Budding Entrepreneurs

Bolstered by the Next Titan, an entrepreneurial reality TV show sponsored by Heritage Bank Plc, business ideas of four young entrepreneurs have translated into productive outfits, writes Peter Uzoho

Kennedy Iyeh is a dark lanky lad; a graduate of Microbiology from the Godfrey Okoye University, Enugu State. He thinks and dreams business, and has a great business idea and vision. With his sight set on tapping into the huge opportunities in the country’s agricultural space, Iyeh came up with a brand, Blue Leaf (herbs and spices). His plan is to use organic method of farming to produce raw materials for the production of cooking flavours – a well-thought-out means of helping to reduce health hazards.

But how could Iyeh’s brilliant business idea come to fruition without the needed fund and mentorship, and without the right platform to market his idea? He was faced with confusion, discouragement, and the quit option. Fortunately, the Next Titan presented itself to him.

The Next Titan, an entrepreneurial reality TV show provided an opportunity for this enterprising young lad to realise his dream. He participated at the Season Four of the show alongside thousands of his peers who also have amazing business ideas and skills, and emerged the winner. Iyeh went home with the star prize of N5 million courtesy of the chief sponsor, Heritage Bank, and a brand new Ford Ranger from Ford Motors. With this win, he has seen his business idea move from paper to factory.

“It’s always very challenging venturing into a business without fund. I’ve been growing my interest in agriculture and its research while in Enugu hoping for an opportunity. So the N5 million I won at the Next Titan competition has helped me a lot in securing lands, getting premium seeds, and going a long way to establish an organic farm,” a relieved and excited Iyeh told THISDAY.

“The Ford Ranger has aided very much in logistics, especially shuttling Lagos to Ogun every week. It has also been helpful to me in getting clients and accessing contacts as it has boosted my status. Again, the car has also been helping in company branding,” he said.

Iyeh has completed full registration and documentation of his company and its relocation to Lagos with farm site in Ogun. “We acquired five acres of land and hope to acquire up to 20 acres by 2019. We have acquired the seeds needed for the farming season. We’re currently setting up and drilling borehole for irrigation of the farm.”

With this boost, he has been able to provide jobs to about nine people including four permanent and five contract staff, and plans to provide job to more people in future. “Before the year runs out we should have up to 20 people working in the factory.”

The young entrepreneur was not only empowered by the fund and the car, but by the quality mentorship and training he got from judges and top business executives during the course of the show.

“The experience was mind blowing I must say. You get to experience a whole side to business and entrepreneurship. We were groomed to not know impossibility in business and I feel it is one key thing young entrepreneurs should learn. We spent 10 weeks in the house having to deliver different tasks, as each week came with its own task. We learnt the importance of team work, team structure, strategy, planning, business branding, marketing, and advertising,” Iyeh explained.

He appreciated the organisers and sponsors for investing their time and resources on the valuable programme, and also thanked the Judges for their awesome mentorship and teachings.

However, Iyeh is just the latest beneficiary of the show as there are three young entrepreneurs who had participated in the first three seasons, emerged winners, won same prizes and are equally doing very well in their respective entrepreneurial ventures with the aid of the resources and trainings from the show.

Iroghama Ogbeifun, Davies Okeowo, and Marvis Marshal Idio won the season one, two and three of the competition respectively. The mentorship, training and inspiration they got during their 10-week stay in the Next Titan house, from top business experts and captains of industry, really armed them to be real business titans. With these resources, they have been lifted from the position of dreamers to achievers. They have been lifted from the group of job seekers to job providers, thus adding significant value to the Nigerian economy.

Ogbeifun, an enterprising young woman was crawling and wobbling in her business, and enveloped by confusion due to lack of fund and requisite mentorship before she took part in the maiden edition of Next Titan in 2013 and emerged winner.

Today, she is living her dreams as she boasts of owning and running a very stable and fast growing hair care product manufacturing company, Hairven Limited, located in Lagos and Port Harcourt. The N5 million she won has enabled her to scale up her business. Hairven is currently the only synthetic hair care product manufacturing company in Nigeria located in Lagos, and is being marketed by Jumia.

Ogbeifun has established in Lagos, ‘Reiki Spar’, one of the finest Spas in Lagos, and has opened a branch in Port Harcourt as well. The company is also working on a new range of hair care products and is billed for launch in the first quarter of 2019. In total, Hairven Limited has given jobs to over 35 people, both graduates and non-graduates.

“It was a time in my life when I needed structure, guidance, and direction, and I got that at the Next Titan,” Ogbeifun told THISDAY.

“It helped structure my abilities as an entrepreneur. It helped structure my business, put me in touch with mentors who today played a very pivotal role in my business,” she recounted.

