Leadership (Abuja)

31 January 2014

Nigeria's Young Entrepreneurs

D'banj - Don't Tell Me Nonsense ( Resource: D'banj - Don't Tell Me Nonsense

There is a crop of young people who have chosen to defy the odds and succeed in their chosen fields of endeavour in spite of the harsh economic terrain of the country and lack of opportunities and infrastructure that continue to hinder many of their peers from seeing the potential they possess within to accomplish their dreams in life.

All is not gloom and doom for Nigeria's future. Our highlight on some of these highly skilled and innovative young Nigerian entrepreneurs, who are doing the country proud both at home and abroad, is testament to the "never say die" Nigerian spirit.

Sadiya Halima Umar

33-year-old Sadiya Halima Umar is the MD/C.E.O of Karkara Rapid Development (KRD) Nigeria Limited. She is also the group managing director of Umoru Investment Holding Limited, a company described in her words as "our flagship company".

Sadiya was born with the blood of entrepreneurship flowing in her veins, having grown under the mentorship of her parents, Amb (Dr) M.S Umoru and the late Hajiya Halima M.S. Umoru, both of whom were industrialists. Sadiya had all her tertiary education in universities abroad, having attended American College, London, Boston University, Massachusetts, USA and University of Michigan, Saginaw, Michigan, USA, where she obtained a Bachelor's degree in Business Administration, Master's degree in Business Administration and a diploma in Environmental Sciences respectively.

Her viable Karkara Rapid Development Nigeria Limited is an energy solutions-based holding company for a consortium of international green energy firms, with special focus on the reduction and elimination of varying waste streams, by converting them to the much-needed power.

Rilwan Hassan

Rilwan Hassan, 30, is the general managing director of Focal Point Group and publisher of Sardauna magazine, which he founded in 2004 while still an undergraduate student at the Ahmadu Bello University (ABU), Zaria. He is an entrepreneur to the core, having commenced engaging in commercial activity at the age of 14, when his peers were most likely depending wholly on their parents.

Hassan is a trained engineer from Kaduna State. His Focal Point Group has gradually evolved into a conglomerate, with subsidiaries such as Focal Point Drycleaners, Focal Point Publishing Limited, Focal Point Construction Limited and Sardauna magazine.

Hassan is a man of uncommon entrepreneurial acumen, wit and industry. He set up the Sardauna Leadership Award, which commands a lot of influence and attention among the political class and elite of northern Nigeria.

Linda Ikeji

Born September 19, 1980 in Nkwerre local government area of Imo State, 34-year old Linda Ikeji is a successful entertainment blogger.

Linda, who has always had an interest in writing, developed a passion for the media with the voracious consumption of content, from news to interviews. When the time came for college education, she opted for Mass Communication, but was rather admitted to study English at the Lagos State University.

To fund her education, at the age of 17 she worked as a waitress, usher, model and bartender - jobs that didn't pay much in the 90s. Her modelling career spanned six years (1998-2005) before she gave it up. She became a fashion columnist for a struggling magazine, but quit after two years of hard toil in the newsroom.

Linda also spearheaded a magazine called FM & B, first published in 2006. It had only two more editions before the stressful and expensive reality of magazine publishing led to its closure. Her recognition and introduction in the blog world came the same year when she received a review in Bella Naija, another popular Nigerian blog site, and took up full blogging in 2007.

Five years later, Linda Ikeji's blog had developed into one of the juiciest daily blogs for news on entertainment, celebrity gist, lifestyle and much more.

Igho Sanomi

Igho Sanomi is the CEO of Taleveras Group, a viable Nigerian energy-trading firm. Sanomi founded the company in 2004 and the company has been growing in fortunes since then.

Currently, the company trades over 100 million barrels of crude oil and millions of tons of gasoline and jet fuel.

Taleveras, in 2012, secured production-sharing contracts for three offshore oil blocks in Cote d' Ivoire. In June last year, it sold off about 65 per cent of one of its offshore projects in Cote d' Ivoire to a Russian company, Lukoil.

The 39-year-old Sanomi also has business interests in power, as his company also has a stake in a power distribution firm in Nigeria. He was recently listed as one of the youngest billionaires in Africa when he was rated to have a net worth of $1billion.

