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NDIDI Obioha: From whizz-kid to serial entrepreneur

By CHARLES KUMOLU

TODAY’s edition offers an enriching insight into the life of someone, who early in life, started spending every moment thinking about the next business to create. This capacity for creativity saw her spending a decade in the banking sector, establishing one of the most successful fashion houses in Lagos, and setting up a flourishing event outfit among others. This is the untold story of the Chief Executive Officer, CEO, of Enthyst Group, Mrs. Ndidi Obioha.

Achieving whatever I want

I am a serial entrepreneur. I am also a free-spirited person, who attended Federal Government Girls College, Owerri. I attended ObafemiAwolowo University where I studied International Relations. I had a stint in the telecoms industry, banking sector, and advertising before becoming an entrepreneur. I was born in Germany in a family of five. I am happily married and I have three amazing children. One of the things that brought me this far in life is that my parents made us believe in ourselves. And that made us have confidence in ourselves. I grew up believing that I could achieve whatever I want to achieve.

My parents taught us to be very outspoken. We used to have an annual family get-together where we aired our views.  My father used to ensure that we sit together as a family after New Year eve service.  It was a forum where we appraised our relationships to see where we offended ourselves. It was to ensure that we didn’t take any bitterness into the New Year.  Such training helped me because I can work into anywhere and air my views confidently.  I am very glad we learned that while growing up.

. Ndidi Obioha

High and low points

I was a very reserved person also. I was my daddy’s girl. I could do no wrong as far as my father was concerned.  We were from a middle class family and my parents taught us to be very contented. My father taught us that one can never buy a good name.  And it has been guiding me in life. In everything I do, integrity is my watchword because I know I can never buy a good name.  I consider that an amazing lesson that I learned while growing up.  Attending a boarding school made me to become independent early in life. That is why I don’t need to depend on anybody today.  I am a risk taker. I am never afraid of taking a risk.  I believe in going for what I want and if I fail, I dust my feet and move on. These are the things that helped me to become a serial entrepreneur today. When I have a plan, the joy of moving ahead even if I fail keeps me going.

Finding my strength

The things I have said so far do not mean that my life has been smooth all along. I had my low moments. One of them was when I lost my child. That was the worst that could ever happen to me. But I found so much strength in that. I feel that it happened to make me a stronger person. It was a very low moment for me. And it got me very spiritual.

Therefore, I can say that losing my son made me the spiritual person that I am today. Whatever life throws at me now, I am ready for it. The spiritual strength that I didn’t know I had was what I took out from it.  If my mother was here, she would say that I had entrepreneurship skills right from my childhood. I don’t like being idle.  Because of that, when I passed out from secondary school, I told my father that I needed a loan to start a business. He gave me N300 which I used to start baking. The joy of selling what I had produced to people, made me realise that I could be an entrepreneur. That was when my entrepreneurship spirit started manifesting. At that time, my father was saying that even with that business, I was a liability to him. Knowing that I could convince people to buy my product, gave me the feeling that I could conquer the world.That was all I needed to believe in myself.  In my first year at the university, there was a strike by the Academic Staff Union of Universities,ASUU.

The fear of boredom

The fear of boredom made me look for a job. That was when I got my first job in an advertising company. I did pretty well to the extent that the owners of the company, Yomi Odunowo, and Yomi Dada were impressed. They gave me my first account which was Unilever. I am a very creative person and advertising brought out the creativity in me.  When I was leaving, they said anytime I was on holiday I should come back. That was how I started working there anytime I was on holiday.   Before then, I had worked with a woman who was an entrepreneur. I courageously approached her that I needed a job. She gave me a job and made me a supervisor three weeks after. All her workers were reporting to me and enjoyed it.  I just like being busy all the time. In anything I do, I am always passion-driven. I like anything about creativity. The idea of making people look good used to give me so much joy.  When I left the university I worked with STV Macan after which I moved to the banking industry. But I became bored 10 years after. I felt I needed to do things that would be more challenging. I tell aspiring entrepreneurs to do things they have a passion for because it is the passion that will drive them.  When I was in the bank, people thought I had a personal salon. I used to go to the Island to make my hair. I asked myself what was missing in the mainland that made me go to the island to make my hair. At that point, I realised that a conducive environment was missing. That was how I opened a high-class salon in Yaba where people can get what is obtainable outside the mainland. I like doing businesses with a difference even if such businesses already exist. What I do is to add twist to the things I do. Two months after I opened the salon, we got a deal to become the official salon for the Most Beautiful Girl in Nigeria, MBGN, pageant. And we did that for three years. And that arrangement put the name of the salon, Haircraft out there to the extent that people thought we had been in business for a long time. I brought my advertising knowledge to the business.  We partnered bridal magazine which made us the official hair salon for models and that made us popular as a bridal hair salon. That was how the event aspect of my businesses started.

