Living in Lagos, especially during the raining season is perhaps one of the most unpleasant experiences you can have in a cosmopolitan city. It was nine in the morning, the downpour refused to abate. I had no option but to leave the house for the interview Favour and I had scheduled for 10.30am. We were going to meet at a photo studio in Surulere. This arrangement is quite unusual as SME360 Magazine usually visits entrepreneurs in their offices. This is different. Favour’s office is virtual. After about an hour of navigating through Lagos traffic, I got to the studio 15 minute before the agreed time. A few minutes later, Favour emerged on one of those ride-hailing service bikes. For him, this is normal. It is easier getting through a day lined up with meetings in different parts of Lagos using bikes. Dressed in a green suit and a pair of brown leather shoes, Favour entered the photo studio. We exchanged a few pleasantries, and we got down to business.
Just like a number of young Nigerians, the dream has always been to study hard, get good grades, finish school and get a good job. Favour Onyeoziri, a graduate of History and Education and a master’s degree in History and International Relations, both from the University of Lagos, had similar plans. His plan was to start teaching after obtaining a master’s degree. Shortly after school, his cousin advised him to go to an advertising school. After the training, his career direction changed. He moved from someone who wanted to teach to a person who wanted to build a career in advertising. He got a job in an Ad-agency two weeks after finishing the training. His dream had come true. He was going to work hard; build a career in advertising and possibly rise to the highest echelon in the business.
Life for Favour was good. He was doing great, learning and growing in the business of advertising. A year after his foray into the advertising world, an event happened that would change his life yet again. The advertising company he was working with, had a client who was looking to hire social media influencers. Favour at that time had 9000 followers on twitter. Prior to this event, he never knew what social media influencing was. Social media was just a place to express himself, connect with people and sometimes get entertained. Favour was added to the list. And after that job, he became more intentional about growing his followers and more purposeful about social media influencing. Other companies started approaching him for jobs. He later quit working when what he was making was three times more than his salary.
Today, Favour runs two companies: Rouvafe Digital; a digital marketing, social media marketing and advertising company and Wakawaka.ng; a travel and tours company. Commenting on his divergence into social media influencing and digital marketing, he mentioned that it was more of an accidental choice rather than what he really wanted to do. Prior to the first social media influencing work, he didn’t even know that professions like social media influencing, digital marketing existed.
Just like his foray into digital marketing and social media influencing, Favour never knew he loved travelling until he could afford it. Going for corporate events across the country made him realise how pleasurable travelling was. He thought sharing his experience while travelling was a great idea, so he started Wakawaka.ng, a content-driven travel brand- blog, social media and youtube page. The company has since organised a trip to Benin Republic and done some local tours.
At the inception, Wakawaka.ng was not meant to do tours. An unpleasant experience with a tour company made him rethink Wakawaka.ng’s product offerings. He saw lapses he thought were easy to fix by paying attention to “details and having a mind of excellence.” He observed that a lot of Nigerian businesses remained stagnant because of this. There is “a rife mindset of many Nigerian businesses,” he explained. Most small businesses use emotional blackmail to cover up their shortcomings. “Please manage it” is a common phrase used by entrepreneurs when they fail to deliver as promised. It is a pervading culture in the Nigeria SME space where a shoddy job has been done, then resolve to begging the client to accept the deficient product instead of doing an excellent job. We have, many times, seen posts of ‘what I ordered vs what I got’ on social media. When you do an excellent job, your client base will skyrocket; you will get more referrals as every other person will ask their customers to “please manage it.”
His two companies do not have a physical location. We asked how he conducts his operations without a physical structure. Favour answered that he does have an office and he showed us his phone. He considers having a good phone an investment as he practically does all his business activities on the phone. The phone is a tool for creating contents, learning, executing client orders as well as respond to enquiries from customers. He mentioned the importance of having a fast internet connection, as this will either make or mar his performance and delivery rate. He also debunked the idea that working from home is impossible as there will be more distractions. “If you are purpose-driven and create a to-do list, you can wade off distractions.” A to-do list helps him to stay focused and productive.
Advising young and fresh graduates who feel entrepreneurship is their calling, Favour says it is important to first have a budget and identify items that are germane to launching the business. “Cut out things that may not be necessary like having an office and other items that will tie down your capital. You need to find out the sacrifices you can make to replace cost.” He further says “you need to start, never wait for the perfect time,” as there is none. “It is only when you start that you would realise there are many obstacles you never knew existed. You need to garner a lot of skills and if you don’t have them, you need to learn them. If you don’t learn them, you will have to pay people for them, thereby increasing your cost.” He says, “an entrepreneur in this age must be a knowledge bank; someone who constantly seek new ways to do things.” He buttressed that some of these skills will not cost much as there are many materials online to learn from. He also mentioned that you need to collaborate a lot; an exchange of value, where you do not have cash, but partner with other businesses to get the work done.
Lastly, speaking on what drives him, he says value; the impact his work is having on the customers, brands and corporate institutions he works with. Commenting on his long term vision, he wants to retire from active work by the time he is 30 years old. He wants to have fun, create value, and make money doing it.
Favour’s life and work define a modern-day entrepreneur who creates a business with little or nothing to start with. Since the creation of the internet, the way we work has changed drastically. Twenty years ago, if you want to start a business, you probably need to think of capital to start, location, staffing, inventory and many other things. As we speak now, a lot of businesses exist today on phones. The ‘no capital to start’ excuse is disappearing. What it takes now are basically an internet-enabled phone, the willingness to start no matter how little and the courage to continue building in spite of challenges.
Temitope Adeyemo is the author of Young, Black and Successful and a banker. Follow him on Twitter @topeadeyemo