Move Back To Nigeria: “Nigeria Taught Me To Be Humble” – Story of the Serial Employee in the UK Who Became a Successful Entrepreneur in Nigeria

African ManMove Back to Nigeria is a new series on BellaNaija. The aim is to encourage  young and not-so-young professionals in the diaspora who are trying to make the decision of whether to move back to Nigeria. In collaboration with the guys at MoveBackToNigeria.com, we hope to bring you a weekly interview with individuals who have successfully made the leap. The idea is to share their successes and their challenges as they made the decision.

This week we speak with a Nigerian professional whose back story is very intriguing. He is a communications and graphic design expert and currently runs his own company after moving back to Nigeria from the UK  to start from ground zero.  Please note that the identities of the respondents will be concealed in order to protect them. We hope you enjoy the interviews and you are inspired and motivated. We also welcome discussions and your views on the subject matter.

Can you briefly introduce yourself and tell us a bit about your education background?
I’m a trained architect & a tech geek. I run my graphic design & corporate communications business. I studied architecture at a reputable Nigerian university and got a Masters degree in the UK. My career choice was due to the fact that my father did not want me to follow in his engineering footsteps so he personally filled out architecture in my Jamb forms and that’s how I ended up there. Dad was always strongly involved in my upbringing. In junior secondary school, he enrolled me at a tailoring school to learn how to sew and after secondary school, I had to attend computer lessons as well. Even during the ASUU (Academic Staff Union of Universities) strikes which were quite frequent at the time, I had different jobs including a stint at the AIM GROUP, Lagos where I worked the graveyard shift on radio. My time there gave me a good overview of business administration. Also, while studying architecture, I learnt how to design using computer-aided software and this is how I fell in love with all things I.T related. I’ve always been very entrepreneurial as I started a business in my undergraduate days which on another note, is how I met my wife as she was attracted to my creative drive. Our services essentially involved taking pictures and creating experiences and even after I graduated, I was constantly going back to visit, as my then girlfriend, now wife was still studying there and I was a very love-struck young man.

Very interesting. We hope you’re still love-struck. So when did you leave Nigeria and why?
Oh yes, I certainly am. Well, my younger brothers had left Nigeria to the UK for their A levels and kept telling me about the UK’s amazing opportunities. They thought with my soft skills, as I am often described as  being charming and personable, that I would do really well in such an environment and so I decided to initially visit which I did and then I came back home to apply for a masters degree at Middlesex University and a student visa.  It was a successful application and so I eventually left in 2000. I should state that my time at AIM was instrumental to what I currently do for a living. I learnt a lot because I was very persistent and kept trying to know and understand everything around me.  I also had a mentor there who was very tech-savvy and who inspired me and painstakingly showed me the ropes. From AIM, I left the country.

How did your professional life take off?
What I do is Communications Collateral which is corporate communications with a strong branding edge, essentially creating the brand message on different platforms and disseminating to the client’s target audience. In the UK, I worked with a charity and then a company called City Index which eventually got acquired by Rank Zerox and became BlueSquare where my professional life began but where I was later let go. Studying for my postgraduate degree in the UK while simultaneously getting I.T certifications gave me a global view of design and also opened my eyes to more career opportunities and perspectives.

I got a project with a bank and set up a company with a friend to implement the brief. It was a small business which was turning over about £300 a month but things changed and the business was not doing well and so my partner went to start his own company which led to a falling out and so the company closed down. At this point things got really difficult for my family. We could not pay our bills, we had maxed out our credit cards, my wife sold her car etc and so I went ahead and got my first job in the UK. It was a minimum wage job and it was while there I met my first UK mentor who encouraged me to get Cisco certification and helped me move to a better job that paid £18000 per annum. Then I met a second mentor who worked with the Food Standards Agency (FSA) and helped me get a job there which I thoroughly enjoyed. It was a contract job and eventually due to visa restrictions, I lost the job.

Then I got my next job in corporate communications at Cazenove which was eventually bought by JP Morgan. Another job I enjoyed. However, after a while, my wife got fed up of the UK and we started looking for opportunities in Nigeria, as the time had come for us to move back.

