Sunday, October 31, 2010

The Youth Entrepreneur- Joshua Ajayi

Twenty-four years old Joshua Ajayi attended Olabisi Onabanjo University (OOU). For many people, this institution is not one of the Ivy League colleges in Nigeria. But Joshua did not let the Ivory Tower define him. Before graduating, he started a company called “Awesome Communications.” According to him, he saw the yawning gap between the students in Mass Communication department and the Communications industry, and wanted to do something to ameliorate that condition. “The Communicator was born out of the passion to bridge the gap between communicators industry and the classroom.” He said.

His company, Awesome Communications, is a strategic Marketing and communications firm based in Lagos Nigeria. Not only do they publish “The Communicators” a magazine aimed at informing students about the industry, they also host “The Communicators Forum” which brings undergraduates from different universities and professionals in the industry together on one large platform. “There was not enough interaction between the two.”

As a new firm, the challenge of having enough funds for sustainability cannot be over emphasized. On how he is coping despite the challenges, he said “the God factor and being strategic in sourcing funds by building relationship with people whom will give access to the funds.”

His advice to young people aspiring to start-up their company is to have a clear vision of what they want to do-- “Ask yourself if you are passionate about it. When you face challenges, it is the passion that keeps you to your vision. You must be persistent. Build relationship with right people. Be at the right place at the right time. Meet the right people that will help bring your vision to reality. Do a detailed analysis of the industry you are going into-- be knowledgeable about the field before you go into the market. Do a personal SWOT (Strength, Weakness, Opportunity, Threat) analysis in order to help foster your vision.”

One other important factor he mentioned is mentorship. Before starting off he got different mentors- Legal mentor, financial mentor, inspirational mentor and professional mentor.

Joshua is currently serving (NYSC) in Jos, Plateau State. On how he was able to establish his company while still in school, he said “lecturers were not so frequent in class so those free time I used...” From this example, you can see that you do not need the euphoria of schooling abroad to set the ball rolling to actualize your dream. And also, instead of nagging about circumstances, which seems beyond control e.g. lecturers going on strike, It is important to position yourself right-- do personal research/study and use the stumbling blocks as stepping stones. A transformational education does not begin and end in the Ivory Tower.

Sunday, October 24, 2010

Find your bright spot: A woman making a difference

I am inspired by stories of young girls/ladies who have found their bright spot. One of them is Emilia Asim-Ita. Does that name ring a bell? If you are familiar with the Futures Project (Future Awards), Youth Talk on NTA 2 etc. then you’ll know this dynamic lady that simply describes herself as a woman making a difference.

A graduate of Mass Communication, from the University of Lagos, twenty-three years old Emilia is currently the CEO of Thistle Praxis Consulting, a Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) Consulting firm she started after she moved on from The Future Project (Future Awards). She didn’t just wake up one morning to start her company. She has her recipe, an experience you can trace back to her work “Youth Talk” on NTA 2, The Futures Awards project and other youth development work. All these she did while she was still in school.

Thistle Praxis Consulting that is barely six months old has worked for three organizations and in talks with many more. As a Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) Consulting firm, the major challenges they see in the sector is the lack of core understanding of what CSR is and should be; proper funding and reporting standards (GRI indices etc). On how they intend to revamp the sector, Emilia said “We expect to promote compliance and proper training on CSR through awareness creation. Then, an increase in organizations implementing CSR policies in mainstream business operations.”

She didn’t just wake up one morning to start her company. She has her recipe, an experience you can trace back to her work “Youth Talk” on NTA 2, The Futures Awards project and other youth development work. All these she did while she was still in school.

How do you combine your activities with studies?
It is quite challenging but unfortunately, there’s no way to avoid it. The option of abandoning one for the other cannot be considered, so I take everything as each comes. Timing is important. Setting priorities for each task and deliverable helps to put some pattern to the chaos workloads.

Was it very challenging for you when you first ventured into youth development work?
It was. Then, the social entrepreneurship sector had not emerged and corporate organizations were clueless about what CSR is all about. Advocacy for young people at all levels and in all sectors is key – always. For each organization and project, what is the succession plan, is there a youth version for the project to ensure that the future is carried along immediately? These are the big questions...So far, a lot of people have grown into this realization. Unfortunately, there are so many other branded or self-acclaimed ‘activists’ who do not pursue what I like to call the Youth Agenda. In summary, the challenges still remain just that they have taken new dimensions; effects and so require new approaches.

