Samuel Chinemere Onyenemecha, a young enterprising rural dweller, has shown that living outside the city is never an excuse for failure. Peter Uzoho who visited his workshop last Christmas, reports that the phone technician has made remarkable achievements through his business
The philosophy of starting it small and never despising your little beginning handed down to him by his parents became a springboard for his accomplishments and sustenance.
Samuel Chinemere Onyenemecha popularly known as Sam C is a young man who runs a GSM phone outlet in his rural community of Ohoba, in Ohaji/Egbema Local Government Area of Imo State. With the brand name, ‘Nwachinemere Communications and Sam C Solution Centre’, he repairs phones, sells phone accessories and renders sundry services to his customers.
Like many who did not have the bread and butter treatment as a child due to his parent’s low economic status, life was rough for him. But, his hard times as a child having no readymade resources apart from the wise counsels of his parents, enabled him to see the reality of life on time and faced it squarely. He knew there was nothing kept for him and no hope of proceeding to the university so he had to struggle to do something else to help himself. As a child left with no option except to think and make a move, young Onyenemecha, after his secondary school education, resolved to learn a trade that would enable him to sustain himself instead of roaming about in the village jobless.
“After secondary school in 2013, I looked around there was no hope of going further in education; there was no money and nobody to fund me in the university so I had to make up my mind to look for something to do to help myself instead of staying at home idle,” Onyenemecha tells THISDAY.
Out of divine arrangement, he was led to his master who had special love and kindness for him. Within his three year stay as an apprentice, his master taught him all he was supposed to know about phone repair and sales of accessories. Though, he paid to learn the work but according to him, the money was not commensurate with the knowledge and skills he garnered. “My boss taught me the work out of his kindness and love for me,” he says.
On completion of his apprenticeship in 2015 which was formalised by the presentation of certificate to him, Onyenemecha who had already prepared to start up his own business hit the ground running. This was possible for him because while staying with his master he was making some savings and buying some tools in preparation for his own business. At times, he had to go hungry just to save and invest in his future plan. And because he displayed unusual diligence, honesty and respect, he endeared himself to his master
“While I was learning the work I used to make some savings. My boss had so much likeness for me and did everything to help me. You know I did my work diligently; I never stole his money and I respected him so much because it’s not everybody that will accept to take you as an apprentice. So sometimes when I repaired phone and they paid us he would ask me to take the money. Sometimes he would give me some money for my feeding, and I was saving these monies. So from the savings I started buying some equipment while with him. I even bought generator while working with him because after completing my apprenticeship I stayed with him for six months before he gave me the certificate to start my own,” he explains.
“When I left him I collected N10, 000 from my father. Out of the money, I used N6, 000 to pay for shop for six months and used the remaining N4, 000 in addition to the little money I had, to buy accessories and other things I had not bought while with my boss,” he says.
According to the young entrepreneur, being in this business has been so rewarding, as it has been helping him make some accomplishments while taking care of himself and his family. “I thank God for the work. At least it’s giving me income on a daily basis and helping me take care of myself and contribute to the sustenance of my family. To the glory of God I have built a two-room shop from the proceeds of my business which I rented out to other people. I have my O-level certificate which I also achieved from this business because I didn’t write SSCE before leaving school that time. In fact, I have achieved many things from this my little work so I think the business is really helping me,” he says thankfully.
Just like every other business that has its peak and bleak periods, Onyenemecha revealed that though, he gets patronage everyday but during festivities like Christmas and Easter, he makes more income because of the rise in population during these periods.
“You know people will come home from cities where they reside and they will want to repair phones or buy accessories. So I make more income during festivities.”
However, not minding the income from the business, particularly phone repairs, he said he would not want to make it a lifetime occupation, citing its health implications as his reason. “It affects human health negatively. But I can be dealing only on the sale of accessories.”
Still having burning desire to go to university to acquire more education, improve on his skills, and get more exposed, his major concern has been the high cost of tertiary education in the country. Again, he said apart from the money involved, he does not want to close his business while away for school. “I want to train up someone that will be running the business for me. The ones I trained have left to open up their own businesses, so at the moment there is no one here to man the shop for me, and that is one of the things delaying me from starting my university education.”