This naturally leads us to your reason for moving back. How did you decide it was time to move back and what was the process like?
As far as I was concerned, I had no skills, had worked in core finance at the FSA and corporate communications at BlueSquare. JP Morgan however, opened me to a global perspective and everyday at work was a WOW moment for me. I thoroughly loved it! So I was not interested in coming back to Nigeria at all, particularly for security reasons. But I found that every time I went back to visit, I was truly at peace. I would compare it to the superficial work-life in the UK and so moving back started becoming appealing, particularly with regards to family life as my wife was really keen to move. There were obvious advantages: We could relax in warm weather, eat pepper soup (which I enjoy), be closer to family and raise our kids with the cultural values we so admired. And then around this time, my visa expired and our hands were forced, we had to move. Let me state clearly that it was not a voluntary move. I loved being in the UK, I had started a charity, work was finally going well and I was quite happily settled but we had to move and so we did.

How have you found it, particularly with regards to your entrepreneurial orientation?
Nigeria taught me to be humble. I had assumed I would get a job easily, as easily as my wife did but it did not happen like that and I was introduced to the ugly side of Nigeria. The politicking was new to me and I had to learn to understand the idiosyncrasies and re-engineer my thinking. We moved back to Nigeria and my wife asked me what I wanted to do and decided to support me on one of my projects and so because of my experience working with kids I decided to start a summer camp. An ingenious idea I thought, and it generated favourable patronage as well but the patrons did not pay and the whole venture left me heavily indebted. I explored many other opportunities albeit unsuccessfully and then went back to architecture. It was a booming sector at the time but then I started dealing with artisans and got frustrated and so I took a 3 month break from it all. Before the 3-month break, I had an interview with one of the top multinationals and then decided to work with for a while with them to get a work refresher.

It was my first corporate communications job in Nigeria and an enlightening & disappointing experience as I learnt first-hand how hard people work and realised it was not for me. I got so disillusioned at the fact that it was run like a one man business. There was no innovation, no passion or creativity, I felt used and so I left. I needed more. I started networking which proved immensely useful as it was a contact who introduced me to a few investment banks to pitch for jobs. My old partner rejoined me during this process and we eventually started working for 2 of the banks. Thus, our business was re-launched in 2011. It is a communications consultancy and a global communications/design agency with branches in Lagos and London. We basically create brand messages for our clients and spread these messages on touch-points which can be anywhere the target audience connects with the brand. Simply put, it is end to end communications.

Admittedly, it was a bit weird in the beginning as we hadn’t gotten a grasp of details like staffing, pricing, overhead costs  etc but we persevered and then suddenly jobs started coming in. Then business slowed down again and we underwent a drought so to speak but this time decided not to give up. So we got rid of all our staff and started the business again on a much smaller scale. In the 1st year of operations which basically consisted of 4months we had a turnover of N7million, and then the inertia we were experiencing passed after which things changed. In the 2nd year of business, our turnover was N6million and now, just a few years after, we have an average monthly turnover of N25million, which is about N300million annually.

Wow…You have certainly come a very long way. Looking back, what can you say were your highs and lows?
As Steve Jobs famously said, you can only connect the dots looking back. Despite the turbulent times, I have to admit that every failure I had taught me a lesson, some of which included the fact that while the economy may have been right, the mindset was not. I learnt how different Nigerians are and the way to do business here, and also that certain services are not valued. Every single process I went through prepared me for where I am today and I can only thank God for bringing me this far.

That is certainly true. On a final note, do you have any words of wisdom for anyone who might be considering a move back to Nigeria?
I think it’s very important to always have mentor-like people at every point in one’s life. I have always had such people who also call me to order when I am going off the rails and those are the things I lean onto. Of particular note is my partner and friend who has been very influential in my life to date. I often say people should always have two kinds of relationships: Vertical relationships which are those involving people I look up to such as mentors & horizontal relationships which are those involving people at my level such as my peers.

It is also important to genuinely care about people. This goes a long way towards creating positive karma around you and yours. Also, learn to trust. At some point, to take risks you have to trust people despite the prevailing distrust in the society. Finally, be persistent. Don’t give up, follow your passion and be humble. Stay grounded and accept help & favors from people especially family.