Did you often put education on hold to accomplish the other?
I did put a few things on hold to accomplish one or two things, in this sense. One has to take life a day at a time and in so doing, certain things will rank higher in any individual’s priority list. What matters is how long you put something on hold for another and what plans you have to accomplish all that you dream of or have set out to do in life.

What practical steps have helped you create a balance these past years?
New media has helped a great deal. Emails, telephone meetings/conference calls substitute for regular or frequent physical meetings. For over 5years, I didn’t have a life as I could hardly find time for social functions, vacations and even family engagements. However, I have come to realize the importance of creating a balance and have since taken drastic steps to do so. For instance, weekends are sacrosanct to reach out to friends and family – take time to call, pay short visits, show up at social engagements – even if very briefly.

What is your advice to young Nigerians struggling to find their path/purpose and/or those aspiring to start-up a company like you?
There are really no hard and fast rules to starting a business. Do your feasibility study (no matter how basic) to ensure there is a gap your business will fill which ensures demand when you set up.
In order to find your path, there's work to be done. To discover one's self, understand the problem you solve and the purpose for which you were born. Read, learn, ask - self-discovery and the truth are never too far away.

What is your advice to young Nigerians who still believe no young person can “make it” in Nigeria?
That's a big lie. With all modesty, it is not that easy and simple; but its not rocket science either. It is possible to 'make it' - which will mean build a successful career and business and not become rich in an unreasonably short period of time. I have seen people evolve from obscurity to positions of impact and relevance and I think it is possible.

What are the key principles that have kept you on course and eventually helped you start up your firm?
Plan. You can never overplan. Never be afraid to dream BIG; I am a big dreamer and all those who have worked with me before can attest to the fact that I dream big. Even if I am mocked; my dreams always are achievable. So, dream but in dreaming; walk the vision - the future, backwards on a path to where you are - the present.
Principles. Define the principles you live your life by. Its always pays off- even if everyone else is doing the wrong thing. Stick to the right thing. I have learnt that goodwill and integrity can never be bought with money or replaced by wealth. Never abuse relationships, which amounts to abuse of individuals and potential - that ruins people and businesses faster than they can ever imagine.

Sunday, October 17, 2010

Find your Bright Spot: The Warri-Makeover

As an undergrad, interning at Warri Refinery of NNPC gave Ogunyemi Bankole Taiwo an opportunity to understand the practical application of what had been taught in the Ivory Tower- Lagos State University. Working at the Tank farm of the Oil movement section as a shift worker, Taiwo was able to transform the paper layout of the Pump house A flow chart to a Computer Aided Design format voluntarily. Due to his computer competency, he was given a bigger task to monitor the pumps and calculate the various Pump heads. He became the youngest of the team that re-scheduled the work instruction mechanism of the department. While in Warri, Bankole got interested in environmental reclamation of wasted lands that were affected by oil spill. In his final year project, he focused his dissertation around this theme, which won him 3rd position in the Society for Petroleum Engineers (NAICE) Competition in February 2010.

During his internship, Taiwo became interested in developing the young people in Warri, dispelling the norm that you only repair the village of your kinsmen. After graduation, Taiwo returned to setup a Youth Development Center called THE VISIONARIES ACADEMY (TVA) focusing on Environment, Entrepreneurship and ICT.

So far, the organization which started on the 26th of April, 2010 has inaugurated Green Clubs in Public and Private secondary schools in Warri, in conjunction with the Ministry of Education; participated in environmental sanitations organized by the State Government; organized a capacity building program for the Green Ambassadors on climate change during the 2010 World Environment Day; and also held the 1st Summer Technology in Delta State- Warri-South LG and Uvwie Local Government. About 616 Public Secondary School Students were trained on the practical use of a computer for two weeks.

Not deterred by the lack of sponsorship for his projects, Taiwo and his team will be hosting the 1st youth-driven Community Service in Delta state tagged ‘Warri-Makeover’ on the 29th-30th of Oct, 2010- to spur the culture of youth participation in Nation Building, at community level and eradicate the culture of “waiting for the government.”

Warri-makeover will feature young people from different parts of Nigeria coming together to paint 3 Public Primary and Secondary School each in Warri, and also plant eco-friendly trees. This will usher a new wave of Community rebranding of Warri whose image has been daunted by the international community as a region where militants are groomed, men are lazy and unsafe environment. With a mission of empowering tomorrow’s leaders today, Taiwo, has pitched his tent in the Warri region, building synergy with youths in Niger-Delta for progressive Social development. For more information on how to get involved in the Warri-Makeover, email Change is possible!