According to him, what gives him joy and satisfaction in the work is the thought of helping to solve a major problem of his community. “Currently, I’m the only one in this community doing the work. I thank God I’m really solving one of the problems of my community and it gives me joy. That’s why I said earlier that if I leave the business now for the university there is no one to help my people repair their phones and you know that phone is the most common means of communication. So my work is really helping my community.”
Recounting how his business has been contributing to the economy of his community, he explains, “I always render financial help to my community. In the community we have security men who make sure that we are protected, and they, from time to time, ask those of us doing one business or the other to assist them financially which I don’t hesitate to do. If there is any contribution in the community for developmental projects I also contribute.
“I have trained people in this business without collecting any money from them. I trained all of them freely. I just brought them into the field to help them so that they can use it to sustain themselves as I’m using it to sustain myself.”
Like most businesses in the country, Onyenemecha is not left without his challenges. According to him, one of such challenges is the intricacy of repairing GSM phones which are imported modern communication gadgets. “You know, we were not there when the white people made the phone so our work is based on guesswork, experience and creativity,” he says smiling. “So sometimes a customer will complain that you did not work the phone to his or her taste. Some customers when they bring their phones and you ask them what happened to it they will not tell you exactly what happened to the phone. Especially when the phone falls inside water, the customer will never tell you. But when you try repairing the phone and couldn’t succeed he will see you as incompetent.
“Some will even start arguing with you that their phone was working well before they brought it to you. Sometimes they will ask you to buy a new phone for them that you have spoilt their phone. So this always gives me challenge because convincing them is not an easy thing. Also there are things that customers will demand which I don’t have because of the cost of buying them and I don’t have the money to buy those ones,” he explains.
Another challenge he mentioned was the country’s economic challenge which everyone is directly or indirectly affected, pointing that, in 2016, he suffered a lot. “I really suffered because the accessories I had stayed in my shop without people coming to buy. Sometimes I will repair phones for people but to collect them becomes a problem because they don’t have the money to pay to collect them.”
Not left out in the challenges is electricity which he said has eluded his community for more than one year, noting that he spends money on petrol on a daily basis.“For the past one year there has not been light here. I spend N200 every day to buy petrol to run my generator. Sometimes I will come out from morning to night and nobody will come to buy accessory or repair phone. And at the end of the month I will still have to pay the landlord his rent. So I beg the government to try and give us light so that our work will move well and to save us unnecessary expenses.”
However, Onyenemecha does not belong in the school of thought that holds that one must be in big cities to be successful in life, stressing that what matters is one doing something meaningful in the village. Using himself as an example, he argues that there are opportunities in the rural areas like his, Ohoba.
“People are making it here. For example,I built my two rooms shop from foundation to roofing level from this business. I registered and wrote my SSCE from the proceeds of this business. I’m sustaining myself from this business I’m doing here in the village. I have other things I plan to accomplish from this business. And I’m not living in the city but I’m comfortable. When you are in the village and you have something you are doing, you will compete with those in the city. People are building houses in this village from the work they are doing here in the village. Some people are in the city but they can’t come home because their mates here are doing better than them. So anybody thinking that if you are in the village you cannot make it unless you go to the big cities is making a very big mistake,” he argues.
Meanwhile, he says one of the problems his fellow youths have is that some of them were born with golden spoon which he says makes them find life difficult to cope with when things change, adding that, it leads them to all manner of anti-social practices. “The way parents train their children is the way they will live. I was not taught having high taste. My parents taught me to start with little and I’m holding on to that and it has been helping me,” he says.
Advising the youths, he says they should start with the little they have, adding, “they should think of any little thing they can start from to help them and stop thinking too big knowing fully well that they can’t afford what they are thinking of. So any youth that is thinking of becoming somebody tomorrow should start from somewhere. The idea of going into kidnapping or doing anything that affects the public negatively should be totally wiped out from their mind. Instead let us think of anything that can help us sustain our community, our state and our country.”
He also calls on the government to find a way of assisting people like them (budding entrepreneurs) through grants. “As I opened this business, there are others who don’t have the money to start their own. When I was starting my own I went to Owerri with N5,000 and I was able to buy a few things to start. But today you can’t go to Owerri with such amount; you must have at least N50, 000 with you to start. So for those that want to learn one trade or the other; or those that have finished learning and even those who are already doing something, government should assist so that people will become self-sustaining and also help our economy grow,” he implores.