Thank you very much for your time and we wish you all the best in your future endeavours.

Photo Credit: blackenterprise.com
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Movebacktonigeria.com is the fastest growing online community of Nigerian professionals living, studying and working in diaspora; with a primary objective to connect Nigerian professionals with various opportunities in Nigeria, ranging from recruitment drives to information & support regarding relocation processes, financial & tax advice and much more. We also feature social interest topics such as what’s on, where to live, how-to survival tips and so on. We consistently engage with and feature Nigerian professionals in our weekly interviews and also regularly publish social interest articles relevant to the general public. 

48 Comments on Move Back To Nigeria: “Nigeria Taught Me To Be Humble” – Story of the Serial Employee in the UK Who Became a Successful Entrepreneur in Nigeria
  • dede May 24, 2013 at 9:58 am

    i like the honesty with which he answered the questions – his visa was expiring, he had to come home. May your business continue to flourish.

    • Truth May 24, 2013 at 11:29 am

      Jealousy..u just wan hear say e no get choice and dats y he came back. D thing dey pain u when u see pple dey live or work abroad abi? Nonsense.

      • Person pikin May 24, 2013 at 12:43 pm

        But its true nah. He was being honest. Atleast its better than living illegally and being on the run. He’s business now has an office in London. He can travel and come back when he so desires. An opportunity he would not have had if he stayed illegally and was deported.

      • Ready May 24, 2013 at 1:56 pm

        That was quite lame and unnecessary. How is that jealousy? Go and sleep joo.

      • Uche May 24, 2013 at 4:04 pm

        Forreal. Go and sleep. SMH

  • Sharon May 24, 2013 at 10:04 am

    Waoo this is so inspiring. am currently in the UK and already thinking of moving back home after my studies. it is indeed a scary decision as thoughts of transition effects, fear etc can make one go mad but, am definitely returning home your perseverance and success story has motivated me even more. good luck

  • Mz Socially Awkward… May 24, 2013 at 10:18 am

    Whoever he is, his story is very inspiring and I particularly liked the words of advice he had at the end, which is applicable to just about anyone seeking for success in whatever business or professional field they’re in. I’ve been thinking about mentorship lately and sadly, can’t identify a mentor in my immediate environment to shadow but I’ll continue keeping my eyes peeled.

    May your business continue to break new grounds.

  • Hilda May 24, 2013 at 10:40 am

    @BellaNaija:How can one feature on this series please?

  • KemKem May 24, 2013 at 10:46 am

    As much as I admire his drive, I know a lot of people who have moved back to Nigeria and have failed. Woefully. Some are back here, some are still struggling it out in Nigeria. I love Nigeria and would like to move back at some point but I believe its important to plan well before taking the step and to also pray for direction.
    BN, the picture you used for this post is of Paul Carrick Brunson and to be honest that was what caught my eye, I thought he was the one who moved back to Nigeria! Pls google him and remove his pic if possible as it could be a bit misleading. Dude has his own show on the OWN Network, i dont think he would appreciate his picture being used in this manner!

    • Titi Adanne Owoyemi May 24, 2013 at 1:15 pm

      Hello kemkem, thanks for your feedback. Whilst we acknowledge the fact that there are different perspectives, the point of this series is to showcase the positives and highlight the successes.Thanks

      • slice May 24, 2013 at 1:35 pm

        But what about her issue with the pic. I too thought the story was about Paul

    • Harvey Dent May 24, 2013 at 6:38 pm

      It takes a lot of “Detailed” planning switching locations… my cue from his story/experience is cutting the size of his work force.

      As a result of the recession companies around have Downsized their workforce/intellectual capacity down to its barest minimum, Eg Outsourcing Accounting departments to accounting Firms, outsourcing IT departments to IT firms compared to operating in-house Accounting and IT departments, this rather extensive Downsizing process cut across series of departments beyond the Departments mentioned above.

      I am a recent graduate from Business School and trust me an MBA or an Msc prior to 2008 doesnt cut it anymore, in an environment where you have to fit like a “Glove in hand” for a job in the UK, the next step is honing in my academic portfolio on a certain sector, Management Accounting, Finance, IT etc.