Omoleye Sowore

42 year-old Omoleye Sowore runs his on-line media company, Sahara Reporters from a cluttered seventh floor office located on West 29th Street, Manhattan, 5000 miles away from Nigeria and Africa.

Sahara Reporters is an on-line news agency founded in 2006 that focus on the promotion of citizen journalism by everyday people who report stories of corruption, human rights violations and other political misconducts in Nigeria. It has been referred to as the 'Wikileaks of Africa' by The Daily Beast in ... Its content include photo, videos, news reports and official document publication.

It's been majorly supported by grants by Ford Foundation worth $175, 000 over the past two years and $450,000 grant worth from The Omidyar Foundation.

Its milestones include its record as the first contemporary media to provide details of late President Yar'adua's health status and whereabouts. It is the first news source to identify and publish the picture of the Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab, who attempted to bomb Northwest Airlines Flight 253 on Christmas Day in 2009.

It reports illegal activities of Nigerian politicians and individuals and is placed on Nigeria's top security watch list. It is protected by the US Constitution First Amendment despite threats from implicated individuals on the website.

Aisha Suleiman Achimugu

Mrs. Aisha Suleiman Achimugu is one of Nigeria's young, accomplished entrepreneurs. She is the managing director (MD) and chief executive officer (CEO) of Felak Concepts Limited, a company incorporated in 2000. The company, whose headquarters is located at Maitama, Abuja, provides consultancy services relating to health, equipment procurement, training and capacity building.

Aisha, a resilient entrepreneur who just marked her 40th birthday, had hitherto proven her worth in maritime and transportation engineering. She is the first woman transaction advisor/consultant to develop a seaport in Nigeria. In recognition of her accomplishments and her contributions towards the development of Africa, Aisha was, in Kenya, honoured as the Fastest Growing Entrepreneur of the year 2013 by African Achievers Awards (AAA), a platform conceived to recognise individuals and organisations that have distinguished themselves in their efforts towards the growth and development of the continent.

2Face Idibia

Innocent Ujah Idibia was born in Jos, Plateau State, Nigeria. A native of Benue State, he is better known by his stage name '2Face Idibia'. The singer, songwriter and record producer is the most decorated and successful Hip-hop artiste in Africa. He is consistently ranked as one the best African musicians of all-time. He was a member of the defunct Plantashun Boyz who, after the band split up embarked on a solo musical career.

2Face has received one MTV Europe Music Award, one World Music Award, five Headies awards (hip-hop awards), four Channel O Music Video Awards and one BET award for his musical work, four MTV Africa Music Awards, one MOBO award, one KORA award and numerous additional nominations.

Aisha Augie

Aisha Augie is a photographer par excellence. She is from Kebbi State and is the CEO of Meer Maad Networks Limited. She is also a co-founder of Centre for Arts and Creative Talent (CACT).

Aisha attended the Ahmadu Bello University (ABU), Zaria, Nigeria, Chelsea College of Arts and Design, London, UK, New York Film Academy and the Pan African University. She is a woman of courage in business, tapping opportunities without hesitation. She was a recipient of the Creative Artist of the Year award at the Future Awards in 2011. Aisha is indeed an outstanding young woman.

Audu Maikori

Audu Maikori is the man behind entertainment outfit Chocolate City, which first began as a nightclub in 1997. Chocolate City quickly became the preferred promotions outfit in the northern part of Nigeria and moved into the industry mainstream in 2005 with the launch of the record label Chocolate City Music.

In 2001, Maikori founded the Guild of Artistes and Poets (GAP), with Paul Okeugo. It became known as an "arts appreciation society", which held weekly meetings with unflinching focus on creativity as a means of engaging young people. The GAP metamorphosed into a New Age art renaissance movement that quickly gained popularity in Jos, Abuja and Lagos, with a combined membership of over 3,000 at its peak. The GAP brought to light the need for artistes to have better representation, which Audu provided in form of pro bono legal services. Eventually, this led him to register Chocolate City with his bonus earnings. The first act to be signed on to the Chocolate City label was multi-talented instrumentalist, vocalist, songwriter and producer Jeremiah Gyang.

