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think

March 28, 2020 Leave a comment

Pensive

Why are you in Nigeria?

I’ve been asked that question more times than I can count. My answer is usually the same – I have some ventures I’m looking to explore. Sometimes, there are looks of confusion, heavy sighs, or just good old-fashioned disbelief and head-shaking. But, I understand. Someone moving to Nigeria from Canada, at time when people are leaving Nigeria for Canada in droves, is puzzling. I guess my “interviewers” are wondering whether I know something they do not. Maybe I do.

I lived in Canada for eight years, and within that period, started three different businesses there that did fairly well (most popularly, Pearl Kreations) before I moved back. I came here to set Nigerian subsidiaries and explore other possibilities. I did I come with a mindset to introduce new concepts, disrupt/turn things around and rake in millions? Absolutely. Have I been humbled? Most definitely. Have I done well? Yet to be determined. I’m joking; by God’s grace, I’m doing well. However, here’s what I’ve realized about entrepreneurship in the Nigerian economy – there readily is no reward or support for competence, effort and ingenuity. The system largely favors those with access to power/political connections and rewards them with highly lucrative government contracts and ridiculous grants. Vusi Thembekwayo put it this way – if you look at how the top 25 wealthiest and most celebrated people in your country made their wealth, you can easily determine the type of economy you live in. Did the top 25 wealthiest Nigerians all build their businesses from the ground up (without backdoor deals and government favors)? You decide.

Of course, there are/will be exceptions to the rule, and certainly, you can live comfortably as an entrepreneur, especially if you’re a professional, like an accountant or architect. Anything other than those, would be tough, but not impossible. However, real wealth may elude you. As you may have concluded, there are very few entrepreneurs in this country who have built substantial wealth without connections or government contracts/favors. That says a lot about our business environment. This is particularly disappointing for me because a little over ten years ago, I had a totally different experience.

After running my first business for about a year, I applied to be a vendor for the Vancouver 2010 Winter Olympics. I noticed there were vendors for all manners of merchandises, but no one selling button-badges (which was my product). I saw that opportunity and applied. I got a response requesting for, what then seemed like, all sorts of random documents. I can assume now, in actuality, they were probably things like business registration documents, bank statements and so on. I replied the email stating that I was a freshman at McMaster University, had started a small business, saw an opportunity and decided to take it; I had none of the documents requested of me. A few days later, I was approved! I got sent all the documents verifying my business community membership by mail, and a congratulatory email as well. Just like that, I got in. No connections; except God, of course.

Small businesses are the backbone of any economy, and in recent years, it seems Nigeria has caught on. Things are still a little dodgy, with hints of favoritism here and there, but improving. I’m thrilled that with the impending COVID19 lockdown, so many people have gotten fired up to start a venture of their own, either to complement their income, or in transition from former employment. Whatever the reason, the best time to start is now.

However, in my experience, a lot of Nigerian SMEs aren’t equipped to take advantage of the new business environment and emerging opportunities. They are simply not very creative in their quests for business opportunities. They’re not entrepreneurial. I’ve discovered that what most people get into, and aspire to go into, once they have some capital is trading – purchase and resale of goods – and this makes them traders, not entrepreneurs.

Entrepreneur is a word that has become so loosely used, people think it’s a synonym for business owner. The fact is, not every business person is an entrepreneur. By the way, with the way things are going, except you’re selling foodstuff or hygiene essentials, you’re in the wrong business (as a trader).

The truth is, people pay for solutions, and entrepreneurs are solution providers.

Entrepreneurs create products and/or services that meet the needs of people for a profit. Entrepreneurs meet needs and get paid for it.

If you really want to be successful and wealthy, as an entrepreneur, you need to solve problems.

We tend to think too small here in Africa. The average entrepreneur is scared to be ambitious. Rather than thrive, they’re content with surviving. Well, I won’t stand for it. I’m incredibly passionate about small business, and for the past three years, have devoted most of my time into Herança Financial, the venture through which I work with/help budding entrepreneurs start, grow and manage their businesses. Coupled with my personal experiences, I’m somewhat of an expert in business (humble brag). So, with current state of the nation and the shape of the economy, I think now is as good a time as any, to share my knowledge and expertise with a greater number of people, and help them start the right way and avoid the unnecessary hardships that ignorance tends to lead.

First of all, I’ll reiterate. An entrepreneur identifies a need and works towards satisfying it, or works towards improving upon an already existing product/service, or creates demand for a product/service of value i.e. creates a need and provides the solution. The provision of the solution brings the reward – money. The bigger the problem, the bigger the reward for its solution.

Once you have a solution, please ensure the product or service has a Unique Selling Point (USP). A USP is the mark of distinction of any business. It can also be referred to as your value proposition. In all likelihood, your company won’t be the only one offering that product/service (at least, not for long), so it’s important to have either a feature, advantage or benefit that’ll separate your business from current and prospective competition. Without a USP, you won’t stand out. Please note, lower price is not a good strategy for a small business; it’s just not sustainable.