      Thats not the only way to get a job out here, but thats how i know you can get a job and survive in Uk, my journey remains an interesting one and trust me i am loving all the challenges it brings.

      Like Kemkem mentioned, i know alot of people who have moved back and struggling to hold ends. My advise to Gentlemen out there, sort yourself out before you get “Married” (them no they catch Late Comers, like my friend would say), ladies might find my opinion rather defensive, but its only a perspective and not a fact.

      interesting topic Bella…. a bit unbalanced.

      Cheers

  • gistyinka blog May 24, 2013 at 11:00 am

    nice and very inspiring share..

    gistyinka.com

  • Amaka May 24, 2013 at 11:18 am

    I’m inspired! True story we should all learn from whether abroad or in Nigeria!

  • Terungwa May 24, 2013 at 12:11 pm

    Uche, you’re doing a great job here. You see, the problem is lack of belief in oneself. If you’ve got belief and are determined, nothing can stop you, believe me. That’s what I preach at: notopoverty.com. Great job I must say again!

  • GreenDiamond May 24, 2013 at 12:13 pm

    what are u protecting the person from isit a crime to be successful maybe you should use another sentence next time

    • slice May 24, 2013 at 1:37 pm

      U know how things are these days. Unless u r successful enough to have security, it’s probably best to keep details of ur good fortune to urself

      • Idak May 27, 2013 at 9:26 pm

        lame excuse. makes his story sound suspect.

  • Flora B May 24, 2013 at 12:35 pm

    @ KemKem, lol…..I was thinking the same thing when i saw his picture.I love to read his articles on that essence website.

  • gifty May 24, 2013 at 12:42 pm

    Hi can i get his details either email or phone number so we can feature him on our show making of a mogul, next week? can i get this infor through my email . Thanks

  • meme. May 24, 2013 at 12:45 pm

    Exactly, Green Diamond, there’s nothing to protect, success isn’t a crime so there’s nothing to hide. BN, I think you should feature ppl who will show us their face and name. Your site has put up so many successful people on here and I don’t think any of them have been worse off for it.

  • Adaku May 24, 2013 at 12:55 pm

    Great interview by Titi!

    This series is a fantaicst idea, so many professionals abroad want to move back but the thought of uprroting and building a life in another country, even your home country is daunting. Its a completely different experience from moving abroad because then you’re probably going to school and have that community and the foreign government working to make you comfortable. Coming back to Nigeria to find a job and set up a business is a whole different ball game.

    I’m really impressed by the young mans drive and fortitude.

    Good stuff.

    • Titi Adanne Owoyemi May 24, 2013 at 1:18 pm

      Thanks Daks! Do Stay tuned as there’s lots more to come.

  • aunty May 24, 2013 at 1:34 pm

    i came for the picture, but this was good!

  • nich May 24, 2013 at 1:37 pm

    bella this is a great story please keep it coming. i have always told a lot of my friends to find a way to invest in nigeria or africa. africa is a gold mine despite all the challenges. personally i would not permanently return to nigeria but by God’s grace i will invest back home. for me i love america . when those in the diaspora started returning to india, it brought economic boom to india, i believe that same thing is gradually happening to africa.

  • Priscy May 24, 2013 at 2:02 pm

    Can he be my Mentor Please, ?

  • nene May 24, 2013 at 2:17 pm

    he just came back to make money. not voluntary. i wish him luck. but people abroad feel entitled..my people there’s a long queue, no one is special.

    • yve May 25, 2013 at 2:40 am

      LMAO. EMM…IF NOT TO MAKE MONEY, THEN WHAT?

  • …… May 24, 2013 at 2:43 pm

    Inspiring…….

  • Jolla May 24, 2013 at 2:59 pm

    Nice piece!….but lets use real pictures of people concerned or no picture at all.

  • Toyin May 24, 2013 at 3:27 pm

    I came here for Paul Carrick Brunson, but the article had nothing to do with him. Anyway, nice piece. It’s not easy moving back to Naija especially if you are not connected to some big people in the government. There are opportunities in Nigeria, it’s all about being lucky and doing your best.

