By Ebele Orakpo
Goals are not only absolutely necessary to motivate us, they are essential to really keep us alive, so said Robert Harold Schuller, renowned American pastor and author.
This seems to hold true for Mr David Arisa, the Managing Director/Chief Executive Officer of Decent Place Frozen Foods in Iju-Ishaga area of Lagos who left his home state of Abia to seek greener pastures in Lagos armed with nothing but his dreams and determination.
In a chat with Vanguard recently, the year two, Higher National Diploma Business Studies student of Lagos State Polytechnic, spoke on why he went into the frozen foods business, the initial challenges, etc. Excerpts:
According to Mr. David Arisa, he started the business to empower himself. “Actually, I started the frozen foods business just to empower myself financially. I needed a stepping stone to enable me actualise my dream in life. After my secondary school education in Abia State, I came to Lagos.
I was just trying to see what I could do to improve my life. Then I was introduced to my former boss who happened to be my in-law. I worked for her as a shop attendant for about two years, after which she sent me off with about N50,000 to launch out on my own. That was in 2001.
Like Schuller also noted, ‘our greatest lack is not money for any undertaking, but rather ideas, if the ideas are good, cash will somehow flow to where it is needed.’
Mr. Arisa had an idea of what he wanted to do with his life and cash became available. “I used the money to rent a shop and two deep freezers which I purchased at N18,000 per unit. To be honest, it was not easy but I thank God for the encouragement I got from my former boss as it helped me to keep moving and not give up.”
Arisa firmly believes in the saying that whatever has a beginning has an end and so he persevered.
His perseverance paid off as the business began to yield some profit after three years of struggling.
“When I started, it wasn’t easy. There was a time I was buying as little as two and a half kilos of fish from somebody to resell, it was that bad. Then I graduated to buying five kilos and then one or two cartons. When I began making some profit, I registered for GCE O’Level which I wrote and passed and then I proceeded to the Lagos State Polytechnic for my National Diploma in Business Studies in 2007.
I am now doing my HND in Business Studies also. I thank God I did not quit when the going got really tough. I said to myself that even if I got a job in a factory, that could mean the end of my studies as I won’t have the time for school. So I continued.
“Why it was that difficult was that the business was just picking up and I was paying my house rent, school fees, books, feeding etc all from proceeds from the business. So it was not as if the business was not yielding money, but whatever I was getting was not reflecting on the business because of the expenses. At a point, my profit increased. I was making about N80,000 per month. Now, in a week, I buy as much as 18 cartons of fish, 12 cartons of turkey and 12 cartons of chicken,” he said.
The Decent Place boss noted that the major challenge facing the business is electricity. “The number one problem is electricity. Most times there is power outage and you know that this business thrives on availability of electricity. Sometimes there is power outage for two days at a stretch. And sometimes, we have light for about two to four hours in a day.
But there is a standby generator which serves us for at least four hours a day because if we run it continuously, we may end up spending all our profit on fuel generator maintenance. What we do is to turn it on from 6.00pm to 10.00pm. That is how we have been sustaining the business.
Again, despite the fact that Nigeria does not have enough poultry produce to meet local demand, poultry produce like chicken and turkey are contraband items in the country. So most times, it is very difficult to bring them into the country and as a result, prices fluctuate.
For instance, we buy a carton of turkey for N6,100 and we sell for N6,500. Before now, it was cheaper. A carton of chicken now goes for N4,500 and we sell for N5,000 – N5,100. But despite all that, we are still coping. ”
He, however, regretted that sales have dwindled in recent times probably due to the economic situation of the country.
Said he: “Like I mentioned earlier, sales have dropped drastically. Between Christmas and New Year celebrations, we sold about 100 cartons of turkey and chicken. Fish is still very expensive. A carton of the Kote variety goes for N11,000 while the Titus variety goes for N6,800. Kote is 30kg while Titus is 20kg.”
Asked what he would have loved to do if he was not into the frozen foods business, David said: “Actually, I had wanted to work in a corporate organisation but because I didn’t have the necessary qualification and the competitive nature of white collar jobs, there was no way I could compete favourably in the corporate world so I decided to continue in this business and in future, I hope to expand the business.
The business, as you can see, is capital-intensive. For now, I will still be running it and doing other side jobs to enable me meet my needs and do other things I am expected to do as a man. After graduation, I look forward to exploring other business opportunities.”
He stated that the outfit currently employs a full-time staff and one part-time staff, adding that if one wants to go into the frozen foods business, he would require at least N200,000. “For a start, he should have about N200,000 to buy a deep freezer, rent a shop and buy the initial goods. He can start out without generator but would need to get one as the business grows.”