Adebowale Sijuade is a budding entrepreneur in Ogun state having established his feet in the gateway state, a graduate of Economics from Olabisi Onabanjo University. He met with PublicFaces Mary Aborele where he spoke on how he started his Business with little or no knowledge and has since throw in towel nor search for a job despite the challenges he faces as an entrepreneur in Nigeria…. Enjoy.
Tell us about your business.
I’m the CEO of Xtreme Affairs. I started business about 8 to 10 years ago. I started as a brand artist. I was into t-shirt and face cap making, I made custom wears for people while I was in the university since then we’ve been evolving, we’ll be launching another business in which is part of what we’ll be doing at Xtreme Affairs.
How does an economics student end up in branding, did you train for this?
Basically, if I say this it will sound so funny. I learnt in the course of the business. I don’t have a boss. I think my creativity helped me actually and I was much devoted to it. The only thing that I think was like a threat was when I had to go the market to buy materials but every other thing was just my creativity, was just me trying to help myself, to develop my skills so I did not learn from anybody, I do not have a boss. I say it anywhere. I do not have a boss, actually my dad did Creative and Arts Design when he was in school so when we were growing up, he does those things in the house and I’ll always be of help whenever he draws, so at that point it spur an interest. Even when I was in secondary school, I remember I used to run to Fine Arts class and they reported me severally so my dad had to take me from the school to a private school so that I will be more serious. Along the line, despite that fact that I had more interest in the Arts, I didn’t even study Arts when I was in school. My dad wanted me to study Fine Arts or Theatre Arts but in the course of seeking for admission, I wanted to be a Lawyer or an Economist but along the line I chose to be an Economist
How have you been sustaining the business?
The business is based on sustainability. At a point of doing the business, I realized that the business could take care of my wellbeing and ever since I graduated, I never looked for a job. At a point when I was leaving school and I thought I was leaving my clients, I had to go to another mark which was laundry business in other to boost my pockets and make money and support the branding business. The branding business has been profiting at least in Ogun State now, I’ve worked for A-list personalities so far, people in government and at least people that know what I do still reckon with me.
Surviving in the business world as a young entrepreneur in Nigeria is perceived to be a Herculean task. What’s your take on this?
Wow. As a matter of fact, I tell people that it’s not every business that you need your personal money to set up. I must tell you and I will categorically say it that when I was starting my business, nobody gave me money. What I got was support. I told my parents and they encouraged me to go ahead. The first job I got was exactly 9 years ago or so…I can’t remember.
I worked for some FUNAAB students. That period, I haven’t started printing of shirts but I started telling people that I’ve started making shirts to advertise myself. Then, My personal plain shirts, I’ll then draw on it and do some printing on it and my neighbors will be like “so you’re the one that made this?” and I’ll be like “yes”. One of them now went to school and told their colleague who wanted to do something and they called me to do the business. I can tell you that that year, I collected a t-shirt for 3000 naira and I remember that year that the first money I made was like 60,000 on just a few t-shirts and that’s what opened my eyes to branding entrepreneurship. So in the real sense of it, the economic crisis, the problem of the economy with no jobs and all, what I can say is that you need to identify your own personal goals and objectives and to tackle it. People are lazy, Youth want to be like established individuals but do you know the sacrifices those people have made? And we are now living in a very corrupt environment where people are doing scams and other illegal things, So I think the economy might not be so conducive but there are so many problems to solve. If you’re actually a problem solver, you will have an edge in the entrepreneurial scene.
As a young entrepreneur, what are those challenges you are facing?
The challenges I faced were many, trust is number 1. I remember there was a time I ought to get a contract from a communication company in Lagos, that was sometime in December 5 or 6 years ago. I was still in the university. I was in my finals, I guess. I worked for one department in BOWEN and my cousin was there, so a colleague of hers now went there to do IT and they wanted some shirts for a company. That company collects contracts from other people so they called me for the job and I made samples for them and the likes. I had to meet their CEO for an interview and to review my work and when I met him, the man asked me for my office and I said I was still a student and the man looked at me, saw my job and said my job is fantastic but if he gives me a check of 20 million naira, what will be the insurance that I will not abscond with it. That day, I got home and I cried. I was thinking then that if I had been a son of somebody, they would have given me the job irrespective of me still being in school and do you realize that a month after, the job was given to another company, the CEO invited me over to the office and gave me a check of 50,000 naira. He told me that he loved my samples and he loved my zeal and that I should keep it up. So, at that point, what made me lose that job was that there was no connection and those were the challenges I faced. At a point, I had to create a connection for myself. After crossing that hurdle, I got an office after I left school so that people would know where to locate me for jobs. These problems I faced in stages and I actually overcame with patience. As an entrepreneur you have to take your time. You can’t say that because this person is moving at a fast pace, you too must. A lot of young entrepreneurs don’t want to take their time but taking your time, studying your environment and your approach to it matters.
You seem to have a special interest in cleaning. What made you choose this career?