  • neon May 24, 2013 at 4:36 pm

    hello, i am a 19year old university student in the UK, and i know someone perfect for you to interview, she also moved back to Nigeria and had a successful 10year career before giving it all up to start her own chain of businesses. i really look up to her.

  • ima May 24, 2013 at 7:29 pm

    quite inspiring… i wish i could meet wit him personally. I am bored with my job and i nid to make a career change, just dont know how

  • Deedee May 24, 2013 at 9:50 pm

    This is really inspiring, coz am also in the UK and am planning to move back to Nigeria to start up my business………..

  • alwayshappy May 25, 2013 at 4:30 pm

    Moving back to your home country shouldn’t be “just about the benjamins”. The greatest motivator in any economy or for any decision is “your motives”. The article is somewhat incomplete, because it doesn’t highlight how mr. serial worker now entrepreneur’s decision has contributed to creating jobs for folks, reducing the politiking of the very idiosyncrancies that frustrated him initially, how is he paying forward his experiences and lessons learned. It would also be good to hear if he had to compromise himself to conform with the way business is done in Nigeria, the lunacy of it all i hear is a slow poison which turns folks into “creatures” only found in fiction.

  • damola May 26, 2013 at 1:28 am

    This was really inspiring to read… Reminds me of my friend who moved back to Lagos to start her business… Visit her online store uberchicville.blogspot.com and please show her some support …thanks

  • iba May 26, 2013 at 9:20 am

    Wow what can i say currently going through soooooooooooooooooooooooooo much now. should i go home do i deal with some issues that have gone wrong here before running home. At the end of the day going back home is NO JOKE and poor planning lands one in soup. Looking forward to more of these series…

  • Well May 27, 2013 at 8:36 am

    Well me & my husband to be made tge decision yday dat naija here we come in the next 9months. The day before a friend called me to tell me he will be leaving by Christmas because come 1st Jan 2014 the flood of bulgarians and romanians will be unbearable. Finding job in the UK right now is unbearable. My hubby to be has a whole company waiting for him so why carry on like slaves in the UK? No thank you we are out!

  • Damie May 27, 2013 at 3:32 pm

    LOL. People that travel for their Masters will now be coming back to say they “moved” back to Nigeria. E ma binu o. You should not have come back at all. As the “supportive” foreign government wants you there forever, yeah?
    Furthermore, this guy who complained about job hunting states and I quote “So we got rid of all our staff and started the business again on a much smaller scale”. How nice, to get rid of all the staff. I don’t know if it’s just me but the callousness of that statement completely rubs me the wrong way.
    I do not know why BN needs Nigerians who moved abroad to come back? The ones here nko? Are they not doing enough? Profile young, achieving Nigerians all you want. However, attempting to create some caste system is just off putting.

    • Adebola May 28, 2013 at 4:14 am

      You might not understand the gravity of this article and how it helps those who actually have lives abroad and want to move back home. He might not have moved back because he wanted to give back to his society, but the decision he and his partner made was a very powerful one and surely wasn’t easy. You might not appreciate the content of this article, but some of us do find this helpful and motivating. Negativity isn’t needed.

  • marvel May 27, 2013 at 5:37 pm

    Damie, all isn’t well in your life. The young man went to the U.K and came back to his own country when it didn’t work out for him. He has rather bravely told others how we failed and succeeded. I don’t think you would be half as honest as he has been. The story is about those who came back and made it. Next time, move along. You did not have to read it since it rubs you up the wrong way. That simple!

  • b May 27, 2013 at 7:15 pm

    hmmm

  • http://mytestimonys.blogspot.com/2013/05/bishop-feb-idahosa-testifies_20.html May 28, 2013 at 4:41 pm

    beautiful, beautiful, beautiful, dont write me off just yet! mytestimonys.blogspot.com/2013/05/bishop-feb-idahosa-testifies_20.html

  • mo May 28, 2013 at 7:20 pm

    Is it my eyes cos the black man i see in the pic above aint no Paul Carrick Brunson

  • Anonymous May 29, 2013 at 6:28 am

    Beautiful write up. This thing has being a write off from the start. #lozer

  • Temitope Adewoye May 29, 2013 at 11:07 am

    Fantastic write-up, thank you BN for putting this up,everyone needs a mentor.
    jeenager.com

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