Mrs. Adekunle Taiwo Abisola is a young businesswoman with a passion for what she believes in. she calls herself ‘serialpreneur’ because she has hand on many pies: exportation, travel and tours, leadership training and youth development. Abisola is the chief executive officer of Super Brand Dynasty International Limited, which is into exportation and training. In this chat with Samuel Ajayi, she explains what is needed to have a foothold in the exportation business and why Nigerians need to ensure quality assurance in order to meet international standards
an you tell us a little about yourself?
My name is Adekunle Taiwo Abisola. I am an entrepreneur and a professional offering expertise on international trade, seminars and training, leadership and business development. I have an NGO; which is what I can call it. The name is World Changers Youth Initiative. The group started when I was in the university and it is for groups from different sectors of the society with the aim of influencing their fellow youths towards a positive lifestyle. Right now, we have over 50 volunteers across Africa and because we are in a digital age, we were able to raise these volunteers online in Cameroon, Ghana, Tanzania and Gambia and Nigeria being the headquarters.
You are equally into export business. Can you tell us about that?
Due to the economic situation, I felt the need to participate in the diversification of the economy. After my university, I worked as a press manager in a printing press. I also worked as a project manager in a construction firm before I decided I wanted to be selling outside the country because there are so many commodities we have in the country that are needed in other countries. And for you to be able to meet up with standard of living in that country, you need to earn in foreign currency. And by the time you change this country to our own, you can be able to earn a decent living. I decided to join a company in Kiera where I worked for about two years and I was head of marketing for that international company. They are into exportation of charcoal. We have it in abundance; especially in places like Oyo State, Abuja and so on. These are baked woods because the way you bake bread is the way you bake charcoal. Because I really wanted to learn, I started as trainee executive before I was promoted as marketing manager before I set up my own outfit, Super Brands Dynasty International Limited, which is into charcoal exportation. Before you start charcoal exportation, you need a buyer from abroad. You may be wondering why an international buyer needs charcoal. Charcoal has many uses. It used for body cream. If you look at those who bake charcoal in the villages, their bodies are always shinning. Many people though charcoal is used only for cooking. No. It is also used as anti-poisoning ointment. It also has many industrial usages.
Let explain something. You know these dry cell batteries like Duracell. If you open it, you see some black materials inside. This is charcoal. So it is also used to generate power. So it can do a lot of things. So these countries need it and they also use it to generate heat to warm themselves during winter.
You organise travels and tours too. Can you throw light on that?
I looked at it and wanted to create multiple streams of income and also maximise my space. So I found out that a friend of mine was recently appointed as the CEO of a major travel agency in the country and I asked if I could share my office space with them. And I also became a partner with Wakanow. They are into ticketing in the country anywhere in the country and also into booking of hotels anywhere in the country. Recently, some people were taken to Cape Verde and they had boat cruise and so on. To complete the cycle of international trade, because it involves taking out and bringing in, I decided to start bringing goods from China. I mean goods that were not readily available here. These are shoes and clothes and so on. I also do training for people on how to get buyers from abroad. You cannot say you want to sell outside the country without getting genuine buyers. Some of these buyers abroad feel Nigerians have duped their people and some of them see this international trade as opportunity to dupe us back. So we train people to know how to go about these trades without getting duped.
Mrs. Adekunle, can I say you are a Jack of all trades and master of all?
(Laughs) I can say I am a seriapreneur. That is what I can call myself.
How has the operating environment been as a young entrepreneur?
Well, there are many challenges. The first is the courage to start. There is also insecurity. I am not talking of killings of stuff, but career-wise. Many people who are earning salaries feel secured. They feel their bosses are keeping their monies for them. So when you need the courage to pull out of that place where you earn your salary, either your boss makes profit or not, to start on your own and depend on your own efforts, then you realise you are in for the big challenge. One key point I have to tell any intending entrepreneur is that you must be able to market your own brand. Many people say they hate marketing job. But until you are able to market for someone else, you won’t be able to market yourself. Another issue is that of finance. When I started in 2016, I had to raise N500,000 to get a paper that spoke about the trade we wanted to get into. We practise large scale charcoal exportation. And to do a container of charcoal under this government, we need about N1.3m. Yet, then it was about N700,000 to N800,000. Even sellers have increased their charges. Transportation then that used to be N170,000 is now N500,000. Port documentation that used to be N110,000 is now N230,000. Yet we are still in this business. As a beginner, we encourage you to start with your own money. If you have to get loan, it will be difficult. What we teach people is also financial education. Even if they don’t have money and they want to use other people’s money, there are some places they can start from. These are the ‘fishes’. And these are your friends and family. They are just for the success of your business and not your profit. They want you to succeed. No father will borrow his son money and says he wants to kill him because he could not pay back. But if you go to the sharks or whales, then you are in for the big thing. This is because, when fishes bite you, the pain is minimal; but when sharks do, you know what it is about. These sharks are the big financial institutions. To get paid, you also need genuine buyers. The payment plan is 70 per cent when you send bill of laden and they pay 30 per cent after quality analysis.
How do you meet your buyers? Is it online?
If you meet online, you are on your own. Though, you can also meet genuine buyers online. But because I have worked with a company into this before, I was able to get recommendation. No genuine buyer will want to take you as a seller without a letter of recommendation from an existing seller. Even if you get documents like export license, letter from the Ministry of Environment, field certificate and so on, you still need letter of recommendation from an existing seller.
What are projections for the year?
In this year 2020, we want to increase our capacity. Let us say we have been operating at 70 per cent, we want to do 99 per cent. We also want to sensitise people to go into international trade. If we are told to go local, we must be able to sell the excess outside the country. We buy beans in the market and with stones in them, we take it home to pick them. But such cannot cross the border to London. If a white man says he wants beans, it is without stones and whiffles. That is it. So we need to train people on quality and so on.