Basically, why I went into laundry business is that I love service rendering because it requires less capital. You can use any product. In the comfort of your house, you have a table, a cloth and an iron, you’re good to go for the laundry business so it now depends on how your subsequent Income comes it that will determine how you will improve the business or enlarge it. So, service rendering has always been my call of action because people also tend to owe you less. I mean, if you’re not financially buoyant, you won’t go to a drycleaner to wash your clothes. I took my time to understand what suits me and what I can venture into without stressing myself on some things.
The BOI, microfinance banks advertise help for budding entrepreneurs such as yourself. Have you tried these offers?
There was a time I tried but I got scammed. I was told to pay this and that and the effort was wasted.
Where do you see yourself in the next 5 years?
In the next 5 years, I see myself as the CEO of different brands. As a sole entrepreneur, profit maximization is foremost but I see myself as an employer of so many laborers which is my joy. To have like 1000 people working for my company or more will be a great joy for me in the next 5 years.
Now let’s talk about the new business. Your brand is publicizing a grand opening, tell us about it?
Yes, it’s still a service rendering business and a human resource business in which we are going deeply into some solutions. You know, in our country we have so many problems and I’ve taken it upon myself to find the solution to two aspects of that problem and that is Xtreme Affairs Driving and Cleaning Solution. We are into recruiting drivers, outsourcing of drivers, training of drivers, recruitment of cleaners, training of cleaners, outsourcing of cleaners, domestic and industrial cleaning and the likes. Another big aspect we are into now is the cleaning product which we will be unveiling. Our dish liquid wash, our hand wash, stain removal and toilet wash. Subsequently, we will be improving on our different products but those are the four products we are unveiling. It is a broad business and we decided to stay in Ogun State because it is a big space.
Where is your office located?
Our office is very close to Oke-Ilewo at Friendly Plaza, just close to Housing Estate. It is very easy to locate from OPIC. We chose that place because it is at the center of the town and people can easily gain access to us for enquiries.
What do you think the government can do to support young business owners?
Wow. It is a very big question. Government should make enabling needs available. For example, in my business if there is no light, I will spend 4000 naira fuel every day, but if government provides light, I might not even pay 5000 in a month. So, I think government should be able to provide electricity and good roads.
What specific things can government do for entrepreneurs. Yes, you were fortunate not to need a loan…
(cuts in) I need a loan o. if they give me, I’ll collect. What I’m trying to say is that even those entrepreneurs that are just starting, if they don’t have electricity, it is a big problem for them. Someone into laundry that doesn’t pay for fuel or a tanker to give water will find it very easy for him or her and the person can save more to develop his business or look into another business. So government should make sure they give us the basic amenities that we need in Nigeria as they are very important. Government should also make the loan facility easier. Maybe the interest rate should be lower and they should improve on the criteria.
It’s bread and beans. I love beans and that is the only food I know how to cook.
I love PURPLE. See, if they don’t use purple for my wedding, I will remove the suit oh. I don’t trade purple with anything. If you get to my office, you’ll see purple. Our team color for Xtreme Affairs is purple, orange and others. Purple is a royal color and I belong to a royal family laugh.
So you are still single, many believe ‘money before love’, is it true with you too?
Ah. It’s a big question o. okay, while I was going up, even before I reached a stage of asking a woman out, I used to be like I want to get married at 25 to 27 and I used to tell people that if I don’t have 10 million, I won’t get married. At 25, the 10 million did not come. At 26 and 27, the same thing. I’m over 30 now and it’s not as if that money has come but the truth of the matter is, you as a person must be determined and focused. So, if you are looking for love, look out for someone that can help your career and support your dreams because when you don’t have it now and she struggles with you, when eventually it comes, you’ll be so proud that you have a woman that met you when you were nobody. Love should not be a priority but it is something that is necessary. As you are planning a business, plan for your future. Planning for your future is planning for a good woman so don’t say you want to have money before you get married, it might be too late. It is never too late but at a point in time, there is a time for everything. Someone like me, I was like “God, it’s like this thing never come”. You know that sometimes, it might be through a good woman you start a good thing in life. When you find a woman of substance with purpose, it helps your career and a good entrepreneur must find a woman of substance and virtue, a dream supporter, a woman that can take your business like her business, don’t forget that. Most of the time, I tell people that a typical entrepreneur must go for a woman that has at least a 70% or 80% flair for entrepreneurship. It improves your business because when you are in the house thinking of your future, she will think along with you but if she is just a career woman, she may be not be seeing the new phase of yours. Let me give you this instance. I know a situation where the fiancée of a guy told him that she just wants to have 3 children and be working with government and that she just wants to be a millionaire and not a billionaire. Such a woman can draw back a man that has a great vision so you have to look for a woman that suits your standard.
Erm… Hugo Boss.
How do you unwind?
I love playing snooker and my relaxation mood is just crazy. I love staying alone and meditating. I love meditating a lot, as in thinking. That’s when I relax. If I’m not meditating, I’m not relaxing. That’s the truth because as a young entrepreneur I still have a lot to think about. Despite that, I sleep. I can sleep by 9 pm and wake up 5am.