Ola Orekunrin

Ola Orekunrin is a 25-year-old medical doctor and the founder of Flying Doctors Nigeria Limited, which she set up in 2010 as the first air ambulance service provider in West Africa's health care history.

Ola was a medical student in the United Kingdom when she lost her 12-year-old younger sister, who was on holiday in Nigeria at the time. She suddenly fell sick and her condition quickly became critical. What she needed to save her life then was urgent medical attention.

Unfortunately, the closest hospital with the capacity to treat her worsening condition was in South Africa and there was no way to get her there fast enough. The child died. Ola was left greatly traumatised by her sister's death; she described it as "devastating". But the young medical doctor's pain motivated her into establishing an air ambulance service to intervene in the event of such critical situations, setting up the first of its kind not only in Nigeria, but also in West Africa.

Oluwaseun Osewa

Mr Oluwaseun Osewa is the founder of Nairaland, which is widely believed to be Africa's largest online general interest discussion forum.

Osewa took the bold step to establish Nairaland in 2005. Interest in the forum has continued to grow and Nairaland can now boast of about one million registered members. It is also believed to be the most widely used and popular website in Nigeria today. Osewa's Nairaland is visited more frequently than Wikipedia and other websites. Ironically though, not too many Nairaland users know who its founder is.

Opeyemi Awoyemi, Olalekan Olude and Ayodeji Adewunmi

Opeyemi Awoyemi, 26, Olalekan Olude, 30 and Ayodeji Adewunmi, 30, are the founders of Jobberman.com, a job search navigation site they co-founded in 2009. The company sources information from companies where job vacancies exist and from recruitment agencies, and then posts such information to its website, where it can be accessed by job seekers.

The young entrepreneurs are graduates of the Obafemi Awolowo University (OAU), Ile Ife, where Olalekan and Opeyemi were course mates in Computer Engineering and Ayodeji studied Medicine.

The Jobberman site has gained immense popularity among Nigerian youths - the working class and job seekers alike. The platform is visited by over 50, 000 users daily. As the number of job seekers in the Nigerian labour market increases daily, Jobberman masterfully helps to link suitably qualified candidates to the right job opportunities. The company now has branches in Ghana and Kenya and intends to open more branches.

Adebola Williams and Chude Jideonwo

Partners Adebola Williams and Chude Jideonwo are the co-founders of Red Nigeria, a media-content, communication and development company. This media firm subsequently gave birth to another firm, The Future Project, which organises the Future Awards annually, to recognise and reward outstanding young Nigerians.

Deborah and Jessica Umunnabuike

Avant Gaudy, an online vintage clothing company of international proportions based in Chicago, USA, was established in 2005 by Deborah and Jessica and deals in vintage clothing. Deborah and her sister, Jessica were 23 and 21 years old respectively when they were profiled in Bloomberg BusinessWeek 2007's list of best business entrepreneurs below 25 years.

The recruitment of the company's third and fourth partners - Vincent Choi as creative director and Mariefe Nellas as CEO - brought a much-needed international outlook and customer growth, as Choi saw to the deployment of the new products site's re-launching.

Two years after it was launched, the site had more than 26,000 visitors from 30 countries. By 2009, Avant Gaudy had recruited eight full time interns for summer internship programmes. It also received applications from more than 20 MBA candidates from business programmes such as HBS, Stanford and MIT Sloan.

Deborah is also the co-founder of EatHarlem.com and owns the domain ny.eater.com.

Eeefy Ify Ike

Eeefy Ify Ike is a model, author, event specialist, motivational speaker and founder of the New World Hope Foundation, an NGO focused on the establishment of burn centres in developing communities. Ike is a young female Nigerian entrepreneur with focus to change the lives of women and youth.

She is the 13th out of 17 children, with the six stepsiblings from her father, Chief Wilfred Ike. Her overwhelming confidence did not come easily, as she sustained a third-degree burn on her stomach, chest and legs at the age of three. Lack of funds for treatment and the absence of burn centres in Nigeria forced her to live in isolation with the pain and ugly scars, until she got married to an Italian engineer and contractor, who took her to Europe for treatment.

She was awarded a Nigerian Goodwill Ambassador Merit Award in 2013 and is the author of the book Peering Through the Depths of Life.

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