By Moses Nosike
All great men have stories. Their stories chronicle a journey of sheer grit, determination and courage in the face of socio-economic limitations and abject failure; a journey that delivered the subjects from the point of grass to grace; transformed them from nameless characters to heroes—from obscurity to spotlight. Aigbe Omoregie, MD/CEO, Intercontinental Paints, fits seamlessly into this rare class of people.
Aigbe Omoregie is a self-made entrepreneur per excellence—one whose flair for business has pushed him to the very heights of success as well as the very depths of failure. Right from his childhood in Benin City, Omoregie discovered his love for entrepreneurship, displaying this unusual business acumen by selling eggs from a young age of 14.
He started small, from his parents’ house, supplying ten crates of eggs daily to customers and gradually growing that to a thousand crates. He achieved this feat by supplying to provision stores and bakers, who at that time struggled to get the right eggs.
At such a young age, he already had seven employees on his payroll, including one of his class prefects. With the proceeds of this enterprise, the last child in a polygamous family of 16 children was able to support himself up till his junior secondary school days.
By the time he got into senior secondary school, Omoregie had accumulated enough capital to venture into the sales of fairly used clothing items like bags and shoes.
He would purchase the goods at very low prices from the then fast-paced Yaba Market in Lagos and travel back to Benin City, where he sold them for good profit. He continued this until he gained admission into the Auchi Polytechnic, Auchi, Edo State, where he eventually bagged an HND in Mass Communication.
The undergraduate entrepreneur
During his polytechnic days, Omoregie’s uncanny sixth sense for profitable ventures helped him to discover the mine in the sales of typewriters to students. He combined it with photocopying and binding of documents and projects, all of which fetched him a reasonable income, while establishing his place as a student entrepreneur in his school.
As they say, every event is a business opportunity, and this was what introduced Omoregie to his next entrepreneurial stint—car dealership. According to the story, his brother-in-law needed to sell off a used car. Rather than look for a buyer for his brother-in-law, he decided to take the risk and buy off the car himself.
This opened him up to a new world of business possibilities and a higher stream of income. At a time when youths were only concerned about clinching white-collared jobs, young Omoregie focused all his youthful attention on building and fine-tuning his entrepreneurial skills, gaining business exposure, meeting market needs, and creating job opportunities for others.
Potholes and roadblocks
No success journey is without potholes. During his heydays in the car dealership, then President Olusegun Obasanjo suddenly issued a ban on the importation of used cars. It was an unexpected event that dealt a big blow to his entire business. He lost goods, including millions of Naira. But despite this drawback, he did not give up on himself.
As an ingenious and creative problem solver , Omoregie decided to establish a cyber café. This was in 2002 when cyber cafés were very much in high demand due to the expanding scale of the internet. The café, which he named Aigbe Holdings Cyber Café, was established with a capital of N7.5 millio; a combination of his proceeds from car dealing and a N2million loan.
Unfortunately, the business did not yield the sales that Omoregie expected leaving him with a considerable debt and crippling interests to pay back. The disastrous business experiences tought Omoregie an invaluable lesson in risk-taking, management, and self-discovery.
Swimming against the tides
After graduating in 2006, Omoregie spent several months in Lagos in solitude, trying to figure out the next course of action. The Eureka moment for Intercontinental Paints came during this reclusive period. During a special three-day fasting and prayer session, Omoregie stepped out of the balcony to get fresh air, when he stumbled on a paint bucket, and that ended his waiting period.
With just N8000 (his entire savings at that time), and the help of a local factory manager, Omoregie started his paint business. Within a short time, he already had a name for the paint and three drums of white paint which he stacked beside his TV in the sitting room, as he had no customers to sell them to. The paints remained in his room for six months, while he continued to source for buyers. His breakthrough eventually came when he had an initial order worth N2million from a stranger.
Where there is a will, there is a way
Presently, the company which was launched with a capital of N18,000, has grown to become one of the leading paint producers in Nigeria. Based in Lagos, the company employs over 17 people in various capacities. True to its name, the company reach has further grown beyond the shores of Nigeria and expanded to East Africa with operations in Uganda.
In the retinue of Omoregie’s new businesses is also a fast-emerging real estate and construction company called Dutch Constructions. Established in 2017, Dutch Constructions is on a mission to provide low-cost housing units to one million Nigerians, starting with 300-housing units currently being constructed in the heart of Benin City, Edo State. He is also the founder of the Under-20 CEO and the Young CEO Initiatives.
These initiatives do not only seek to financially empower young people and small business owners across the country but also link them up with capable mentors in their various industries.
Attesting to his prolific and inspiring entrepreneurial history, Omoregie was named by Forbes in 2017 as one of Most Promising Young Entrepreneurs in Africa. He was also nominated among the 100 Most Influential Young Africans by Africa Youth Awards and was a delegate at the UN General Assembly in 2017.
Omoregie is an avid believer in the potential that lies in Nigeria and Africa. He spends most of his time giving back to society by helping to establish thriving start-ups that create jobs and reach out to the less privileged in the society.
Indeed, Omoregie is a living testament that where there is a will, there is a way. His dogged resolve to establish himself as a change-maker is a chronicle that the generations coming will study and learn from. His journey of grit to grace further confirms that, indeed, something good can come out of Nigeria as he, undoubtedly, is in the league of Nigerians presenting a positive narrative on the global scene.