Inspiring EntrepreneurStart Up Talk

From Selling Bedsheets as an Undergrad to Building a Multi-Million Naira Company

Growing up was an adventure! I was born into a civil servant’s family, and like most parents advised their children, I was told to go to school, study hard and graduate with good grades so I could get a well-paid job.

Like the good daughter of an enterprising Anambra woman, I obeyed, but with modifications of my own. Once I started my undergrad studies at Imo State University, I dutifully immersed myself in my studies, however, like every other new student, I also started exploring my environment albeit with a different purpose in mind. I cultivated this business opportunity explorers habit of observing the business opportunities in my environment that I could engage in as a part-time activity while still in secondary school.

This budding display of my enterprising mindset was an indication that my mother’s entrepreneurial spirit had started finding expression in me. Although she worked as a nurse, she was also involved in trading and farming to support our family.

As I researched, I started seeing money-making opportunities in school and among the students. I noticed that students wanted beautiful yet affordable clothes but did not want the hassle of leaving school to source for them. Once I realized that students wouldn’t also mind paying someone else to do all the running around involved, I immediately swung into action to fill this gap.

During my market research, I found out that I could also source for quality A-grade bed linens in the famous Ariaria market in Aba the business heart of Abia State, and sell with a reasonably good profit margin. The fact that I could turn a good profit with this opportunity to increase my sales by combining these two businesses using the same logistics budget was one not to be missed. To me, this strategy made much sense, so, I decided to give it a try.

The entrepreneur in me wouldn’t allow me to indulge in any timidity or fear or the fact that “I am not a tailor.” I saw an opportunity, and I took up the challenge.

Guess what I did?

I bought a measuring tape and learnt how to take measurements. I started buying different types of bed linen fabrics. I found my tailors and designed my labels. Then I started marketing and selling to my fellow students, and when the demand came, I extended to clients outside my school. My tailors in Aba would sew the designs I created for my clients. My primary role in the entire process was to create the design by interpreting what the clients wanted, source the fabrics and have the tailors make the order and then, deliver at a good marked up price.

I ran this business until I graduated from University. While also in University, I had picked up on an opportunity to audition for a broadcasting job at Imo broadcasting corporation and a PR job at Imo Concorde hotel as a part-time staff. Please don’t ask me how I combined all these activities to still graduate with a 3.46 in University. I just did. Subscribe to my blog to read my next article and join my mentoring program to learn you can multitask your way to success as a start-up. However, what I didn’t do was not to forget the primary reason why I went to school or my parents advise.

These experiences in my undergraduate days came to bear at a point in my life when I needed to start over. After working for so many years, I hit a major personal and financial crisis, read my book, Picking Up the Pieces to know more. I needed to rebuild my life again. By now, I already had two daughters that needed care, and I had zero kobos to do that. This event happened in 2011.

I know I had to do something to increase my income drastically. At that time, my brain could not see past my pain or the empty bank account and lack of vision. I had stopped seeing my business vision. I lacked direction and needed to find the strength, seek the knowledge and acquire the mentoring I would need to build back my business and raise my income.

My first concern was to put food on my table. This need made me start my makeup shop. From there, once I had little food in my belly, and my children were okay, I began to explore my environment once more to see the business opportunities I could find.

Then, that was when I saw a nagging problem in Nigeria which needed to be urgently fixed—unemployment among youths and women.

This vision gave rise to the birth of the Gazzelle Academy Vocational Centre, which is a social enterprise dedicated to arming Nigerian youths and women with the requisite technical and business skill required today to fight unemployment.

Gazzelle has been operating actively as a mobile-skill-centre for four years and as a school for eight years.

Gazzelle has grown to a level where we have partnered with several blue-chip companies such as Fidelity Bank, Total Upstream, NPDC to mention but a few, in training youths across Nigeria.

In the course of this, we have succeeded in not only empowering my family and employees but have impacted over two thousand Nigerian youths in seven Nigerian states.

Moreover, all these years of doing my business in undergrad school and running Gazzelle Academy, and the other organizations I have given birth to over the years, I have learnt the secret of succeeding as a small business owner. I have made money and lost it. I have built businesses that failed. I have filed for bankruptcy and shut down my business, but today, I am the CEO of an organization that turns over eight figures in revenue yearly.

All I have learnt I want to teach you. To help you get started and grow a profitable business that will take care of you, your family, and positively influence and build wealth for your children and society.

A significant part of my business success I also attribute to implementing biblical principles. God’s hand has been upon me. However, the manifestation of his hand can is evident in the wisdom with which I raised capital for my business and grew from one staff to over twenty employees, made up of permanent and Adhoc staff.  Increased our clients base from two students every three months and a ninety-thousand-naira quarterly revenue to training over four hundred students every quarter and turning the business into a multi-million-naira company at year-end.

In my desire to share these winning success principles and to help as many people as possible to become financially free, I launched and partnered with platforms to provide mentoring to many Nigerians—especially youths and women.

I have been a Mara Mentor, a Diamond bank and Worldbank GEM business mentor with two mentees winning cumulative of fifteen million naira grant and another becoming a benefactor of the Tony Elumelu Foundation five-thousand-dollar grant. I have also advised, coached and mentored top and celebrated CEOs.

I launched the Entrepreneurship Drumbeat column on Business Day published weekly every Sunday for nine months and have been featured on Fidelity Bank’s SME programme on radio.

Though I have coached and mentored several business owners to succeed, I realized that I was burning out as I could not reach all the people that desired the opportunity to be personally mentored by me. Out of frustration for the inability to share my passion for helping people, my team and I strategized on the best way to expand from the small group we currently had to reach many more entrepreneurs.

As a result, the Start-Up Doctor was launched as a platform to provide insight for small business owners and start-ups on how to run their businesses profitably and grow it to its full potential.

Across Start-Up Doctor social media and blog platforms, I will share business lessons with you through short posts, blog posts, podcasts and insightful quotes.

We will also launch live training that will help you scale your business from zero to hero using the proven principles of success I used to grow my business from a five-digit income earner at year-end to an eight-figure earner. Click here to sign up.

Here is my weekly publishing plan on all social platforms.

Monday – Start-Up Talk

Tuesday – Business Trends

Wednesday – Start-Up Answers

Thursday -Business Quotes

Friday – Inspiring Entrepreneur

Saturday – MunaXperince

Sunday – Dear Diary with the Start-up Doctor in Businessday

In addition to this, once a week, I will host a live training where you can participate and ask questions.

The Startup Doctor Dear Diary column on Businessday will also be published weekly on Sundays. This interactive business column allows you to write in and get free advise from CEOs across several industries.

I have walked the path you are on. I have felt the pain. I know where the shoe pinches. I am the best person to escort you to your success. My joy is not that you follow @Startupdoctor and @startupdoctortv across social media platforms and visit our blog where all these content will be shared. However, what will bring the greatest fulfilment is that you will gain clarity about your business, stop running your business with guesswork; but with proven insight, increase your business profit and grow your business to its full potentials.

Welcome on board.

Keep Sparkling!

Muna Onuzo

Founder, The Start-Up Doctor Platform

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