Next, identify your target market. Never make the mistake of assuming your product or services will appeal to everyone. You’re dreaming. However, your target customers will want and appreciate your products or services. They can be grouped into primary, secondary and invisible; I’ll explain later. Just know that they are the persons or businesses with the highest probability of buying your products or services. Once, you’ve identified them, profile them. Your profile should include their locations, spending habits, hobbies, and age group. These will help you know how much they would be willing to spend on your product/service and the best way to reach them. I like using Indomie Noodles as an example. Their target market isn’t everyone, it’s children. Children are their primary target market. That’s why their ads are so playful and colorful; why they invented “The Indomitables” (Superheroes) figurines and stickers; why their ads are on television and radio, not Facebook, Instagram or Twitter (most children are not on social media). They have bigger sizes (like Hungry Man and Belleful) for adults, their secondary target market.

With the proper identification of your target customers, you need know your competition. Your competition is the person or business who offers the same products/services or benefits (as perceived by your target customers). They can be grouped into direct, indirect and invisible. Direct competition are those that offer the same products/services you do; for example, Coke and Pepsi. Indirect competition are those that offer the same benefits; for example, Domino’s Pizza and KFC – different products but same benefit (fast food). Invisible competition are those you didn’t consider. They usually the bigger players that have the capacity [and potential desire (especially if you’re successful)] to offer the same product/services or benefits as you. By understanding your competition, you gain competitive intelligence. Competitive Intelligence is the process of learning, collecting/gathering and using information about your competition for the purpose of growing your own business. It helps you to keep improving upon or redefining your business model, so you’re not easily surpassed.

I’m sure I’ve given you more than enough to think about, so I’ll stop here.

The first step is to sit down and think! Find a need, preferably in an area you’re passionate about. Ask God to reveal the solution to you, and provide you with the means to execute it. Entrepreneurship isn’t just about the idea, but the execution of the plan. And as you execute, remember, please think globally. Find the application of the solution not just within your locale, but regionally and worldwide. The world is bigger than Nigeria.

All the best!

flame on

February 7, 2020 Leave a comment

“Why are you in Nigeria?”

I’ve been asked that question more times than I can count. My answer is usually the same: I have some ventures I’m looking to explore. Sometimes, I get looks of confusion, heavy sighs, or just good old-fashioned disbelief and head-shaking. But I understand. Someone moving to Nigeria from Canada, at a time when people are leaving Nigeria for Canada in droves, is puzzling. I guess my ‘interviewers’ are wondering whether I know something they do not. Maybe I do.

I lived in Canada for eight years and within that period, I started three different businesses there that did fairly well (most popularly, Pearl Kreations) before I moved back. I came here to set Nigerian subsidiaries and explore other possibilities. Did I come with a mindset to introduce new concepts, disrupt/turn things around and rake in millions? Absolutely. Have I been humbled? Most definitely. Have I done well? I believe I’m doing well. However, here’s what I’ve realized about entrepreneurship in the Nigerian economy: there readily is no reward or support for competence, effort, and ingenuity. The system largely favours those with access to power/political connections and rewards them with highly lucrative government contracts and ridiculous grants. Vusi Thembekwayo put it this way: “if you look at how the top 25 wealthiest and most celebrated people in your country made their wealth, you can easily determine the type of economy you live in”. Did the top 25 wealthiest Nigerians all build their businesses from the ground up without backdoor deals and government favours? You decide.

Of course, there are/will be exceptions to the rule and certainly, you can live comfortably as an entrepreneur, especially if you’re a professional – like an accountant or architect. Anything other than those would be tough, but not impossible. However, real wealth may elude you. There are very few entrepreneurs in this country who have built substantial wealth without connections or government contracts/favors. That says a lot about our business environment. This is particularly disappointing for me because a little over ten years ago, I had a totally different experience.

After running my first business for about a year, I had applied to be a vendor for the Vancouver 2010 Winter Olympics. I noticed there were vendors for all manners of merchandizes, but no one selling button-badges (which was my product). I saw that opportunity and applied. I got a response requesting for, what then seemed like, all sorts of random documents. I can assume now, in actuality, they were probably things like business registration documents, bank statements, and so on. I replied the email stating that I was a freshman at McMaster University, had started a small business, saw an opportunity, and decided to take it; I had none of the documents requested of me. A few days later, I was approved! I got sent all the documents verifying my business community membership by mail and a congratulatory email as well. Just like that, I got in. No connections, except God, of course.

Small businesses are the backbone of any economy and in recent years, it seems Nigeria has caught on. Things are still a little dodgy – with favoritism here and there, but it’s improving. I’m thrilled that so many people, in recent times, have gotten fired up to start a venture of their own, either to complement their income, or in transition from former employment. Whatever the reason, the best time to start is now. Flame on!However, in my experience, a lot of Nigerian SMEs aren’t equipped to take advantage of the new business environment and emerging opportunities. They are simply not very creative in their quest for business opportunities. They’re not entrepreneurial. I’ve discovered that what most people get into, and aspire to go into, once they have some capital is trading – purchase, and resale of goods. This makes them traders, not entrepreneurs.

‘Entrepreneur’ is a word that has become so loosely used, people think it’s a synonym for business-owner. The fact is, not every business person is an entrepreneur. By the way, with the current state of the nation and economy, except you’re selling foodstuff or hygiene essentials, you’re in the wrong business as a trader.

The truth is that people pay for solutions, and entrepreneurs are solution providers.

Entrepreneurs create products and/or services that meet the needs of people for a profit. Entrepreneurs meet needs and get paid for it. If you really want to be successful and wealthy as an entrepreneur, you need to solve problems.