“Once I left the Next Titan house with the money that I won, there was a bill sitting on my table which was about N4.9 million. So that N5 million immediately went into that. The inflow from that winning really added significantly to the growth of my business. It helped me to finish up manufacturing, brought in products and launched my brand officially in Lagos. And this happened within a space of six months,” the entrepreneur explained.

She commended the organisers and sponsors of the show saying, “it takes a visionary to back a visionary. I want to say a very big thank you to Heritage Bank for funding this noble initiative. They are really doing a transformational work on the lives of many young Nigerians. I’ll like to encourage them to continue to be part of the success stories of young Nigerian entrepreneurs by supporting the Next Titan,” she added.

Also, the dream of Davies Okeowo is already coming through. He is the founder/Chief Executive Officer of Enterprise Hills, a business consulting firm located in Lagos, which provides business development services and support to Micro, Small, and Medium Scale Enterprises (MSMEs), through the use of modern technology. The N5 million and car he won at the Next Titan season two in 2015 has been instrumental to the growth of his business.

Today, Okeowo has started justifying the huge investment on him by providing jobs to many people. He is currently training upcoming entrepreneurs in many areas of accounting, software, business development, and business strategies. His company has helped over 30 MSMEs to put proper structures in their businesses.

“The Next Titan is an experience I will never forget because it was really instrumental in my journey as an entrepreneur,” he said. “The show itself has afforded me not only the resources but a platform to learn and grow to become a better entrepreneur,” he added.

With such unusual benevolence, Okeowo sees it as an obligation to return gratitude to the deserved. “I give thanks to Heritage Bank, to Coscharis Ford Motors, to Sifax Group, and to all other sponsors for investing in me and others. Their decision to invest in the show, to support the show such as the Next Titan, is truly a remarkable one,” he noted.

On her part, Marvis Marshal Idio who won the season three of the competition in 2016 has become a sensational young entrepreneur making waves in the country. The resources she won have facilitated operations in her brand, Jacmarvis Limited, a company involved in interior design and furniture manufacturing, using trash as raw material.

Idio who believes in turning waste to wealth is now realising her dream after her encounter with the Next Titan. Her win at the show has made great difference in her business, moving it from a one man business to a company that has over 15 employees today. She has been able to acquire machineries needed for her business operation, and is now producing exquisite furniture in large quantities to meet growing demand.

“Before I was using the manual process and crude method to achieve result and I couldn’t do much. But now I have what I need to do my business,” she said.

Last year, Idio had her first exhibition in Port Harcourt which was well-attended by interior decorators and users of such products from within and outside the country. Since the exhibition, her patronage has increased significantly.

In her gratitude, Idio said: “I would like to say a big thank you to Heritage Bank for believing in the man and the group of people who came up with the vision of the Next Titan. It’s actually commendable what they have done. I would commend the organisers of the Next Titan show.

“It’s a show that’s helping young Nigerians. It’s giving hope back to people. It’s really a source of inspiration to many Nigerian youths. I would also commend the judges and the other sponsors because it’s one thing to have an idea and it’s another thing to have someone who would buy into that idea.”

Apart from these four winners, other entrepreneurs who participated in one edition of the show or another recounted their wonderful experience.

“I’m now a better entrepreneur,” Ronald Ajiboye, CEO of Auto Drone Center Limited,” told THISDAY. “I got the needed inspiration, mentorship and training from top business executives who were our judges at the Next Titan house. The show has taught me to be more focused, resilient and more business-minded each day I set out for my business.”

 For Akinola Toluwalope, Founder of Tsignature Bespoke Clothing Company, a high class fashion designing outfit, the show has opened her eyes to many opportunities in the world of entrepreneurship.

“It was indeed an awesome experience. It really opened my eyes to see opportunities available for young entrepreneurs. Also, meeting face to face with the judges and, having them share their experiences with us really inspired me a lot. Above all, the trainings and mentorship offered to us, especially on business management, can never be forgotten,” Akinola said.

Birthed in 2013 by a Nigerian entrepreneur, Mide Kunle-Akinlaja, who is passionate about inspiring young Nigerians, the Next Titan project is aimed at helping the Nigerian youths to actualise their dreams of becoming future entrepreneurs and employers of labour. With Kunle-Akinlaja as the producer of the annual programme, Heritage Bank has been the chief sponsor, investing huge amount of money every year to ensure that entrepreneurs are raised through the platform.

As one of its CSR projects, Coscharis Ford Motors has been partnering with the organisers of the programme in the donation of brand new Ford car to the winner of every season. Sifax Group and other corporate institutions have been supporting the initiative in different ways.

Judges of the show are carefully selected captains of industry, among whom are: Mr. Kyari Bukar, Chairman, Nigerian Economic Summit Group; Mr. Tonye Cole, Co-founder/CEO, Sahara Energy Group; Mr. Chris Parkes, Chairman/CEO, CPMS, Africa; and Mrs. Lilian Olubi, CEO, Primera African Securities Limited.