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Tuesday, May 17, 2022

How I once sell ‘Babaringa’ and local hand-made mats ~Elumelu

By Oludare Mayowa

Tony Elumelu, chairman of United Bank for Africa (UBA) Group and serial entrepreneur has revealed the secret of his success over the years as he started his entrepreneurship tutelage from his mother’s canteen and graduated to selling locally made attire ‘Babaringa’  during his service year before he finally settled for banking.

Elumelu in an interview with the New African Magazine latest edition, disclosed how he was influenced by his mother who owned a restaurant where he used to spend his holiday to help out at the age of 20.

“My mother was a big influence. She owned a restaurant and during the holidays I would stay there and help. I used to think, imagine if she did this at a larger scale, she could get more customers and make more profits, so in essence I was becoming more aware of how the world of commerce worked.

“But these were not overriding thoughts at the time,” Elumelu provide an insight into his little begining.

He also revealed how, during his National Youth Service in Sokoto, he used to buy Babaringa from the north and sell in the southern part of the country.

“Yes I do. I did my NYSC stint in Sokoto, Northern Nigeria. They make very good ‘Babaringa’ which is a three-piece local costume that is very popular throughout the country.

“I used to buy these alongside local hand-made mats and sell them to friends in the other end of the country, in the South. I made a little money from this which was very welcome as we were on a small stipend.

“It was exciting to see these little savings accumulate in my bank account,” he narrated his first attempt to make money through buying and selling..

“Later in life, I became interested in real estate and property and that helped in building capital.

“I also started assessing opportunities in other parts of the world. My inspiration came from reading the US Fortune magazine and finding out what was happening in corporate America. It was interesting to see how business decisions were made. I studied market trends and prepared myself for something similar happening in our part of the world.

READ ALSO: Nigeria’s equity market gains on back of Lafarge, Zenith, others rally

“Today, when I discuss with my daughter, I tell her that knowing economic history, business history is very important. It also helps to build self-confidence, told his interviewers in his bid to inspire the younger generation to remain focus in life.

He also narrated how he tinkered with the ideas of setting up bread bakery and other business even during his youth service year and how he was lured by the flamboyant lifestyle of bankers,

“I started wondering how much setting up a bakery or any other enterprise would cost, how to manage it, how to make a profit and so on. I vaguely thought that perhaps one day, I would like to start a business myself.

“So, although I was more focused on becoming a banker and wearing my suspenders, my mind was subconsciously shaping and crystallising ideas that eventually led to where we are today,” he said.

He charged the young one to be determined, prepared and do whatever it will take them to be successful in life.

“To begin with, the road to success is not linear, it is up and down. You have to be very determined and be prepared to do whatever is required for your success. And you have to know what success looks like in your chosen field.

“ example, you know that if you want to go to university, you must first get the required grades from secondary school and to do that, you have to make sacrifices and work very hard. For that you need ironclad discipline.

“It is the same if you want to succeed in business. That kind of discipline and training helps a great deal. If you want to become an entrepreneur, you have to acknowledge that it is not a bed of roses.

“Ask yourself what does it take to succeed? And what I tell people is that you must have laser focus, be disciplined, realise that sacrifices need to be made and I repeat, be prepared to work very hard.

“Of course you must have ambition. You must seek out opportunities and have a platform on which to start implementing your vision. You should think long term, 10 years ahead, not just for tomorrow.

“Once you have accepted this, you can say, let’s give it a go, let’s try it but make sure you stick to the principles I mentioned. Successful entrepreneurs have these principles ingrained in them. They expect challenges because overcoming challenges provides opportunities,” Tony as his co-workers fondly called him said.

Today, Tony Elumelu sits atop of one of the most diversified banking group, Heirs Holdings with interest in real estament, Hospitality business, oil and gas and more importantly his foundation which is helping young Africans to find their feets in the world of business.

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