We tend to think too small here in Africa. The average entrepreneur is scared to be ambitious. Rather than thrive, they’re content with surviving. Well, I won’t stand for it. I’m incredibly passionate about small business and for the past three years, I have devoted most of my time into Herança Financial, the venture through which I work with/help budding entrepreneurs start, grow and manage their businesses. Coupled with my personal experiences, I’m an expert in business. *Humble Bag*. So, with the current state of the nation and the shape of the economy, I think now is as good a time as any to share my knowledge and expertise with a greater number of people, help them start the right way and avoid the unnecessary hardships that ignorance brings.

An entrepreneur identifies a need and works towards satisfying it, or works towards improving an already existing product/service, or creates demand for a product/service of value, i.e. creates a need and provides the solution. The provision of the solution brings the reward – money. The bigger the problem, the bigger the reward for its solution.

Once you have a solution, please ensure the product or service has a Unique Selling Point (USP). A USP is the mark of distinction of any business. It can also be referred to as your value proposition. In all likelihood, your company won’t be the only one offering that product/service (at least, not for long), so it’s important to have either a feature, advantage, or benefit that’ll separate your business from current and prospective competition. Without a USP, you won’t stand out. Please note, having a lower price is not a good strategy for a small business; it’s just not sustainable.

Next, identify your target market. Never make the mistake of assuming your product or services will appeal to everyone. Your target customers are those who will want and appreciate your products or services. They are the persons or businesses with the highest probability of buying your products or services. Once you’ve identified them, profile them. Your profile should include their locations, spending habits, hobbies, and age group. These will help you know how much they would be willing to spend on your product/service and the best way to reach them. Your target customers can be grouped into primary, secondary, and invisible. I like using Indomie noodles as an example. Their target market isn’t everyone, it’s children. Children are their primary target market. That’s why their ads are so playful and colorful, why they invented “The Indomitables” (Superheroes) figurines and stickers, and why their ads are on television and radio – not Facebook, Instagram or Twitter (most children are not on social media). They now have bigger sizes (like Hungry Man and Belleful) for adults – their secondary target market.

With the proper identification of your target customers, you need to know your competition. Your competition is the person or business who offers the same products/services or benefits (as perceived by your target customers). They can be grouped into direct, indirect and invisible.

Direct competition are those that offer the same products/services you do – for example, Coke and Pepsi. Indirect competition are those that offer the same benefits – for example, Domino’s Pizza and KFC – different products but same benefit (fast food). Invisible competition are those you didn’t consider. They are usually the bigger players that have the capacity and potential desire (especially if you’re successful) to offer the same product/services or benefits as you. By understanding your competition, you gain Competitive Intelligence. Competitive Intelligence is the process of learning, collecting/gathering and using information about your competition for the purpose of growing your own business. It helps you to keep improving upon or redefining your business model, so you’re not easily surpassed.

The first step to becoming an entrepreneur is to sit down and think! Find a need, preferably in an area you’re passionate about. Ask God to reveal the solution to you, and provide you with the means to execute it. Entrepreneurship isn’t just about the idea, but the execution of the plan. And as you execute, remember to think globally. Find the application of the solution not just within your locale, but regionally and worldwide. The world is bigger than Nigeria.

All the best!

punch

February 17, 2019 Leave a comment

I was recently classified as one of the young Nigerians doing well [in his field] by Punch Newspapers and interviewed.

I was asked to share some of my experiences and offer advice that could inspire others.

I was both honored and humbled to be sought out; most of all, always grateful to God for every opportunity.

It was a long one, so the whole interview wasn’t published, but below is the unabridged version of the interview; after it, is a link to the actual publication.

Can we meet you?

Certainly, my name is Sylvester Kay-Adade.

I’m a business consultant, investment banker and serial entrepreneur.

 

What stirred your interest in what you do?

I can’t put my finger on exactly what stirred up the passion for business in me, but what’s got me going is the need for improvement in industries that I find interesting.

 

What is your educational background?

I’ve had quite a journey, educationally, so I’ll stick to the relevant bits.

For high school, I attended Federal Government College, Lagos, and Southern Ontario College, Hamilton. For college, I attended McMaster University and Mohawk College for Social Science/Psychology and Business Management respectively.

 

What is your current position?
I’m the Principal Consultant in Herança Financial.

 

How old are you?

I’m 31 years old.

 

What is your work history?

Most recently, Risk Management and Consulting at Kedari Capital from 2017 till 2019.

However, as a serial entrepreneur, it’s been quite a list, but the most popular are Brand Manager at Pearl Kreations since 2008, and Chief Operations Officer (COO) at Centerprise Global Resources (in partnership with a friend) since 2016.

 

What is your current position and what factors are responsible for your accomplishments?

I’ll focus on Herança Financial, where I’m the Principal Consultant.

I’d have to state passion, persistence, and networking as the top 3 factors, for me.

I’m incredibly passionate about small business – every aspect of it. It’s what I love to do.

I am persistent – I’ve drafted business plans and business proposals pro bono. I’ve taught classes, spoken at seminars, and written articles. I never give up.

I’m reserved, so networking didn’t, still doesn’t come easy, but it’s one of the best ways to meet people and talk to them about yourself, and what you do. And if there’s one thing I’ve noticed, people get excited about what you’re saying if you’re also absolutely psyched about what you’re telling them!

 

What is your job description?

Herança Financial is an SME advisory firm.

