What is Epower and what inspired you to start Epower?
According to the National Bureau of Statistics, ”Unemployment is the greatest problem facing Nigerian youths and this jobs gap puts millions of youths at risk of poverty, frustration, low self-esteem and criminal activities such as theft, drug trafficking, oil-bunkering, terrorism among others”. In 2014, during the National Immigration Service Recruitment, 6.5 million Nigerian youths applied for a mere 4,000 jobs. This means that 1,625 people applied for 1 job! It was a very traumatic experience for most applicants as stadiums were used to conduct tests ending with 16 people dying, hundreds injured and worse off: the exercise was cancelled. So, 2014 was the year I got really angry and decided to do more about ending unemployment.
Epower (www.epowerempowers.com) tackles this jobs gap by teaching unemployed youths a mix of industry required Information and Communication technology skills (ICT) and branding while giving them the opportunity to work on real projects from corporate and individual clients. The skills and information acquired plus practical exposure helps them get jobs faster by 200% compared to their contemporaries. We employ an ignorance-to-brilliance model that is enterprising, innovative and practical and helps our graduates get jobs between 2 weeks to 2 months post-graduation compared to the average national wait time of 6 months – to 2.5 years. All our classes are taken by professionals, incentives like mobile phones & laptops are also given to exceptional learners. Till date, over 2,800 students have been trained.
Was Epower a dream from when you were little?
Not really. I started debating in my primary 2 and appeared on TV for the first time in the same class. So, it’s safe to say oratory has always been a part of me. Entrepreneurship began to interest me immediately after my WAEC exams and I taught in a primary school for 6 months to raise enough money to learn desktop publishing and computer engineering. The picture gradually began to form.
Did you launch Epower while in university?
How were able to balance it with school work?
First of all, I gained admission to study Chemical Engineering. As a bright science student, I naturally wanted to study the hottest engineering course so Chemical Engineering seemed perfect until I realized that it wasn’t meant for me. My grades were good on the outside but I was sad on the inside. I knew I wasn’t going to use Chemical Engineering if I graduated with it because I was more passionate about people and ICT. While in my part 2, I decided not to waste the next 3 years and I crossed over to Psychology department. This gave me more free time to build Epower and we held several trainings on campus.
Was there any special skill you had or had to learn in order to build Epower?
Like I mentioned earlier, I had already learnt desktop publishing and computer engineering before I gained admission, so the rest was pure self-development.
What was your capital startup?
How do you manage and inspire your team to deliver optimally?
Working with people and achieving results makes me happy. I try to lead by example all the time because people do what people see. I always try to bring out the best in everyone and you can hardly catch me saying something bad about someone. Also, I complement before I criticize any of my team members because I do not want them to lose their self-esteem in the name of getting results. I want them to be happy, feel great about themselves and about what we are doing and then go out there and make things happen.
What were your major obstacles during the initial phase of building Epower?
Raising funds to organize trainings was a challenge initially. Intense competition was also a challenge because a lot of folks saw what we were doing and tried to copy it.
What were the defining moments for you when you started Epower?
Getting incredible feedback from our alumni and hearing testimonials from our students after a training. For instance, Godfrey was an undergraduate from a poor background when He attended an Epower training. He learnt Graphics design, personal branding and art of CV packaging. Unlike most graduates who spend averagely 3 years at home applying/waiting for a job, Godfrey got a job 1 month after graduating from university at Africa’s biggest job search company, Jobberman.com
Who is your mentor and why is mentoring important?
Mene Blessing is my mentor in entrepreneurship. Having participated in 2 editions of League of Extraordinary Young People, I can categorically say that Mene is one of Nigeria’s finest entrepreneurs. He has an amazing mind and whatever He touches turns to gold. He is very patient, very kind, very focused, very smart and very intelligent. His input to Epower and to my life as a person is inestimable. Mentoring is important because a mentor knows the way and can show you the way. A mentor can guide you through critical phases in life and in business because He/She has been through and scaled through. You need to find someone that does every day, what you want to do someday. This will not only help you avoid common mistakes and pit-falls, it will help you arrive to your destination with full speed and in grand style. Let me add that anyone who has not done what you want to do is not qualified to be your mentor. And any mentor is trying to police your life is just jobless. Real mentors are busy and the way to win their attention is to follow-up.
Are you in a relationship? And what should an entrepreneur look out for in a partner?
Yes I am.
I never thought I would date someone not from my tribe but I am a Nigerian and I don’t judge based on tribe.
Though we all want different things in a potential life-partner, there are some basic requirements that can’t be overlooked. For me, a God-fearing, smart, beautiful, sexy lady with all the right curves in all the right places makes the cut. You can’t have beauty alone, you must have brains and a good character. Also, I try to avoid the ‘sister Mary Syndrome’, which ladies/guys who claim to be holier than thou exhibit. It’s better to be with someone who is real and has a mind of their own than pitching your tent with a person who can be tossed to and fro by any wind or doctrine. Such people are time-bombs.
What are your top 5 favorite books of all time?
21 laws of leadership by John C. Maxwell
Blue Ocean Strategy by Chan Kim & Renee Mauborgne
Good to Great by Jim Collins
Art of the Start by Guy Kawasaki
The 5 love languages by Gary Chapman
Have you won any awards or recognitions?
Yes, quite a number. Let me give you a chronological breakdown.
APRIL- Appointed Multimedia Director, TEDx Isale General.
NOVEMBER- Winner, most inspiring Nigerian story (Konnect Africa’s ‘I know a Nigerian star’ contest).
OCTOBER- Fellow, League of Extraordinary Young people (LEXY).
JULY- Winner, NYSC Merit Award.
MARCH- National Winner ‘Orator of the year’ (International English Speaking Union contest).
NOVEMBER- Winner, Paradigm Initiative Nigeria (PIN) digital jobs contest.
SEPTEMBER- Fellow, DESPLAY Africa (Africa’s most prestigious youth democracy training funded by NED USA, one of the youngest ever at 24).
FEBRUARY- Finalist, Etisalat flash fiction.
JANUARY- Nominee, Outstanding Young Nigerian Award, Junior Chamber International (nominated alongside the likes of Steve Harris).
What are your last words for upcoming entrepreneurs out there?
Entrepreneurship is a journey and you need to surround yourself with the right people, the right books and attend the right events if you want to succeed. Africa needs you. The world is waiting for your innovative, game-changing ideas. You can do this: trust me, you can.