Brands & Marketing

Successful Entrepreneurs in Nigeria – Their First Jobs (part 4)

Successful entrepreneurs are individuals that have shown resilience against business uncertainties, and have created values that attract attention in the marketplace. Oftentimes, these individuals proffer solutions to problems in a dynamic way thereby making their brands outstanding.

Two of such persons that have done unique things that stand them out in the respective industry each of them operates are Biodun Shabanjo and Michael Ade Ojo.

Biodun Shobanjo- Studio Manager at a Radio Station

Abiodun Olusina Shobanjo was born on the 24th of December, 1944 in Jabba, Kwara State where his father worked with Nigerian Railway Corporation.

successful Entrepreneurs
Biodun Shobanjo

He attended St. George’s Primary School, Zaria in the North-western part of Nigeria. Thereafter, he proceeded to Odogbolu Grammar School in the Southwest. He later attended the College of the Institute of Marketing, Cookham, Maidenhead, England, where he obtained the College’s certificate in Marketing.

Mr. Biodun Shobanjo started his career in 1964 with Nigeria’s equivalent of the BBC, the Nigerian Broadcasting Corporation (NBC) now Federal Radio Corporation of Nigeria (FRCN). He started as a studio manager. He left as a producer in 1971. He later joined the Client Service department of the American owned advertising agency, Grant in 1971.

Towards the end of 1979, he took a decision to leave his job to establish Insight Communications, a marketing communications company and a mega player in the world of advertising in Nigeria. The company started business in January, 1980.

When Insight Communications found itself in a situation where outdoor advertising media owners were short-changing clients with their poor service delivery, Insight’s most important clients were threatening to take their entire outdoor businesses outside the country. Shobanjo invested in an outdoor media company, a move which met with resistance from some sections of the outdoor industry.

Today, the company, Optimum Exposures, is one of the most innovative outdoor companies in Nigeria and ranks among the top 5 outdoor advertising companies in Nigeria.

A few years after, he established the first PR consultancy in Nigeria, The Quadrant Company in January 1990, to offer public relations services to clients that needed it. The same year, the need to address account conflict resulting from referrals by satisfied clients led to the establishment of MC&A, the first Nigerian AD agency to be affiliated to the Saatchi & Saatchi global agency.

Following the need to provide security for their key assets and investment, the group which has now come to be known as the Troyka Group flaunted a security and asset protection company called Halogen Security. The outfit was to look after their senior managers, their residences and offices. As the outfit grew, they discovered that they had extra capacity and decided to offer their services to those who desired them. The group continued, under the leadership of Mr. Shobanjo, to expand into diverse and growing sectors of the brand communication business.

In 1997, the group established four companies: All Seasons Media Company (a media planning agency), MIT Healthcare (a brand communication agency dedicated to health care brands), African Barter Company (a television content company), and Optistal (an outdoor advertising production and installation outfit).

Mr. Biodun Shobanjo today oversees the activities of Troyka Holdings with many of the companies playing leading roles in their respective industry categories. His company has over seven thousand employed Nigerian men and women.

Michael Ade Ojo – Sold Charcoal, firewood to supplement family income

Renowned billionaire and a business magnet, Micheal Ade Ojo was born on June 14, 1938 to the family of Chief Solomon Ojo and Chief (Mrs.) Beatrice Ademolawe Ojo, at Ilara-Mokin, in Ondo State.

successful Entrepreneurs
Michael Ade Ojo

Ojo wasn’t born with the proverbial silver spoon in his mouth, which was why he hawked on the streets, a greater part of his childhood, selling charcoal, firewood and food to contribute to the family income.

His determination to break barriers and overcome adverse circumstances accounted for his meteoric rise to the top echelon of the Nigerian society, such that today, his name rings a bell as an entrepreneur of great repute and an educationist, within and outside the country – with a national honour in his kitty.

He obtained his first degree in Business Administration from the University of Nigeria, Usuka (UNN). He also attended various management developmental courses, including the chief executives’ program of the Lagos Business School

The assurance of a promising career in a multinational organisation lay in the fact that the last two years of his university education were sponsored by CFAO, a notable name in the sales of motor vehicles. That was where he worked after graduation in 1965, for two years, learning the ropes in auto sales. The employment was on a contract basis, and at the expiration of the contract, he decided to look elsewhere, rather than renew it.

The decision to leave CFAO was a product of circumstance, and brought out in him a man that does not suffer injustice. In a single transaction, he had sold 20 trucks to the Electricity Corporation of Nigeria, but watched in utter dismay as his manager took credit for the sale.

He joined the Federal Inland Revenue Service as a tax inspector upon leaving CFAO, a job that made him feel like a fish out of water. Since he couldn’t cope with the boredom of having to stay in the office to treat one or two files in a whole day, Ojo registered a company called Elizade Trading Stores (a name coined from the first three letters of his wife’s name, Elizabeth and his name, Ade), as far back as 1968 while still in employment. The company came in handy when the opportunity to enter the world of business beckoned.

Read Also: Successful Entrepreneurs in Nigeria – Their First Jobs (Part 3)

He started out as a freelance salesman for R. T. Briscoe, on a commission basis. In an effort to expand the business, he approached a bank for a loan of 600 pounds, but could not pursue it further when the bank asked for collateral in the same amount. If he had the money in the first place, there would be no need for the loan, he told the bank. He said he had his brain, but the bank told him it did not accept brain as collateral. Ojo was eventually bailed out by a cousin who offered him the loan, which he was able to repay within three months.

Ojo was able to raise 2,000 pounds from earnings and savings to pay for a flat at 71 Awolowo Way, Ikeja, which served as his office and residence. With the issue of accommodation settled, the next challenge was how to raise money to buy the first car for display in his showroom.

Read Also: Successful Entrepreneurs in Nigeria – Their First Jobs (Part 2)

He secured another job to freelance for a branch of CFAO that dealt in heavy-duty trucks, in addition to working for R. T. Briscoe. And with the money he made from the two companies, he was able to buy two cars for display in his showroom.

Spurred by his phenomenal success in the car business, Ojo acquired the license to import Toyota cars into Nigeria, under the name of the company, Toyota Nigeria Limited. Indeed, he is credited with singlehandedly popularising the Toyota brand in Nigeria, such that he was given the sobriquet of “Mr. Toyota”.

Read Also: Successful Entrepreneurs In Nigeria- Their First Jobs (1)

Today, Elizade Trading Stores that commenced operations with one staff in 1971 and is today known as Elizade Nigeria Limited, has grown into an octopus with tentacles in many sectors, with companies such as Toyota Nigeria Limited, R. T. Briscoe Nigeria, Crown and Gold Shipping Company Limited, Odua Creations Limited, Crown Motors Nigeria Limited, Classic Motors Nigeria Limited and Okin Travels Limited, among others. Michael Ade Ojo is also the owner of the popular Elizade University, in Ondo State.

Joy Adams

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