I spend my time offering advice/developing business ideas, drafting business plans/proposals, advising on expansion plans, and generally providing solutions to various business issues.

 

What motivates your work?

Passion and a drive for excellence. I love what I do; it gets me up in the morning. And whatever I’m involved in must be done right, mediocrity upsets me.

 

What are the challenges you face on the job and how do you surmount them?

The greatest was self-doubt. Every entrepreneur has those moments when they panic and question themselves. Sometimes, it was like “I hope I know what the heck I’m doing”. Those were times when my faith in God, His words concerning me, and His plans for my life were tested. It might sound corny, but I learnt to trust in Jesus and talk to Him more, confess God’s word over my life and make positive declarations daily. One of my favorites is: I am the most excellent of men and my lips have been anointed with grace since God has blessed me forever – Psalm 45:2.

Another challenge is getting people to pay for services rendered! It’s ridiculous. Nigerians have to be one of the toughest people to get your money from. I’ve worked with some micro enterprise owners and some politicians, the same thing! I’ll have to get back to you on that one when I figure it out.

 

What are some notable achievements you have recorded?

In 2010, through Pearl Kreations, I was nominated for Business Owner of the Year at The Future Nigeria Awards. Also through Pearl Kreations, in 2009, I was admitted into the Vancouver 2010 Winter Olympics Business Network. We also worked with the Jim Ovia Foundation for a Youth Empowerment and ICT Event in 2013.

 

In what ways do you think the government can encourage the youth?

I think the Youth Enterprise With Innovation in Nigeria (YouWiN) initiative that President Jonathan launched was a brilliant initiative. I learnt a lot of young people benefited greatly from it. Though, there could have been better checks, because I know of a few who squandered millions. I thought YouWiN! Connect by President Buhari would be better, and it started off that way, but I read it ended seemingly being some sort of scam.

I think the government can focus on educating youth on business and entrepreneurship, right from secondary school level, if possible. Let’s face it, not everyone is cut out for a 9-5 and there very few jobs out there. Even if you’re a salary earner, nothing wrong with multiple streams of income. Our youths can be inspired from a young age to be business owners and employers.

I also think programs like YouWIN should continue, and grants (not equity funding) should be offered, possibly in tranches, to those with good business plans.

 

What aspect of your career do you enjoy the most and how has it impacted your life?

Like I said, I’m passionate about small business. I love to sit with entrepreneurs, watch their eyes twinkle as they share their dreams (it’s like the beginning of a great story every time), help expand their minds/visions, develop a feasible plan with them, and help make those dreams a reality. The impact has just been the immense feeling of fulfillment.

 

Where do you see yourself in five years?

I’d have to keep to myself, but I’m sure it’s nothing compared to what God has in store for me.

 

What are some of the qualities you think a leader must possess in other to be successful?

I think a leader has to be a teacher and also teachable. A leader has to be kind and respectful. A leader has to be willing to serve and build others up. A leader has to inspire, not only through words, but through action.

 

Was there any incident that changed the course of your life?

By God’s grace, I have experienced great growth in such a short time, through dogged determination and the most random acts of kindness. One that changed the course of my life was my encounter with Suzanne Bourret. Suzanne is/was a journalist. We met at an event showcasing African cultures. I was there selling the most unassuming products, button-badges with flags on them. She was intrigued. She chatted with me for a bit and asked to interview me. My first interview. Before I knew it, I was answering questions, doing a photo shoot, and in a few days, I was on the pages of The Hamilton Spectator (one of the biggest and most widely read newspapers in Ontario). That article was the beginning of great things. I’ll always be thankful to God for that.

 

What are your other interests?

Board Games, Card Games, Charades, Movies, and Tennis.

 

Who are your role models?

I have a bunch of them because I admire different aspects of their lives, but I’ll name a few: My dad, Late Mr. Olukayode Adade, Mr. Elon Musk, Pastor Enoch Adeboye, Mr. Jeff Bezos, and Ms. Oprah Winfrey.

 

How would you advise people who aspire to follow in your footprints?

In 2008, a few months after I started Pearl Kreations, I applied to be a vendor for the Vancouver 2010 Winter Olympics. I was turned down because I didn’t have business registration and other requirements. I felt deflated, but I snapped out of it. I knew getting in could work wonders for my business. I wrote back stating I was a student entrepreneur and shared the link of the newspaper article I was featured in. By God’s grace, about a week later, I was admitted.

You can’t give up. Yes, it takes time, but if you’re passionate about it and it’s solving a problem/improving a solution, hang in there. Never worry, God’s got you.

 

This is the link to original publication.

 

patriot

August 15, 2018 1 comment

For the longest time, I considered myself unpatriotic. It stemmed from a complete disdain and disgust for how things always seemed to work in Nigeria. It wasn’t just the state of the country, it was unapologetic irresponsible behavior of most of those in power. I knew things could be better because from an early age, I was fortunate to spend my summer holidays in the western world and exposed to life in a developed environment. I wondered why Nigeria wasn’t the same. I mean, I learned in primary school that Nigeria has, apart from crude oil, arid land, bitumen, coal, gold and lots more. Nigeria has the makings of a super power, but remains an under-developed country. After the era of Nationalists like Nnamdi Azikwe, Tafawa Balewa, and Obafemi Awolowo, its leadership was consumed by insatiable greed – one after the other, looting millions of dollars from a non-dollar-spending economy, treating the national treasury as their personal piggy bank – to the detriment of their own people.

