AKWA IBOM IS A GOLDMINE FOR ENTREPRENEURS
Edward Onyekachi, the CEO of Heritage Group, is one of the proofs that there are ample opportunities for success and wealth creation in Akwa Ibom State. He arrived Akwa Ibom in 2000 for his youth service and after that he decided to plough his energy and resourcefulness in this land. And today, Eddie, as he’s popularly known, is a big success story. Starting with just a small business centre, where he offered typing and photocopying services to the business class, he has since bought a land and built a model two storey business complex at about the same location he started. Eddie studied computer science from the famous University of Nigeria, Nsukka, Enugu State, with second class honour, upper division. Let me share his narration here with you.
It was during my youth service in 2000 in this state that I realized that Akwa Ibom State was a very fertile land for beginners. After my youth service, I decided not to leave for either Port Harcourt or Lagos where my course mates were going in search of jobs.
A DIFFICULT BEGINNING
I started a small business centre at 174 Ikot Ekpene Road, just a building from where I am now, where I offered desktop publishing; typing, scanning documents, photocopying and other related services. It very difficult for people to leave the centre of the town to Ikot Ekpene Road to type or photocopy anything, development had not yet expanded to Ikot Ekpene road then as it is today. But I stayed on with determination to offer quality service to my customers to ensure they come back.
REFERRAL, THE BEST ADVERT
I realized then that the best advertisement you could do was providing quality services, which made my customers refer others to me. Referral was my tool for expansion. That was how we started attracting people from the city.
RESILIENCE AS TOOL FOR GROWTH
As we persisted in offering excellent services, many customers got to know us and we began to grow faster. I was able to train many staff, equipping them with skills for quality job delivery but that was also a challenge because the moment those trained personnel acquired enough skills, competitors would lure them out. But I didn’t relent, though it was painful when those you trained just left without a word. This attitude is a major setback of SMEs. I advise anybody going into any business to have at least 70% knowledge of the business, so that you will not be stranded when your staff leave suddenly.
In 2016, we were able to complete our corporate head office building named, Oasis of Grace. We have now expanded our operations to include, photography, cinematography, graphic illustrations and ICT training.
I believe that when we have more trained manpower, the rate of economic development will be faster. Currently, we have 150 computers at our ICT Capacity Resources Centre, well equipped for the 21 century hi-tech economy. We have extended our training to students during holidays, we encourage every student to gain good computer skills, especially now JAMB and WAEC examinations are computerized.
GIVING BACK TO THE SOCIETY
We give scholarship to citizens of the State, as a way of saying, ‘Thank you’ for giving us congenial environment to do business. Recently, I was awarded a patron of Man O War in the State. That recognition placed on me a huge responsibility, as I also decided to set up a scholarship scheme on ICT training for men of the organization in batches.
START SMALL BUT GROW
As a mentor to many SMEs, I will like to advise that a journey of a million miles starts with a single step. There is no way you can make it in a day, as Rome was not built in a day. So many people feel that they can just start up something and make it in a day, no! There’s a saying that, “No good man suddenly becomes Rich over night.” You must have a story to tell as I have told mine, from a humble beginning to where I am today. So, I am advising youths of Akwa Ibom State to start bit-by-bit. I started with photocopying that cost just two naira as at that time.
Another important thing you must do is to define your culture of service – your attitude, public relations, quality of service to people, love and respect to all. You must be humble enough to accommodate both the high end people and those below you. As an entrepreneur, you must not segregate but have excellent human relations with people, because customers are your primary asset if you must succeed.
BLESSED WITH GOOD GOVERNANCE
Akwa Ibom State is blessed with good governance. It is one of the fastest developing States in Nigeria. I thank God for the quality of governance that God has blessed the State with. The State has made tremendous development in geometric progression. For me, this is the best place for youths and graduates to start developing their skills. I have often advised anyone who wants to start a business to come to Akwa Ibom State.
Lagos state and other cities are already saturated with champions who will not allow you to grow fast. Starting small business in Lagos will make look like a shrub under an Iroko tree. There will not be enough sunlight to grow. So, I urge young graduates to come to Akwa Ibom State, it is a very fertile ground for beginners, especially if you have good skills and prepared to offer excellent services.