– Set to erect a bakery for Olajumoke
Sijibomi Ogundele, the enterprising young man behind Sujimoto empowered over 20 youths in his Ikoyi, Lagos office last week. The winner of the empowerment programme walked home with N500,000, while others got enough cash to kick start a small scale business. According to the amiable millionaire, the desire to empower youths came as a result of the current economic woes the country is facing. We had a chat with him where he narrated what triggered the initiative.
Can you tell us about the youth empowerment program you are having today?
We had a Sujimoto story written, and one of the reasons we did the Sujimoto story is as a result of recession the country experienced last year. I spoke with one of my father’s friends who has been a business man for the past 40 years. He told me that in his generation and those before him, they never experienced such hardship. His father never experienced it too. That is why I decided that we should speak up on what we experienced. In doing that, we came up with a motivational video that pushed people and made them to start dreaming.
I believe the youths have forgotten the real definition of dreaming, that video re-energized people about their true potential. In doing that, we cannot be politicians who just promise without delivery. It is very easy to give faith and hope. We want to go further by giving people fund, put them in the right environment.
We engaged about a hundred youths and started reducing the number. Eventually, we got 20. I believe all those twenty would be winners today. We set up about one million for all of them to win.
Is the cash prize for just one person?
No, the one million would be shared among them. The first winner takes N500,000, and we would share the rest among others. We asked some youths to come with their business ideas. We told them this is Sujimoto story , what is your own story. People came out, we got a lot of messages. Some said they had already given up but watching that video renewed their hope.
Do you think other entrepreneurs are doing enough to inspire the youth to do more?
I wouldn’t be able to speak for other people but I think we can all do better. A conductive environment blossoms great entrepreneur. If someone like Bill Gate was in Nigeria, he would have ended up in the computer village. Environment motivates people to do more. A lot of people have done the nation great but they can still do better.
What are the challenges entrepreneurs are facing?
It is a mixture of problems – policies by the government, the stable and the unstable ones, infrastructure is also there. We can have different things that would challenge you in different environment. There are challenges all over but this is not enough to reduce you or compel you to give excuses in achieving your true potentials. Of course, there are challenges all over the world but how have you converted those challenges to opportunities. Someone like MKO Abiola was born in Abeokuta, he sold Coal in order to go to school. He faced challenges but he was a successful man. When we look at history of great people, they all faced challenges but they were able to surmount them and make a success out of it.
Are you planning to make this an annual event?
For now, we don’t have that plan but why not, hopefully in the next 10 years, we should be able to create young entrepreneurs who would be millionaires.
Will this be a one off thing or do you still have plans for the winners?
Our plan for them is first of all make them realize that they are all winners. We are also looking at tapping into their ideas to see if we can get one or two people we can invest in and call them Sujimoto project.
What more commitment do you have for Olajumoke?
For the past few months we have known her, we realized that Olajumoke is a lifetime project. We want to engage her, not just giving her an apartment, what would happen if the rent expires in the next five years. Yes, she is a model but that is not enough. She is a mother of two and her husband does not have work, we pay her monthly salary but before the end of the year, we want a bakery for her.
Her story came from selling bread, hopefully by the grace of God. We pray God gives us life and hope, we would create the bread of hope where she would work. Olajumoke is like an entrepreneur, she knows how to add this to that, we are trying to maximize her potentials. No matter how small the bakery would be, we want to try to see if we can do that.
What is up with Lorrenzo, when would it be ready?
I believe we have started but we have just not broken ground. We have had a lot of challenges which come back to government policies. When we started, a lot of people were enthusiastic and optimistic about the project but it came down to government policies that affected us. It affected our foreign investors. Some investors came and said they love the project but we should take it to Togo, that is when they can invest in it. The environment is not conducive and consistent. We can manage risk but not uncertainty. We had about three investors who left. Our environment has created challenges which does not want us to strive. We got people to invest but they left. If we were in Ghana or Togo that had the right policies, infracture, that would give confidence to investors and by now, Lorrenzo would have been standing. We have invested so much money and time but all these are barriers that we are facing. However, we have been able to speak to some investors from the Middle East, they want us to put some things in place. Hopefully, we would break ground before the end of the year.