I noticed the imbalance in wealth distribution from a tender age. The very first time the reality dawned on me, I was on my way to school, in an air-conditioned car, with my dad. As usual, beggars would approach the car for alms. However, on this particular day, an elderly beggar walked up to the car, put his palm on window, and caused a smudge. I remembered thinking, Yuck, didn’t he have his bath? Then, I started thinking about all the things he wouldn’t get to do – he probably would live his  entire life without riding in a car, learning how to drive, being driven, or even enjoying a ride in an air-conditioned car, and none of it was his fault. It made me sick.

As I got older, I realized, or rather, it seemed obvious things would never change. Coming to that conclusion, I felt Nigeria was a disaster, and like so many young people, wondered why I had to be born Nigerian, instead of being from somewhere in the United Kingdom or United States. I became so disconnected and didn’t want to have a thing to do with Nigeria. I never saw myself as someone interested in fixing things, but I grew into someone not even remotely interested in making things better. As far as I was concerned, I was simply whiling away time in Nigeria until it was time to finally leave, either through my Master’s or some act of God. I wasn’t even interested in learning to speak or understand any Nigerian language; I made an active effort not to. In fact, Yoruba was the constant red in a sea of blue or the only F in the midst of As in my results all through high school, and I was never fazed. My WAEC result was no different.

At some point, I felt Nigeria was being ruled by people from impoverished backgrounds. That seemed to be the only logical reason why the moment these people got into positions of power, they would decide to alter/change the course of their future generations by shamelessly syphoning millions. I thought, if only Nigeria could have someone from a wealthy family, or at least, someone who could not be fazed by money, finally, things would work. I didn’t know how wrong I was.

I left Nigeria to redo Grade 12 at Southern Ontario College (SOC) to increase my chances of getting into an ivy-league Canadian University. While at SOC, most of my classmates included those who had finished from schools like Atlantic Hall, Grange, Greensprings, Lagoon, Olashore and co. In my mind, these were the cream of the crop. There were few very government-educated people, except for me from Federal Government College Lagos (Ijanikin) and some ladies who finished from Queen’s College. I was finally among people that think like me, or at the very least, those with similar backgrounds. To my astonishment, during a conversation about whether or not to move back to Nigeria, one of the students I met there, who was quite possibly from one of the wealthiest families, said if he got into office, he would take his cut of the national cake. For those who may not be familiar with that phrase, he basically said he would loot too. I was shocked, especially because his father isn’t a politician or politically-connected, so what corrupted him? This was a pivotal point in my life. It became obvious to me that corruption transcends education or pedigree, it is a mindset; a mindset that had, unfortunately, already eaten into my generation.

I was heartbroken. I lost faith in my generation, in Nigeria. I became more resolute in my desire/decision to not return. I loved my country, and I could see its potential, but I wasn’t going to waste my time figuring out how to make the lives of millions of people better when I wouldn’t be able to identify a sect of people I could trust or depend on. I got into McMaster University for a degree in Psychology, started a business in my first year, started another, and then a third business working as a Business Consultant. My life was taking shape rather nicely. In the course of doing business, I came across some concepts I thought could be real moneymakers in Nigeria, so decided to move back for a year or two.

In the summer of 2014, I was blown away. En route to Nigeria, I stopped over in Dubai for an 18-hour layover. Right from the airport, you could already envision what’s to come. I had been through the airport a couple times before – Emirates is my favorite airline – but this would be my first time really taking a look around and leaving the airport for the city. As we being driven through parts of the city, I just shook my head in disbelief. The United Arab Emirates (UAE) is a country just like Nigeria. Well, it isn’t even like Nigeria because they don’t have as many resources as we do, but the one thing we do have in common, they have utilized for the maximum benefit of the Emiratis. I’ve heard people say “Oh, it’s Arab Money”, if you never knew, Nigeria has Arab Money. Nigeria is disgustingly, filthy rich, but some of our leaders won’t let the country be great.

Someone shared an image of a newspaper story from 1973 with me on WhatsApp some time ago that surprised me. I have shared the excerpt below:

nigeria airways 1973

Can you imagine that? The UAE seeking advice from Nigeria. A little over 40 years later, Emirates is the world’s best airline and Nigeria Airways is defunct. What happened?

I honestly believe Nigeria could be infinitely better than the UAE, not only because of its natural resources, but also because of its human capital – the largest in Africa (180 million people); instead, majority of its people are suffering, living in fear, begging for food, sleeping on the streets and under bridges, and dying from thirst, starvation and lack of basic amenities. What kind of a life are my people living? I read recently that Nigeria has surpassed India as having the most people living in extreme poverty in the world – a prediction given by World Poverty Clock barely a year ago. What a shame.

It is pathetic the state this country is in. The average politician struggles to get into office simply to enrich him/herself, not the lives of the people who put their faith in him/her, the people who casted their one vote for him/her. They get into office and begin to misbehave, and if he/she is “magnanimous” enough to fix roads and provide basic amenities, people think he/she is a great person. I don’t dispute that such a person should be commended, but that’s the job they signed up for and what the resources at their disposal are meant for.

