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In what has become an annual ritual, the Lagos State Government penultimate week brought together accomplished entrepreneurs from around the world to inspire budding entrepreneurs in the state during the 2014 Enterprise Day. Gboyega Akinsanmi writes

No fewer than one thousand students of Lagos State Government Technical Colleges gathered at the NECA House, Alausa recently. Apparently, almost all of them came in search of antidotes to Nigeria’s socio-economic problems, which often cripple businesses and undermine dreams of potential entrepreneurs.

The realities did not prevent the graduating students of the colleges from attending the second edition of Lagos State Enterprise Day, although they came with questions rather than excuses. For those who want paid jobs among them, they lamented the country’s growing incidence of unemployment.

For those who are dreaming to set up their ventures, they acknowledged the hostility of the country’s business environment. They cited infrastructure deficit. They, also, complained about epileptic power supply, all of which the country’s lean number of entrepreneurs had to grapple with in their budding stage.

Even amid these mounting challenges, they all appeared confident about their passion and vision. These critical elements: passion and vision might have explained their decision to partake in the 2014 Enterprise Day, which the Lagos State Government put in place to build a new generation of entrepreneurs.

The Executive Secretary of Lagos State Technical and Vocational Education Board (LASTVEB), Mr. Olawumi Gasper must have placed the passion of the students and the country’s socio-economic challenge side by side before coming up with the theme of the programme and before choosing the guest speakers both within and from outside the county.

Eventually, the graduating students left the NECA House, apparently with renewed vision and vigour after the guest speakers namely; the President of McBride Research Laboratories, Mr. Cornell McBride, Chief Executive Officer of Ruff ‘n’ Tumble, Mrs. Adenike Ogunlesi and Founding Partner of Red Media Africa, Mr. Adebola Williams among others shared their experience of rejection and success.

In their messages, all the guest speakers, mainly McBride, Ogunlesi and Williams, understood why they wanted business empires of their own at the inception, but were confronted with the stark realities of how to get it done. For McBride, it was an urgent need to break from the past and the passion to venture into what would add values to humanity that brought him into entrepreneurship.

For Ogunlesi too, it was her indifference to mere academic qualification despite the fact that her parent was educated at the prestigious Oxford University. Even though she gained admission to undertake law programme at Ahmadu Bello University, Congo Campus, Ogunlesi only managed to spend two weeks on the programme.

Ogunlesi’s reason to quit her law programme was not because she could not cope with the rigour of academic pursuit. But she was merely pursuing what she had passion for rather than mere academic honours. Like others, Ogunlesi shared her stories of rejection and how her tenacity to passion and vision culminated in the birth of Ruff ‘n’ Tumble, now branded an indigenous firm with global appeal.

But the fact that she chose not to pursue her law degree does not make her illiterate, Williams told the graduating students. Rather, Williams said Ogunlesi simply tailored her passion with the right kind of education, which today had made her solution provider despite that people initially rejected her products.

In the same way, Williams encouraged the graduating students “to rise up and position themselves as the country’s solution providers rather than liabilities,” which he said, have become the brands of several youths in Nigeria. He said they did not have excuse not to succeed, citing the right platform and support that the state government “has been giving through LASTVEB.”

But McBride, an American entrepreneur, reeled out some elements, which he said, were critical to the success of entrepreneurs irrespective of the environments and locations they found themselves. He, first, told them the place of conviction, without which he said, it might be difficult to realise their goals and vision.

He, also, pointed out the tenacity to their purpose and vision, which he acknowledged as the basis for building their own business empires. Citing his own example, McBride explained that he knew why he wanted to build a business empire that would outlive him. But he said he did not know how to do it.

Perhaps because he was confronted with ambiguity in the course of building a business, the American entrepreneur acknowledged that he suffered a lot of disruption along the way. In spite of what undermined his business breakthrough, McBride said he did not resign to fate. Rather, he said the purpose for which he was in business kept driving him from distress to stardom.

Besides, McBride emphasised the primacy of humility, which he said, was a quality that helped him in business and in life. He said he had “to do all kinds of odd jobs to make money. And I was proud of doing those odd jobs, even though I went into the US Army when I relocated to the New York at 24. I later went to College in order to hone my entrepreneurial skill. I am simply a product of humility.”