Think it, do it

When I was in school, I did a show called chronic in my first year. It was my concept but I brought three guys on board. What I wanted to do was a pageant because I used to watch MBGN and thought something was missing. I wanted to show them what was missing. That was when I was young at the university. My motto is:  think it, do it. It was difficult getting the sponsors I needed for the pageant. I had to change it to a music concert. We had four Disk Jockeys, DJs, who were the best in Lagos.  We had DJ Fresh, DJ Wave, DJ Jimmy Jatt, DJ Galaxy and one other person. The rap artiste from the University of Jos at that time, Dr. Fresh was among the artists that performed. The concept was just to present club life in form of an event.  I remember going to different universities in the South to publicise the show. We held the show at the Conference Hall in Ife and it was the best. However, I lost money but I was happy.  I remember telling a bride how I planned my wedding and she asked me to plan hers. I planned her wedding which brought three other weddings. That was how the event planning business started.

Short-lived ideas

The first thing I tell people is to believe in themselves because someone cannot market what he does not believe in. If someone has an idea which he does not believe in, that idea can’t see the light of the day. Unfortunately, certain ideas require capital and I tell people to start from somewhere. There are some ideas that do not require capital. Some may have an idea but the fear of  unknown makes them not to take steps. People should be ready to take risks. Anybody who is not a risk taker cannot be a successful entrepreneur. When one believes in himself, it confirms that the person is ready to invest in himself.  Anybody who has not invested in himself should not expect anyone to invest in him.

Some come to me with ideas but would want me to conceptualize it. That is wrong. Anyone, who wants to start a business and does not believe that he has to borrow money me to do it, will find difficult finding someone to invest in him.   People should be ready to take risk and invest in themselves. Unfortunately, a lot of young people have ideas but they don’t believe in their ideas and they are not ready to take a risk. Killing the fear of the unknown is important for every entrepreneur.

Molding me

People should surround themselves with the right people. People should pick mentors that have stories that can inspire.  One of the things I said, I would always do in my life is to have a talk show because I like Oprah Winfrey. It was not about the fame and money she got from the show, but the message. The positive impact that I saw her making in peoples’ life motivated me. I found out that everything I wanted to be while growing up, are the different things I am doing today.  The fashion business, food business, and planning business among others are the things I dreamed of. It amazes me that all I dreamed of are what I am doing today.  I started food business called Soul Food when I was in the bank. I dreamed of owning a bread factory and I have one today.  Today, I have a TV Show.  My fulfillment is that I am doing the things I always wanted to do and I tell people that if I die today, I will die a fulfilled person. It is important for us to set the right path and my children are being influenced by that. My mother was a nine-to-five person but she was a goal-getter. I liked corporate life which was why I experienced it and left when it became boring for me.  Now, a lot of homegrown products are being produced because of the exchange rate and that is an opportunity for people to utilize. Before now, people bring planners from outside the country but we do the jobs now and even do jobs abroad.  In all these, I don’t consider myself an achiever. I am far from where I want to be. One is trying. When people come to me saying they want me to mentor them, I usually have the feeling that what I am doing is being appreciated. Professionalism is my watchword. I will never reduce my standard for anybody or for anything. I am a very detailed person. That is one of the things that have helped Enthyst carve a niche for itself.

*I don’t reduce my standard for anybody, anything

*I add a twist to the things I do

*Killing the fear of the unknown is important

*People should surround themselves with the right people.

*People should invest in themselves

*Think it, do it

 


Disclaimer

Comments expressed here do not reflect the opinions of vanguard newspapers or any employee thereof.