A few weeks ago marked my fourth year back home. I’ve thought about returning to Canada several times. I can’t even tell you how many people have asked me why I came from Canada to Nigeria, when people are fleeing/leaving Nigeria for Canada! I won’t deny that there is a sense of comfort owning a British, Canadian, or even, for now, American residence papers, and living a comfortable life, but no offense to anyone uninterested in returning, I cannot be selfish anymore. I can no longer act like whatever happens here is none of my business. I see people who through the actions of visionless leaders, have no/poor education, no exposure, no prospects, no future. I care that the average Nigerian suffers daily just to survive, while their elected leaders live in paradise. Granted, every Nigerian cannot be wealthy, that’s just the way the world is – 1% own 99% of the world’s wealth and all that; my point is the quality of life and cost of living of most Nigerians can be better. I cannot stand idly as our leaders abuse and squander the resources and potential of our nation.

This is not necessarily a campaign; anyone who knows me can testify that I’m most likely the least political person ever. Even if I were to campaign for anything in Lagos (I’m from Badagry), I can’t even speak Yoruba, not very well anyway, talk less of Egun lol. On a serious note though, ranting aside, I’m fed up and I just wonder if there are any youths like me out there – with a similar mindset and relatively strong moral compass – imagine what we could achieve if we band together. Things have got to improve (“change” has been marred by APC) and I certainly cannot do it all alone.

This is more like an appeal. If you love this country and want the best of it, love your people, your family and want the best for them, let’s stand behind a candidate with integrity, with a vision, with a plan, with a moral compass. Life can be better in Nigeria if we, as responsible youths, back such a candidate. Let’s stop voting for parties and vote for the individuals. Nigeria is not a two-party state. It doesn’t have to be one or the more. We don’t have to pick the lesser of two evils. We can make a difference February 16th by electing someone with a heart for Nigeria, a heart for the people, a true patriot. I won’t tell you who; if you know, you know. Fellow young Nigerians, let’s do Nigeria a favor and vote right. Let’s vote in a lion of a president; one without an evil agenda or complacent attitude. We owe it to ourselves and future generations.

God bless Nigeria.

think big

November 20, 2009 Leave a comment

When I first decided I wanted to become a Doctor, I was so into it. I remember in grade 2 (1994), my mum got me a first aid play box – it came with a stethoscope, sphygmomanometer, otoscope and reflex hammer. In grade 3 (1995), I made my first set of colored bandages and swipes during an art class. And then, in grade 5 (1997), my dad got me “operation”. It was a fun game that mimicked the operation table of a surgeon.

Somewhere along the line, I decided to be a Chemical Engineer like one of my maternal uncles because I learnt he was making a lot of money. Sadly in 2000, based on my JSCE results, I was placed in the senior school for those poised for medically inclined line of work. I was so upset and wouldn’t have it. I complained and fought for engineering. I got it, but then it took me 2 years of bordering on failing advanced math to realize engineering wasn’t my calling.

One night, I remembered again that I wanted to be a Doctor and decided never to derail again. I fueled the dream by reading think big by Dr. Ben Carson, M.D.; and 2 of his other books. He became my first mentor and motivator. My fight to become a Medical Doctor, took me into Covenant University where I studied Computer Science for one year. It wasn’t a waste because while I was there, I got the inspiration to be an Oncologist.

I left CU and spent the next 2 years of my life in Houdegbe North American University (HNAUB) in Republique du Benin. While I was there, I was being trained to be a Medical Doctor and I loved it. The school had one too many challenges so I accepted by mum’s suggestion to transfer to Canada to continue.

I got to Canada and after a while, I began to have a twenage life crisis after at sat down one day to do the math. First, I had to do a 9-month program. Next study any 4-year program (most likely Psychology or Health Studies). After that, write the MCAT and then study Medicine for 4 years plus another 2 years in clinicals/internship. Finally, about 3 years shadowing an Oncologist. That was 13-14 years before I would be free to practice – at age 32/33. Tell me you wouldn’t freak! I couldn’t help thinking that if the Nigerian system wasn’t so sloppy, fresh out of high school, I could have been an Oncologist at 26 (10 years). Sometime after getting into McMaster, I lost absolute interest in medicine. I decided to focus just on Health Studies (which I’m in my Third year of presently) and do a Masters program in Public Health – and most likely get a job with the UN or WHO.

At age 17, while in Covenant University, I did a compulsory course in Entrepreneurship – we were educated on entrepreneurship and investments. I didn’t really pay do much attention during the investment classes ‘cuz I was already radical about it lol; and besides, my dad had taught me basically all we were being taught. He had tons shares in pretty much every company on the Nigerian Stock Exchange, kept buying more for himself and all of us – his children. Much to my mum’s dismay, I caught the fire at age 15 and continued to buy for myself from my savings (built primarily from the dividends lol). Anyway, we were given a project in CU to map out our dreams over the next 5, 10, 15 and 20 years. Mine included Oncology, Research Labs, Automobile Company (Ritmo Car Company) and Resort (Pearl City/Adade Resort) with my younger sister, Veronica. That was my first attempt at thinking big.

