business. In fact, I wanted to branch out to some sort of vertical integration idea, basically own my own bakery. But instead of these ideas, I’m miles away from home typing yes sir every day, logging time and working hard to make more money for a company that is not owned by anyone related to my lineage. But I must be honest, the month end alert is worth it. The experience is also a great add on because it has overtime exposed me to best global business practices.
Gaining these experiences have taken me from being an intern for a project supply chain company to becoming a regional aftermarket manager for a drilling technology company. Before I go further, I think it is great that I share an experience here that I believe will help in our discourse. I started my internship in 2013 and my first line manager (an Oversabi) was quite a character. I have my opinion about him and I have tried to point it to him, but his character always bear fruit. Moving on, in 2013 immediately after I joined, he requested for a raise and a new position, which I felt he deserved and he got it. But after a couple of months he resigned and started his own company. He did really well for 2 years but situations beyond his control made the 3rd year the beginning of revenue shortage. With declining revenue and rising cost of operations, his business failed and he closed shop. I was devastated for him to be honest. With 3 kids and a home to take care of, he needed another job to support himself. We searched and searched and luckily he got one, less pay and less grade than his last, but he took it anyway. I did not bring up this story to malign him, I just felt we could learn from this. Entrepreneurship is not for everybody folks and timing is everything. It is important that you discover yourself and find that thing you are passionate about and you can be the best at. This does not necessarily mean you have to work for yourself, you can be great while working for others too.
Please do not get me wrong, Im not saying being your own boss is bad or working for someone is terrible, but while you are searching for your dream job, you can also try your hands on your own business no matter how small scale. If that business blows up and you are in the lookout for an aftermarket specialist, please take this as my resume. I can send you a soft copy or hand deliver a hard copy.
I once had a business too, apart from my foray into nylon and bakery idea, fashion accessories was another area I dabbled on and I actually made some profit. Which we used in setting up a barber shop and a game center. Don’t ask me what happened to all that right now because I probably can’t explain. Maybe because the shop’s name was Kute Kutz.. Good Lord, what was I thinking? Kute Kutz (shrugs).
Be it 9-5 or being your own boss we can all thrive and support each other. If your friend sells palazzo or runs a fashion designing shop, please patronize them ( I hope the tailors are not like my tailor though, dude is still working on my outfit since 2011 ). We can all thrive without being condescending to one another. Don’t make me feel bad because I can’t hang with you on Monday, I have to be up the next day for work. There is enough space for all of us to fly.