To these elements which McBride pointed out to the graduating students, Ogunlesi added one other critical element, which she described as the cornerstone of every successful business. If they must build viable business empires, Ogunlesi stressed the value of professionalism, which she said, required them to set rules and standards that guide the conduct of their business transaction.

Gasper, thus, explained the state’s drive of raising a new crop of entrepreneurs, who he said, would be the next Fola Adeola, Ibukun Awosika, Femi Faniyi, Simzu Shagaya and Aliko Dangote among others. He linked it with the basis for which the Lagos State Enterprise Day was designed to sensitise the students of the state’s technical colleges on the need for competence-based education.

In the last five years, Gasper said the technical colleges in the state “have already imbibed the entrepreneurial culture as embedded in the curriculum of the technical colleges. Vocational skill trades are sufficiently infused with entrepreneurial elements that have harnessed the power of entrepreneurial competence.”

Unlike the last decade, the executive secretary noted that emphasis was placed on knowledge, skills, qualities, attitude, innovation and creativity among students of the technical colleges in the state, thereby preparing them “to become self-reliant and competitive in the new dynamic and globalised world.”

He added that the state’s entrepreneurship development project of the technical colleges alongside the chosen trade of the students “have no doubt contributed to job creation and acquisition of necessary skills by the graduates towards self-employment.  It is noteworthy that the private sector has been in support.”

He acknowledged the support of the private sector “to produce high-quality competence with entrepreneurial and technical skills for economic growth, well-being of society and creation of long term wealth for individuals. In training them, the spirit of entrepreneurship is continuously being infused into learning, enabling trainees to seek entrepreneurial opportunities leading to success.”

But the state government is not only developing the entrepreneurial capacity of the technical students. Also, the state governor, Mr. Babatunde Fashola pointed out at the forum that the state government had put in place an arrangement for any graduate of its technical colleges “to access takeoff credit facility.”

He said the loans “will be given to the students at single-digit interest rate. Aside, the students are not expected to provide any collateral except that they are not from any of the government owned college of education. That is one of the reasons for the establishment of Lagos State Micro Finance Institution (LASMI).

“The take-off loan from the graduates of the state’s technical colleges will be processed through the LASMI while forms will be provided for the intended students at their various institutions to enable them apply. We have chosen to champion vocational and technical education because it focuses specifically on providing relevant skills while preparing young people to be better positioned to develop new enterprises.

“We have not departed from the position that technical and vocational education presents a complementary approach to general education. Our students are given the right opportunity to explore and identify potential career goals and are provided with the resources needed to achieve goals through technical partnership with industry stakeholders,” the governor explained.

The unveiling of single-digit credit package is a rare gift from the state government, Ogunlesi told the graduating students. At present, she said interest rate was not less than 20 percent in any commercial bank in the country. Consequently, Ogunlesi encouraged them take advantage of the incentive, which he said, the state government had given them to help realise their dreams and visions.

Expectedly, the incentive stirred excitement among the graduating students. For instance, Mr. Adeola Shoboyede of Government Technical College, Agidingbi said he came to the enterprise day confused, but left full of hope. He said his plan “is to be an entrepreneur of global brand,” which he said, the forum had equipped with all the necessary tips to realise what he described as his long-term dream.

Already, he had completed his programme in electrical installation and engineering. Also, he had undergone training in FATE Foundation, which he said, had helped to master the procedure of writing business plan. Now, he said the next stage was to start building his business empire and keep developing capacity in his area of specialisation, which he said, would rank among the best in the next five years.

Likewise, Miss. Mariam Sunday, who rounded off her programme in Computer Craft in Government Technical Colleges, Epe came out the forum a renewed woman. As she put it, the story of the Ruff ‘n’ Tumble founder enthralled her greatly. Sunday, therefore, saw herself occupying a prime place in her calling in the next few years, noting that her gender was not a barrier.

Now, she had undergone training in FATE Foundation and Lagos State Coconut Development Authority (LASCODA), which she said, had exposed her “to the primacy of package in business and the significance of developing workable business plan. I am better equipped with the requisite strategies to do my own business. But I am not yet whom I want to be; neither have I got to where I want to be. I will keep learning how to do thing differently from time to time until I get there…”

Article Credit: Thisdaylive

Updated 4 Years ago

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Tags:     Gboyega Akinsanmi     Mr. Olawumi Gasper     Mr. Cornell McBride     Mrs. Adenike Ogunlesi     Mr. Adebola Williams     Miss. Mariam Sunday