I guess it was no surprise that at 20+, I started Pearl Creations. Funny thing is I still don’t know how I remembered about the buttons. It was birthed from a plan I had with my HNAUB roommate in 2005. Almost two years into my business phase, I still catch myself thinking if I’m actually doing the right thing. I wonder if I was meant to be doctor or if all I went through was to bring me to this end ‘cuz I can’t read medicine anymore. I feel like I might feel fulfilled, but will be simultaneously miserable. Miserable that I spent 26 – 27 years of my life in school becoming an oncologist! I already did the calculations and I couldn’t be an Oncologist before the age of 30. People tell me it’s not how long, but how well; frankly I don’t think they’re putting themselves in my shoes. For goodness sake, I can’t spend practically my entire life in school? I think it was around that time I decided, you know what, I’m going to be an Entrepreneur. I’m going to be business-oriented, work for myself, start from scratch, think BIG and build my way up.

I started by dreaming new dreams and pondering on some new ideas; and just as I was done, I watched “Two weeks notice” with High Grant & Sandra Bullock. In it, there was an appearance by a Mr. Trump. He was portrayed as some wealthy socialite. I had heard Trump a couple of times, but never really bothered to look him up. So after the movie, I decided to google Donald Trump and see what all the fuss is about. Well, he is a big deal. Just check out trump.com and see for yourself. After this, I read his biographies and story. Now, he’s my new motivation; not just because of his story, but because he has built a thriving empire (similar to the one in my dreams) from virtually nothing.

I have spent time thinking about how short life is and how little the time we have to make an impact on earth. It’s been six years since I left high school. I was one of the first to go straight into college and I’m still there! A lot of people tell me I should be happy and content, ‘cuz at 20, how many people can boast of a company (especially in a country that they aren’t from), earning their own money and even being profiled in newspapers and blogs?! I thank God for all of that, but I believe I can be much more!

One day, I decided, no more medical school…just like that! Next, I decided to put my new bigger dream in ink – Pearls Incorporated. Pearls Inc consists of Pearl Cafe, Pearl Creations, Pearl Academy and Pearl Hotel. I was so excited! I began drawing up plans, blueprints, structures, websites etc. It all sadly came to a halt after my dad passed away in May. It made me think more about time. It made me more family oriented, motivated to succeed, but I digress.

More and more, I think everything happens for a reason…even the passing away of my dad. I see reasons why things happen – where I am, why, where I was, what’s happened. It’s all coming together like a puzzle that’s being put together piece by piece. So to the array of dream companies, I decided to add my dad’s start-up – SKA Ventures (a financial solutions company). I think SKA (pronounced “scar”) came from his name – Sylvester Kay Adade; which is in tune with something I learnt from him and Donald Trump – the power of personal branding. He also thought me the importance of expanding and not limiting oneself. Hence, believing God, I pluralized all the Companies (e.g. Cafe to Cafes, Hotel to Hotels & Towers etc). And until last week, I called the umbrella company, The Pearls Incorporated, because it was all pearl this and pearl that. But now, taking a cue from my late dad and the donald, it is now: The SKA Group! Since I am Sylvester Kay-Adade II, the company name ain’t far fetched lol.

While I was in CU, Dr. David Oyedepo made two statements that have stuck to me all these years: 1. When purpose is not known, abuse is inevitable, and 2. We can only possess the future we see. Nothing disciplines a man more than the future he sees of himself; because only goal-setters ever become goal-getters. I know how easy it is to make plans and not execute them. So I prayed, started making new profiles & plans…which was fun, but also a ton of work. After all the restructuring of the brand, I came up with a draft design which was a lot better than the previous picture of a white pearl lol. My talented colleague, Najim Z*, cleaned it up and it came alive:

My initial plan was to put it all out here, but then, there are dream stealers and killers. Therefore, nahhh may be later…after it is all patented and legally registered lol. Anyway, for getting this far in reading all this, here is a brief:

The SKA Group – The umbrella Company for all my companies. So, as of January 1st, 2010, the umbrella company for Pearl Creations, Suave Clothing, SKA Ventures, Pearl Academy, Pearl Cafes and co will not be The Pearls Incorporated, but The SKA Group.

The Pearl Academy – middle and high school. Kasope A* (my high school best friend) and I thought of this way back in high school. The plan is still underway, though I think it is eventually going to be a lot more than just a high school.

Pearl Cafes – group of high-end coffee shops.

Pearl Creations – creative arm.

Pearl Hotels & Towers – accommodation and relaxation.

Pearl Lands & Realtors – real estate leases, rentals and sales.

SKA Ventures – financial services & solutions.

Suave Clothing (formerly Pearl Clothing) – formal and stylish clothing sales.

Sylver Publications – printing and publication services.

Please remember:
– Don’t be afraid to think big and dream bigger.
– Never underestimate yourself!
– And, no idea stealing or forgery! 😛

honoranium

July 7, 2009 Leave a comment

Sometimes, I like to type Pearl Creations into Google to see if something comes up and what it is. Today, I did it again and I ran into various forms of “acknowledgments” – some I was aware of and some I didn’t even know about! Here are a couple of them:

1. From a past event: http://www.womenpower.ca/events.php. If you scroll down, you’ll run into a picture with three (3) national buttons. This was from the second event Pearl Creations appeared in – The 2008 Tiara Festival. This is what was stated –  PEARL CREATIONS: If you want to show your support or concern for a country of your choice- Kenya, Sudan, Israel, Pakistan, Iraq, Zimbabwe, you name it. Pearl Creations makes national buttons bearing the flag of any country.