Monday, October 11, 2010


What is working and how can we do more of it? What are young Nigerians doing that is making them outstanding and high achievers despite the limitations in our society? That’s the bright-spot philosophy inspired by Chip and Dan Heath (Yeah, I’m so into the Heath brothers’ book- SWITCH).

Millions of youths in Nigeria can’t wait for the next election, when they will be given an opportunity to vote for a new government leader that will fix all the hopeless problems in our country and make policy reforms that are people-centered. But, as noted in Fast Company, “A problem may look hopelessly complex. But there's a game plan that can yield movement on even the toughest issues. And it starts with locating a bright spot -- a ray of hope.” It went on to illustrate this by listing some people who found their bright spot and rose to the top-- Tennessee Titans quarterback Vince Young couldn't handle stardom, then he spent a year watching and learning how veteran QB Kerry Collins did his job; Alan Mulally was CEO material but scored the top job at Ford only after identifying two key improvement areas with the help of an executive coach; Actress Angelina Jolie triggered her transformation from wild child to humanitarian by moving out of Los Angeles and its culture of bad influences.

In journalism class, we are taught that when a dog bites a man, it is not news. But when a man bites a dog, it should make the headline-- or at least frontpage. In the same tone, it seems people who nag about the many challenges in our society are no longer making news because, being problem-focused is driving us backward. We all need to switch position, become solution-focused and start sharing stories of how people are overcoming everyday challenges to become the best they can be. For example, our story should not be “We failed woefully because of lack of electricity to read for exams” but “We thrived and succeeded despite all the poor infrastructures and limitations.”

There are many bright spots in Nigeria. We just need to recognize them, understand them and learn from them. Feel free to send us stories of any young person you know in your community who has chosen to rise above the limiting circumstances around him/her. It will be interesting to share their story in order to inspire our generation to arise and emulate the winning and solution-focused attitude of these people. Send email to Find your bright spot, arise from the depression and prostration in which circumstances in Nigeria have kept you, and blaze the trail for others coming after you.

***Feedback:"Find your bright spot" in DIS GENERATION is incisive. May God keep refilling your pen-Egharevba Henry

Monday, October 04, 2010

One Nation, One Voice: “Message of Hope” for Nigeria @ 50

Chip Heath & Dan Heath, the authors of “Switch: How to Change things when change is hard” stated that although analytical qualities can be helpful sometimes, in situations where change is needed, too much analysis can doom the effort. So instead of sizing up the problems in Nigeria and agonizing over them, here is our “Message of Hope”, as we celebrate the golden year- 50th Independence Anniversary. There is hope in our future, and there is a future in our hope:

“Nigeria is a great country… we don't need any prophet to assure us of that. We can see God's hands in everything we do… The answer to moving Nigeria to the next level is in the hands of the youths. Look everywhere and see the power, potential and ability of the average Nigerian Youth--(and you’ll be filled with hope)” Morakinyo Olugbiji, Lagos.

“We are a people strong in will, we are a nation diverse in culture yet united in peace... I salute a blessed nation at 50” Peter Ukhurebor, Miami.

“My message to Nigerians on this occasion of the country's 50th anniversary is to keep the dreams of our founding fathers alive in our time… let's keep working towards the Nigeria of our dreams…let's keep the faith. Nigeria will be great again; Nigeria will stand tall again among nations.” Peter Akoteyan, Malaysia.

“Let us try not to make what happened to vision 2010 happen to vision 2020. I remember I was in primary school when they (the government leaders) set a target for the country to be a better place by 2010…We must start seeing ourselves as better than what we are now. Break the mental slavery. ” Douglas Imaralu, Enugu.

“Nigeria! I am very proud to be a citizen of this great country. I so much believe there is light at the end of the tunnel for us, though we are not where we should be but the good thing is that we are not where we use to be.” Bukola Idowu, Lagos.

“We should never give up on Nigeria. It has been fifty years of chequered history. Let's us join hands together to make the next fifty years the Nigeria that our children's children would definitely be proud of. Nigeria will surely be great again. It's up to Nigerians to change NIGERIA" Arukaino, Lagos.

“As we celebrate Nigeria @ 50, I want the youths to ponder on what our generation will do for Nigeria. We need to depart from the 50 years of self-propaganda and tribalism to evolve a better Nigeria. Lets join hands to build a better Nigeria” BabaTunde Rosanwo, Ukraine.

Happy 50th Independence Anniversary Nigerians! There is hope in our future; there is a future in our hope. God Bless Nigeria.