By Ebele Orakpo
Inadequate and epileptic power supply has once again been fingered for dampening the entrepreneurial spirit of the average Nigerian. Many who would have loved to go into manufacturing and create jobs for our teeming youths cannot do so because of high cost of production due to inadequate infrastructure.
Many people are therefore into importation of goods from other countries, leaving only the few lion-hearted like Mr. Travis Emenalo, the Managing Director/Chief Executive Officer of St. Michael Florentyna Products Nigeria Limited and Safe Ridges Industries Limited.
In this chat with Vanguard in Lagos, Mr. Emenalo speaks on the challenges of doing business in Nigeria. Excerpts:
After his primary school education in Port Harcourt, Mr. Travis Emenalo went on to secondary school also in Port Harcourt. Unfortunately, his education was disrupted as a result of the Nigerian civil war.
He eventually completed his secondary school education at Ansarudeen College, Kano before venturing into the business world.
“I started with cosmetics – Aramis Devin perfume from Milan, Italy before changing to St Michael Florentyna products. Later, I diversified into aluminum sheets manufacturing,” he said.
“When I started dealing in St Michael Florentyna products, I first started with the compact powder which the local people call pancake. Then we went on to loose powder (150g pack and then the 50g pack).
Today, we have a range of products. In our range we have St Michael Florentyna Whitening soap, St Michael Florentyna body powder, St Michael Florentyna hand cream and St Michael Florentyna body spray. We also have St Michael Florentyna eyelashes,” he stated.
Mr. Emenalo is not just into importation of cosmetics, he is also into production.
“I am into another business, not cosmetics this time though I started with cosmetics before going into other areas. I am into aluminum coils. I have a factory in Owerri, the Imo State capital, where we produce long span aluminum roofing sheets.
The name of the company is Safe Ridges Aluminum, a subsidiary of Safe Ridges Industries Limited while in Lagos I deal in cosmetics under the name of St Michael Florentyna Products Nigeria Limited,” he stated.
Mr. Emenalo who has about 20 people on his payroll in Owerri and has the franchise for St Michael Florentyna products in Nigeria, said his workers are few in Lagos because “we sell in bulk.
We are not retailers so we don’t have many workers. Whenever our consignments arrive, the distributors come to the warehouse to pick them up so we kind of render skeletal services.”
On whether he plans to start cosmetics production in Nigeria, Mr. Emenalo said: “If not that I ventured into the aluminum business, I would have gone into cosmetics production My next line of production will be cosmetics.
I stay in Lagos and I do business in Lagos, that of Owerri is just a subsidiary so I have plans of establishing a cosmetics factory to start production here.”
Speaking on the challenges faced as an importer and a manufacturer, Emenalo noted that power is number one on the list of challenges. “The challenges of doing business here are enormous. Number one is power as it affects production.
We run the business on diesel-powered generators and a litre is now about N160.00. In the area of importation, we are having some handicaps with regards to foreign exchange. As I’m talking to you now, we don’t even know the price of dollar today because it keeps moving. As at yesterday (July 12), it moved three times and ended at N167.00 to a dollar.
“So it is better to start production here but again, we have the power issue to grapple with.
Another thing is, if you want to start production, so many things are involved. You have to get land, put up the structure and import the machines. All these will need a lot of money,” he said.
He said if the proper infrastructure are put in place by the relevant authorities, the private sector will be able to create jobs and boost the nation’s economy.