Editor’s Note: This is the second part the interview with our Next Nigerian Entrepreneur, Mr. Chijioke Eze. If you missed the first part, catch up here. In this part, we learn the habits that keep him at the top and what he has to say to our young aspiring Nigerian Entrepreneurs about how to start a business. Enjoy it!
What habits do you have that increase your productivity?
What would you say to the person who wants to become an entrepreneur but lack access to funding?
Let me say that money is everywhere. I had no money when I started but somehow I started and grew my company. When I wanted to farm, I had no land. People thought I was crazy. How are you going to farm when you have no land? But to me, land was one of the easiest things I could get (Laughs). I dreaded the prospect of tilling the land more than getting the land itself because I knew what I had to do to get it. There are empty plots of land from Onitsha all the way to Awka. I simply had to approach the ministry of agriculture. And if they refused, I would meet the traditional ruler of any town. If he refused, I would meet every land owner in that community until I got the land I wanted. To me it was that simple. If you ask me how I’m going to clear the forest, then I would know how to respond. You are telling me about land (laughs). So the first thing I have to say to our young aspiring entrepreneurs is, money is everywhere. You have to believe it with all your heart. You just prepare your mind to do what you have to do and have the passion to work on your ideas. If I want to start a business producing yoghurt now, every can of yoghurt that passes by must catch my eye; I must note every detail. That passion is contagious. Once you have that passion, you must attract money. That money that others are shouting there is no money; that money will come knocking on your door. But the work has to be done by you. Write your business plan and work on it. Money will come.
Some people say they cannot start a business now because of the economic situation of the country…
Yes, things are hard now. Everyone is complaining including myself. But I believe that the best time to prosper is during hard times. There is no preferred time to start a business. The best time to start a business is now. Nigeria is full of opportunities and we are not taking advantage of them. Indians, Lebanese, Chinese all leave their countries and come to Nigeria to mine our riches while we groan of hard times. Tough times don’t last; tough people do. Hard times toughen the skin.
You wake up and all your money is gone. You have only 200k in your account. Present time, present circumstances, what are you going to do?
I’m an entrepreneur. Let’s get that straight. I’m a builder; I’m a creator. I build and create things. I’m better at creating things than in managing and keeping them. Having said that, if I woke up today and realized that I had nothing, I would still create things. If I have a business idea of one million and I have 200k, I’m in heaven. That’s the way mind works. If you are my friend and you have that money, you must give it to me (laughs). The bottom line is, I’m never out of options. It’s a state of mind and it works. The trick is to always be doing something. I wanted to open a company but I had to farm first. And by farming, I was able to tell people that I was serious and that convinced my cousin to go into partnership with me. Assuming I kept the 200k and was moaning about not having one million, nobody would take me seriously. Money is never a problem.
Where do you see yourself 5 years from now?
Next five years…I have not really thought about it. I’ve never given myself a 5 year plan before and I’m still rounding up the last 3-year plan I made. But in the next 5 years, I see myself getting bigger. I must have gone back to school (business school) for exposure, self-development and honing my skills. I must have tripled the net worth of GoodDay Paper Mills Ltd. God must have blessed a lot of people through me. Even now, I have touched a lot of lives. 2 of my staff have started their own companies. So in 5 years, I must have touched more people.
What’s your advice for young entrepreneurs and our unemployed people?
My advice to young Nigerians: it’s unfortunate that we lack good mentoring in Nigeria. That was one of the major problems I had. I lost over 10 million Naira due to business mistakes as a result of lack of mentoring. But don’t be afraid to start something. Go on. Do it. You will get better with time.
Some people have made up their mind to be employees and work. That is very ok. Everybody must not be entrepreneurs. But instead of staying at home and waiting for a job, there has to be something they can do in the meantime because it’s difficult to get a good job these days. Develop yourself. Read books. Study great companies and learn how they started. Kill fear. Fear stops us from doing anything. Fear is good because it is wisdom that makes us fear. But fear should not limit us. It should not stop you from taking action. Go ahead and start a business. There’s no better time.
Two books that changed your life the most?
I’ll give you three because it was my habit of reading books that changed me the most. So the three books that influenced me the most as an entrepreneur are these:
- How to Win Friends and Influence People – Dale Carnegie. I read this one during my second year in the university
- Rich Dad, Poor Dad – Robert Kiyosaki. Everyone who wants to start a business should read this book.
- Rich Dad, Poor Dad – Guide to Investment – Robert Kiyosaki. I read this book over 20 times. The book taught me how to build a team. I have read a lot of books but this one changed my life the most. I later gave it out to a friend who was a banker. He never stopped thanking me.
Editor’s Note: We would love to hear your questions and contributions. If you missed the first part of this interview, you will find it here.