2. From a fellow young entrepreneur and blogger: http://inspiredtosucceedbysituations.blogspot.com/2009/02/check-out-pearlcreationsorgits-all.html. I was shocked to see this. I felt very honored – it’s always nice getting recognition from your pairs. This is what was stated – Hello everyone, the last two post has been about business creativity. I really loved the concept being pearl-creations with the use of the All-Me-Buttons. From my own personal perspective, it takes a very creative thinker to come up with new ideas such as personalizing one’s own personal buttons. Go check them out on their blog and website listed below: pearl-creations.blogspot.com. Have a fabulous Sunday.

3. From UNICEF there was some acknowledgment given to Pearl Creations: http://www.un.org/esa/socdev/unyin/iyd2008.htm. When you scroll down to the arrangements for each country, Pearl Creations comes up as below:

Nigeria:
(i) The YMCA Northern Zone Youth Forum is marking the Day with an 8-day summer camp. Besides regular camp activities, the commemoration includes a visit to the Plateau State House of Assembly to encourage legislators to support action on environmental issues. (More information: simonkaru@yahoo.com).
(ii) A young student who started a company in January this year, to make button badges, will be making and distributing buttons on the International Youth Day (IYD) to tell young people about the part they play in saving the planet. (More info: http://www.pearlcreations.org).
(iii) A road show and an endurance trip from one end of Abuja to the other, which will pass through major city centers and present messages on the theme of the Day. (More information: info@aygf.org; http://www.aygf.org).

I have been trying to get the attention for various schools – particularly mine (McMaster University) and University of Windsor. I finally got the attention of both and on the same day…weirdly enough.
There’s a store in McMaster University’s Student Center called the Union Market. It is operated by the Student Union. It will have the National Buttons and All-Me Buttons up for sale soon.

4. I also got a 500-word advert spot for the National Buttons from the University of Windsor. The ad was mailed to all the students and the Button Up ad was put on the website (http://www.uwsa.ca/pulse/) as well! This is what was stated – Button up! Do you miss home and you can’t go back yet? Is it your independence or national day, and you want to celebrate in a stylish and affordable way? Or do you just want to show your support or concern for a country of your choice? Well, look no further – we’ve got the National Buttons bearing the flag of any country. Represent where you’re from in style and let the whole world know who you are and where you’re from. There are over 100 flags, slogans and impressions to choose from. We take single and bulk orders and offer great discounts. For more information email mr.buttons@live.ca or visit us www.pearlcreations.org.

Perseverance and hard work actually do pay off!

Also, I found this website/program that values a website according to the number of its daily views as well as some other criteria. I tested the website and discovered pearlcreations.org is valued at about $1000USD! Not bad I guess!

legacy fest

March 2, 2009 Leave a comment

On the eve of January 31st, I came across an event on Facebook tagged: The Legacy Festival: Black History Month 2009. I read through the description of the event and I was intrigued by the depth of thought that seemed had been invested into the Festival’s preparation. It was all organized by a Gentleman named Robert Small. I presumed he was an Artist because I saw artwork in some photos publicizing the event. I also visited his website to see more and I realized his organization was a big deal.

Remembering my FIFA 2010 experience with the Licensing Company, I was skeptical about approaching him, but I went ahead with it. I planned to suggest National Buttons, but while there on the website, I noticed a beautiful design. It was maple leaf with the 3 colors (which stood for each of the TLF weeks); and then it hit me- this would make for really cool memorabilia for this event!

After I found an email address, I sent an email pitching my idea. God willing, he liked it and replied. He said his wife has even told him to do buttons ages ago, but he never got around to it. So we talked and discussed over the next couple of days over the design, quotes and discounts. I emailed him the design and he approved! I also emailed him the picture of a sample:

Finally, we agreed I would come on the night of the final event (Saturday, February 28th) with 30 buttons and he’d pay for those. If after giving them out, people liked them, then next year, he’ll do about a 1000 Buttons! Unfortunately, I forgot that there was also a Black History Event organized by the McMaster African Students’ Association (MASA) for that day. I couldn’t miss it because I was scheduled to sell buttons at the event, as the Secretary of the Club, I had to be present; and the event it was my suggestion. Until then, MASA had never held a Black History Month Event ever.

The day came, I made plans to stay till the end of the MASA event and then leave for the Toronto as soon as it was over; and I did just that.

I actually learnt a lot from our event; especially from the movie we watched: 500 Years Later. It was educational and very insightful. I met some notable interesting people too:
– Grant DaCosta, a Sudanese drummer and musical instructor. He bought a Sudan national buttons and took my card; and then also got a contract from him…I spill more on that if it does happen.
– Klyde Broox, an entertaining and brilliant Jamaican dub poet. I look out for his book: “My best Friend is White”.
– Kaesan, a young and talented Ghanaian Guitarist.
– And a host of other people from SISO Hamilton and other McMaster University Groups.

It end at 9:00pm so I caught the 10:00pm GO-Bus to Toronto. I got to Union Station at about 10:45pm and took the subway to Cumberland. After getting unto the street, I went in the opposite direction for about 20 minutes; and then had to go all the way back. Eventually, I got to the venue at about 12:30am! After relaxing, I had a couple of drinks and waited for Robert to arrive.

When we finally met at about 2:00am! I was so happy when we did because I had almost decided to leave. After meeting him, we talked some more business, he told about some of his early entrepreneurship activities, he paid for the buttons and introduced me to his lovely wife.

All in all, it was pretty good first black history month for Pearl Creations and I!
If there’s anything I learnt, it’s to be bold and not afraid to put oneself out there!