Call Dr. Churchill Olakunle a jack of all trades and you won’t be far from the truth. As a business mogul, philanthropist, agriculture entrepreneur and IT professional, Olakunle is also an African youth champion by the African youth champion governance, a United Nation Goodwill Ambassador and the face of ECOWAS youth council. Olakunle imbibed the act of generosity from his grandmother. Having ventured into the world of computer engineering and programming when he travelled abroad, upon his return to Nigeria in 2005, he took up some professional exams and became a certified software programmer.
In 2005, he launched his first company, Big Churchill and in 2010, he added other subsidiaries and founded the Big Church Group. In this interview with Mary Nnah, the serial entrepreneur who loves to extend his philanthropic gestures to Nigerians, Africa and around the world, talked about his intention to entice Nigerians into e-Agriculture. He also revealed his increased passion for media and production which encompasses cinematography, photography, events coverage and TV shows
What is your latest project?
The Big Church Group focuses on software engineering, mobile application development, revenue collection and automation, enterprise infrastructure, training and capacity building. It has been in existence for about a decade and this has been with the help of expertise, provision of valuable advice and implementation of solutions professionally with maximum support.
I am actually coming up with a yearly event in Switzerland called the European-African Summit, kicking off sometime around June and then I would be taking my entertainment outfit more serious. We used do some kind of advocacy movies, aside from other movies, that focus on the humanitarian angle. So this year, we are taking very serious the entrainment angle of the movie outfit. Other companies under the umbrella of Big Church Group like the ones that are into real estate, consultation, Agriculture, Mining, ICT, and entertainment would obviously be having events back to back. And we would probably look into shooting more advocacy movies this year.
The Big Church Group is into many things, can you tell us how you have been able to merge them together?
My own profession is software programming. I started with that then got into the real estate business. I have always been into real estate since age 23, so we added that to the Big Church Group and then agriculture is from my background and then miming. The entertainment aspect was added just recently when we started shooting. Then the foundation has been there but we just started getting media notice recently. So, we didn’t come up with the group in a year. We started since 2005 till date but we became a group of company in 2010, that’s like 10 years ago but the Big Churchill as a business enterprise is about 15 years old. Then we started with the ICT 15 years ago then gradually we added the Big Churchill property, which later became King Andre Property; when I had my son, Andre. We have been able to expand from Ghana to Switzerland and other parts of the world, especially from the philanthropic angle.
At what stage did you decide to go into the Big Churchill Foundation and what was the driving force behind its formation?
The foundation has always been there. When I was very young, I used to assist my grandma who is also a philanthropist. So, I didn’t just come up with a foundation, but it has been part of me and at a point I made a vow that whatever proceeds I get from my business, 10 per cent goes to serving the people and community around me.
Do you have any particular area you focus on?
We don’t focus on any particular issue; we can decide to embark on any charity course as soon as we get the money. I am a goodwill ambassador, so a goodwill ambassador can decide to embark on any community development project.
So what impact has your foundation had on the society so far?
So far, it has been good, though we do not have a particular focus, but we have touched many lives in Nigeria and other parts of the world. We tend to embark on any charity course that comes our way as soon as the money comes in.
Let’s talk about the agricultural aspect of your business. How did it start and to what extent have you gone with it? Do you farm personally?
We are trying to pus e-Agriculture, that’s like the electronic Agriculture, how we can, like, put everything together about farming. The e-Agriculture is a huge one and we are going to work more on that this year. It is a course that we are going to actually issue certificates to people.
The agricultural aspect of my business started right from my background. I do farming and everyone around me is used to farming. So, I have been farming right from childhood. So, farming I what I know how to do and I’ve got a wealth of experience in farming.
Right now, we have been able to come up with so many farm lands but our focus on agriculture is to entice Nigerians with the e-agriculture, although we didn’t invent it but we are trying to re-introduce e-Agriculture to people and thereby change their perspective which is usually that farmers are low class people. So, e-Agric teaches you how you can manage a farmland. It makes you a farmland manager and it is so quick and easy and stress-free and the manpower is not that much. It is just package for Agriculture, although we have farmlands and we have been able to put things together, even poultry. Then we do exportation of agricultural produce like maize, coffee beans, cocoa, etc.
Now you are branching into media and production. How do you intend to combine the two?
I am just trying to touch every angle. And already we have started a sort of advocacy kind of production. I just believe that we can expand and recently we joined gospel music. It is just a way for giving back to society and also putting out contents and we also want to use this platform to inspire young people.
Talking about inspiring young people, what are the guidelines you can give those looking up to you on how they can get to the level you are today?
They should believe in God and keep pushing. You have to stay hungry at some point to achieve something in life. I started out with the real estate at the age 23. And now I still have a long way to go.
Growing up, you lived with your grandmother. Was there any reason for that?
My grandmother is old now, but I must say that she was a disciplinary then but right now she has softened, she can’t even shout. I am her first grandchild and I think she loved me so much and then decided I must live with her then. So, my own mother was just like a sister to me while I was like the last born of her own mother.
Would you say living with her has influenced you in any way?
Yes, it has. She was a great giver then I didn’t realise it but later. She also trained me to attend the best schools. I had my primary education at Cannon Adeyemi Primary School; my Junior Secondary School was at Apata Memorial High School, Isolo, while my senior Secondary education was at Nigerian Navy Secondary School, Abeokuta. Those were the best schools.
If have the chance of changing a decision you made in the past. What would that be?
I regret that I didn’t focus so much on business early in life. I would have loved to change that. I made mistakes in my life but these days I have opened my eyes. These days I tend to get close to people than I used to do in the past.
You started business at 23 and succeeded in your first business till date. What made it then comfortable to go into business at a younger age?
Generally, most of the Yoruba family do not pamper their children even if they were for wealthy homes. So, they allowed us the children to go out there and struggle to make a living. And when you see what your mates were doing, it got competitive. So, it is like a race and you probably go your own way. So, right from my tender age, I had great dreams for myself, seeing myself as a very successful person. So, to young people, I would say, the road is not too smooth but you have to keep pushing. But so importantly, stay hungry so that you can go far in life and then be prayerful and keep moving.
I am a Christian and I pray a lot.